Image of puppy walking on leash
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The first time you put your puppy or dog on a leash and try to go for a walk, you probably noticed it can be a bit sporting.

While it seems like it would be intuitive for your dog, it’s not. It requires training.

GET YOUR DOG COMFORTABLE WITH THE LEASH AND COLLAR

It’s helpful to acclimate your puppy to wearing a collar, if it’s not something he wears all the time. Set aside short periods of time where your dog is wearing the collar with the leash attached. 

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During these times, shower your pet with affection, give him treats, and just generally play and have fun. This will cause your dog to look forward to leash time because it means fun, love, and treats.

If your dog is aggressive and/or a very large breed, you may want to consider a head collar. For some dogs, it may take a bit of time to get them used to a head collar. 

If your dog isn’t a fan of the head collar, but you need it to train, the acclimation process is pretty much the same as training your dog to like a muzzle. 

PRACTICE OUTSIDE

Get some treats (real treats, like chopped up cheese or meat) and put them in an easily accessible bag.

You want the treats to be pretty small (like bean size) because you may be giving your puppy a lot of them. 

It’s good to do this training when your dog is hungry. Determine which side you want your dog to walk on–left or right–and always walk your dog on that side.

Make sure your leash is long–you want to give your dog 10-20 feet of loose/slack leash. 

If you don’t have a yard, find a familiar place with few distractions. Walk quickly and arbitrarily around the space.

When your puppy walks next to you without pulling, give him a treat at thigh level on the side where he’s walking.

If your dog keeps walking with you, keep giving him treats. Your dog will start walking next to you more consistently because when he does, he gets delicious food.

As your dog is more consistent, over time (days or weeks) reduce the frequency of the treats. And when your dog is pretty good at staying by your side, it’s time to add in a command.

CALLING YOUR DOG

Go about your usual training, but when your pet wanders off/gets adhead of you/lags behind, say “let’s go” or “come on” or “heel” in a cheerful tone. It may also help to slap your leg as an additional cue. Then turn and walk off. 

Tone of voice can be really important. Unless you’re disciplining, try to keep a very happy tone.

When your puppy is by your side walking with you again, give him a treat at thigh level. If he’s very quick to obey, give him a little extra! Like before, if he continues to walk with you, continue to give him treats. 

If your puppy doesn’t listen and the leash becomes rigid, stop, turn around, and tug on the leash gently.

The goal here is training NOT forcing. Forcing doesn’t train. Wait however long it takes for your dog to come to you.

When your dog does come to you, give him praise and affection. Then start walking again and give him a treat. If he continues to walk beside you, continue to give him treats.

Repeat this process, again reducing the frequency of treats over time, until your puppy is pretty good at obeying. 

NEXT STEPS

Start to use shorter leashes, stopping when your leash is about 6 feet long. Once you’ve done this, change how quickly you walk, sometimes stopping, sometimes abruptly changing direction.

Whenever you add a new complication to the training, be generous with treats. 

Then go to a busier place, where there are more distractions. Make sure to generously reward your pet when they’re obedient despite it being difficut.

When you’re out on a real walk, always give your dog a chance to stop occasionally and check out the environment. 

Always be minful of your dog’s mental and emotional state when you’re training or expecting them to behave well.

If your dog is super energetic, not feeling well, gets scared by something, etc., stop the training for the day, or head back home from your walk. 

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