Training Your Dog on the Leash: The Ultimate Guide
Training Your Dog on the Leash: The Ultimate Guide
Walking your dog on a leash isn't just about control and convenience; it's a pathway to a stronger bond and a happier, well-adjusted canine companion. In this ultimate guide, we'll explore the art of leash training, showing the benefits it brings to both you and your furry friend.
First Steps to Walking Nicely on the Leash
Getting used to equipment
It may sound unnecessary, but getting your dog used to equipment is a big deal for their safety and behavior. Whether you’ve got a new puppy, adopted a dog from a shelter, or have a grown-up pooch that misbehaves while walking, the first step to fix this behavior is to let them know that wearing a collar (or harness) with a leash means something good for them.
How can you do that?
Start small. Introduce the collar or a harness and leash. Let your dog smell it to make sure it’s safe.
Before outfitting your dog, place the equipment on the ground and scatter a few treats nearby to encourage your dog to approach and associate it with something positive.
Start putting the equipment on. Stay calm and patient. Keep praising and petting your pooch if they behave well. Don’t use physical force, and don’t get angry if your dog gets excited or restless. You can repeat the process until your dog is completely calm and later give them a treat for good behavior.
If your dog gets overly excited, just wait for them to regain their composure. Once they've calmed down, try to promote positive behavior by asking them to sit before attaching the harness, rewarding your pooch if they comply.
If your furry buddy is trying to remove or chew on the harness/leash, try to distract them with food or play. And don't worry if you see your pup scratching their neck. They need time to get used to it.
Ease your dog into the experience by letting them roam indoors while wearing the equipment.
Offer praise and treats for calm behavior with the leash on, and consider incorporating short play sessions. Always ensure that the harness or collar is comfortable for your furry friend, allowing them to move freely without any discomfort or pressure.
Teaching your dog the marker cue
The marker cue shows a dog that they’re doing the right thing. It can be either the clicker sound or a “Yes” word. Teaching this to your dog is quite simple yet very handy in further training.
Begin training in a quiet, low-distraction setting, holding some treats in your hand (and a clicker, if you like). You can start with a leash to help your dog stay focused on you. When your dog makes eye contact, click or say 'Yes' as a marker word, and reward them with a treat. Repeat this process multiple times. Prioritize these practice sessions before embarking on leash training or teaching additional commands to strengthen your dog's attentiveness.
Train your pup to come when called
The next step is to establish a reliable recall with your dog. Begin training in a calm, low-distraction setting, such as your home. Use a marker word and reward each time your dog comes to you.
Then, introduce the verbal cue "Come" and reward your dog when they respond by returning to you. As you and your dog gain confidence with this command, gradually add distraction.
Start practicing in your yard, then move to a quiet park, and gradually expose your dog to more stimulating environments. For detailed instructions on mastering the "Come" command, go to the Woofz app.
Take it outside
Even if your dog walks like an angel on the leash indoors or in serene outdoor settings, all bets are off when they catch sight of another dog they want to greet or a captivating scent in the distance. You must be ready for these situations.
Here, we'll share some handy tips and tricks to help your dog maintain their focus on you:
At the beginning, make sure to mark (“Yes” or click) and reward each time your pet gives you a look or comes to you.
This will reinforce that focusing on you is something pleasant for them, so they’ll start doing it more often, thus preventing pulling. Don’t forget to mark and reward your pooch when they’re walking nicely on the leash!
As time goes on, you can gradually reduce the frequency of rewards and vary the number of treats you offer, making each treat a delightful surprise that keeps your dog eagerly anticipating it.
Gradually add distractions
Although a new place might seem dull to you, it's a sensory wonderland for your furry friend. All the unfamiliar smells, sounds, and sights can be incredibly stimulating for them! To set your dog up for success, consider starting their loose-leash training in a low-distraction environment initially and gradually progress as their confidence grows.
Resolving Leash Training Issues
The key to successful leash training lies in consistency. It's essential to keep reinforcing your dog for good behavior, gradually add stimuli, and stop or change direction whenever they pull on the leash. While it may sound simple, in practice, it can be quite challenging.
That's why one of our experienced dog trainers has a valuable tip to share:
When you're in a hurry for a quick walk with your furry friend, opt for a collar. For dedicated training sessions, harness up for a more effective experience.
This will help you continue your training without losing consistency and confusing your furry buddy. Now, let’s move on to more life hacks on how you can fix pulling and make your walk even more enjoyable:
The “Name” game
Whenever your dog sees something or starts to pull, simply say their name and use a noise, such as whistling, to get them to look at you (if nothing happens, you can give them a light tug on the leash and try to get further away from the stimulus). When they look directly at you, say “Yes” and reward them with a treat.
Keep this behavior going every couple of steps, and, when ready, start to expand how long you use the "Name Game" with various stimuli: cars, kids, other people, other dogs, etc.
You’ll soon see that your dog isn’t pulling any longer, and they keep checking up on you to see where you’re going and listening to you in case you say their name and give them an opportunity to get a reward.
This exercise "explains" to the dog: if you rush somewhere, we won’t follow you. If you stay calm, we’ll move on. Whenever your pooch starts pulling, you need to stop and wait for their attention, and only then start moving on.
Most likely, your dog will keep rushing forward at the beginning, and it may seem frustrating. Stay consistent and don’t give up; soon, your dog will understand that pulling isn’t going to get them anywhere. They need to stay calm and focused instead.
Another anti-pulling exercise is "directional changes." Whenever your pooch starts tugging on the leash, simply change your walking direction.
This helps them learn to pay attention to your movements and encourages them to stay by your side. With a little practice, your dog will catch on that pulling doesn't lead to the adventure they're after, making walks more enjoyable for both of you.
If you like the exercises above and would like more similar anti-pulling life hacks and exercises for loose-leash training, download the Woofz app. There, you’ll find a personalized training plan that will help you resolve your current doggy-related issues and foster a harmonious partnership.
Loose-leash training is one of the hardest behaviors to teach, as it demands dedication and consistency, which can be challenging to maintain. However, if you commit to this process and follow all the tips above, you'll not only enjoy stress-free walks but also strengthen the bond between you and your furry companion.
Woofz Content Manager with a deep passion for dogs and a strong affinity for positive reinforcement training methods.
Certified dog trainer, exclusive positive reinforcement methods & tackling aggression problems.