Leash training a puppy can be a daunting task. When you first get your puppy, chances are, they’ve never encountered a leash before. Most puppies are picked up at eight weeks old, which is far too young to go for a walk. In fact, puppies shouldn’t go on walks in public areas until they’re fully vaccinated.
However, that doesn’t mean you have to wait that long before leash-training them. You should get them used to it before you actually start walking.
Here’s everything you need to know about leash training a puppy.
Leash Training A Puppy – Collar Or Harness?
The first decision to make is whether to attach your leash to a collar or harness.
A collar can discourage pulling, as it’s more uncomfortable for them to do so. However, a harness offers you a better grip on your dog and better control if they try to pull you away. There are also front-clip harnesses that make pulling very difficult on your dog.
Harnesses tend to be better to start out with, but it’s ultimately up to you.
The only thing to know is that you should never use a prong collar on a dog. These tighten and cause pain if the dog pulls, so some owners think they’re a great training tool. However, they’re just painful, can cause fear and aggression, and have even injured dogs in the past.
Getting Them Used To It
Chances are, your dog won’t take to their harness (or collar) right away. Start with short sessions of wearing it, and offer lots high-value treats while they’re doing so. That way, they’ll start to associate it with a positive experience.
Once the harness or collar doesn’t seem to bother them, you can attach the leash and start walking around the house. With no distractions in a familiar area, leash walking is going to come a lot easier.
You can also walk around your yard with them before they’re fully vaccinated, so they can get the full outdoor experience. If they struggle with walking on a leash, lure them towards you with treats, and have a lot of patience. Some puppies aren’t naturals at first, but they’ll get it.
Leash Training A Puppy – Stop Pulling
Dogs will instinctively pull to get to where they want to go. Don’t pull back — fight the urge!
Instead, when they pull, stop and refuse to move to where they’re going. Only walk again when they stop pulling. This will teach them that pulling has the opposite effect to what they want, and with time, they’ll learn not to do it.
You should also carry a treat pouch and reward them every time the leash is loose. This means lots of treats, but they’ll make a positive association with loose leash walking.
You shouldn’t expect all of this to click into place instantly. It will take many weeks and maybe even months before this all comes together.
Teaching “heel” requires a little bit of self-control for your puppy, and while it’s good for them to know the verbal cue, it’s unfair to expect it all the time. Remember that walks are for the dog, not you. Let them explore and sniff!
However, to teach “heel”, hold a treat by your side and give it to them every time they walk by your heel. One or two steps is fine at first, then you can increase the distance! Don’t add distractions until you know they can do it just fine on their own.
Other Things To Know
The main thing to know when it comes to training your dog to walk on a leash is that nothing comes instantly with a puppy. With some dogs, they’ll be reasonably good on a leash within a couple of weeks. Others might take months, then be more perfect than the dog who had a handle on it within a couple of weeks!
If you want to train them on a long leash for hiking purposes or exploring, start increasing the length gradually. You can go from 6ft, to 20ft, to 50ft, but make sure you’re practicing their recall all the while. Even on a long leash, recall is very important.
Leash training a puppy can be frustrating. You might feel as if you’re never going to get there when you start. Like all things, puppies require patience, and if you stick at it, the efforts will truly pay off. Positive reinforcement and high-value treats are always the way to go!
Staci is a writer living in Atlanta, Georgia. When not writing, she spends most of her time trying to keep up with her four rescue cats and Australian shepherd puppy.