Likely one of the biggest difficulties for dog owners next to potty training is leash training their pups!
It’s a fundamental piece of knowledge that these dogs are supposed to know, yet it can be a tedious process. Luckily, there are easier ways to leash train your puppy so long as you start early and remain consistent.
You can begin leash training your puppy as early as 7 weeks old, though most start at 10 weeks old. Begin by conditioning the puppy to the leash, teach a recall, practice around the house, and finish with going outside.
In this article, I will divulge the training secrets to ensuring your puppy walks beautifully on a leash in no time.
Ready? Let’s dive in!
Traditionally, there is an assumption that you can only start leash training when your dog is old enough to go out on walks.
Believe it or not, you can start leash training your pup as early as seven weeks old! Though the average age for leash training is ten weeks old. It depends on your dog’s maturity levels and development; you want your pup to be more familiar with routines.
Granted, leash training a seven-week-old puppy will not look different from leash training a six-month-old puppy. At such a young age, all you’re doing is conditioning the puppy to become familiar with the feeling of a collar, harness, and leash.
This is similar to how equestrians train their horses; young horses begin by learning what it feels like to have a bridle and saddle on their body. Everything else comes afterward, but getting the animal comfortable with the session sets the foundation for success!
The key to easily leash training your puppy is to understand that walking nicely on a leash isn’t an innate concept for a dog- it’s something you have to teach with time and patience.
You have to remember that your dog has never seen a leash, collar, or harness before… let alone tried one on!
Start by just putting a collar or harness on your puppy, and then act totally normal. If you get too anxious or excited, your dog may begin hyper-fixating on what’s new or different (the collar or harness). You want this experience to become as routine as possible.
Once your dog has become more comfortable with the collar or harness, you can add the leash. However, you’re not actually going to hold or handle this leash - you’re going to allow the leash to drop on the ground. Your puppy needs to get used to there being a leash and realizing that the leash isn’t anything scary or uncomfortable!
If your pup gets stressed or very uncomfortable, try offering treats and other forms of positive reinforcement. If this doesn’t alleviate the stress, take the whole thing off and try the next day again. Sometimes it’s just a matter of doing this for a few minutes every day, especially for the puppies that aren’t too brave.
Once your puppy has developed a more comfortable relationship with the leash, you can move on to the next step, which is teaching your puppy to recall. A recall is a command in which your dog comes to you when called!
Start by having some high-value treats in hand. High-value treats are those that your dog would do anything for because they can’t resist them!
Next, call your dog over and reward every time your puppy comes when called. Eventually, this will become a command!
The reasons you want to teach a recall are that, first off, your dog will come when called should they slip their leash. Second, this command can make them a lot easier to control on the lead.
Next, place the collar or harness and leash on your dog and start walking your pup around the house. The home is a great place to practice because it is a safe and comfortable environment for both yourself and your pup!
Every time your puppy walks nicely on the leash, offer a high-value treat as a reward. Puppies really want our validation and love to please us, so make sure it is very obvious when your puppy does good!
Positive reinforcement should be given throughout your dog’s life as well, always ensuring Fido is aware that they are doing an excellent job!
Once your puppy has understood what you’re asking of them, it is time to try going outside. When first going outside, make sure you remain confident and calm, as your dog may become unsure if they feel anxiety or worry from you. Remember, our puppies look to us to lead them.
When outside, play the recall game! Give the leash a bit of slack, walk a few paces forward, call your dog, and reward when your dog comes. Your walks should start out fairly short, rewarding your pup for listening. Trust that our dogs learn very quickly; they understand the world better than we give them credit for. Your pup will be walking on a leash in no time!
Training never goes as smoothly in reality as it seems it will in our minds! Here are a few ways to troubleshoot leash training and the common problems associated with it:
Just remember: stay consistent.
Don’t give up if your dog, for example, doesn’t stop pulling on the leash. Keep getting their attention on you, and they will get it within a few days or weeks!