Walks are a perfect way to further strengthen the bond between you and your dog. They are also extremely beneficial for the physical and mental health of dogs. However, walks can be frustrating and exhausting if your furry companion isn’t leash trained. But, how to leash train a dog?
There is a common misconception that dogs will walk beside you without any training. That is not true, you will need to leash train your dog to make your walks a pleasant and relaxing experience.
Leash training your dog is actually quite easy.
So, How To Leash Train A Dog?
Training your dog to walk on a leash is a long-term process and commitment. Therefore, you will need to have enough patience and will to properly train your dog. The best course of action is to move through three stages of leash training slowly and gradually.
During this stage, we will introduce the dog to the collar or harness and leash. Let your dog wear them inside the house to get used to them. Give your dog some treats during the period in which your dog wears a collar or harness and leash. The dog will soon learn to associate good things and food with a leash time. Continue practicing this until you are sure your dog is used to wearing a collar or harness and leash.
Ok, now it’s time to teach your dog to walk with you and follow your instructions during the walk.
Make Walking With You A Reward
Walk around your backyard changing direction and the pace of the walk. If your dog walks next to you, reward him with a treat and praise him. Make a time spent with you a reward and your dog will eagerly wait for another walk.
Teaching The “Let’s go” Command
During the walks in the backyard, let your dog sniff some things and walk where ever he wants. Then, issue the command “Let’s go” in an upbeat voice, turn and walk away from the dog. If your dog starts to follow you and eventually catches you, reward him with treats and praise. Now, continue walking, if your dog still follows you, keep rewarding him.
However, if the dog is not paying attention to your commands, slightly pull the leash to apply enough pressure for the dog to notice you. Don’t force your dog to come to you.
Release the pressure the moment the dog begins to move in your direction. When the dog comes to you, praise him and reward him with treats.
Continue to practice this until your dog reliably listens to your command and follows you.
It’s important to mention that the command doesn’t have to be “Let’s go”, you can use whatever you want. However, you need to be consistent and patient to get the result you want.
It’s Sniff And Pee Time
Your dog also needs some “free time” during the walk where he can sniff and investigate interesting things. Use a command of your choice for the free time, something like “Go walk” or “Go sniff”, it doesn’t matter. Let your dog sniff and investigate its surrounding for a few minutes. Then, signal the end of “free time” with the command “Let’s go” and start walking in the opposite direction. By doing this your dog will understand that he will get “free time” to relieve itself and sniff while on the leash. But, you determine when and how long that will take.
Be persistent and continue to practice all of the above-mentioned steps until your dog reliably listens to the commands and walks by your side. Add some challenges and distractions to monitor how your dog will react and behave in certain situations. Also, try to decrease the frequency of giving rewards to your dog for walking with you in normal situations. However, reward him every time he ignored some distraction and kept walking with you.
Ok, now that your dog has passed basic leash training at home and in your backyard, it’s time for a bigger challenge.
It’s Time To Take A Big Step
The street is the ultimate test to check if your dog is leash trained. There are so many distractions in the street, other people, other dogs and animals, cars, different noises, etc.
For the beginning, make these walks short and bring with you a lot of high-value treats. Use the same commands you’ve taught him in your backyard and reward the good behavior. However, you need to understand that this is a big step for your dog and he may exhibit unwanted behaviors and completely ignore your commands due to numerous distractions. Don’t let this discourage you and simply stick to your plan, keep practicing and rewarding good behavior. Eventually, your dog will understand what is acceptable behavior during the walks.
As we already said, despite all your effort to leash-train your dog, he can still indulge in unwanted behavior during the walk on the street. These are the most common situations and solutions for them.
Crossing In Front Of You
If your dog is constantly crossing in front of you while on a walk, you need to make your presence felt. Stomp your feet or shuffle them to signal your dog you are there.
Some dogs will bark on other dogs during the walk. It can be a frustrating and unpleasant experience. Luckily, you can prevent this by redirecting your dog’s attention. Before your dog starts to bark, make some distance between you and the dog, then call and offer some treats. By doing this, you create a habit where your dog turns to you for a treat whenever another dog passes by.
Your dog may want to reach something he sees during the walk and lunges towards it. This can cause considerable stress to your hands and joints. Therefore, we need to distract your dog from this behavior. We can do this by using the same technique we used with barking. You need to redirect his attention before he notices a potential cause of frustration. Create some distance, call your dog and offer him some treats.
If your dog is pulling the leash during the walk don’t drag him, yank or jerk the leash as it will accomplish nothing. Simply stop and stand in that place until the dog comes to you.
It takes time, patience, and commitment to leash-train your dog. However, in the end, it is worth it as you will gain the best possible company for relaxing, healthy long walks.