Practicing with Your Pup: How to Leash Train Your Dog
While your puppy may be the new love of your life, sooner or later their crazy chaotic energy and crazy cool new dog toys are going to become the rulers of not only your life, but your home too! For their well-being as much as yours, it may be time to consider getting them OUT of the house to burn off some of that built-up energy!
Before you can hit the streets or trails with your dog, though, you’ll want to know how to prepare, how to make it the best it can be for the both of you and how to troubleshoot if it isn’t!
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Before You Begin Going for Walks
Before you begin going for walks, you’ll want to take a couple of other steps first — along with making sure you have everything you need to do this, which can range from a game plan to gratification. As a foundation, you’ll want to make sure you:
- Introduce your puppy to their collar or harness and leash well in advance to taking them out for the first time. Let them wear it around the house for short periods of time, and make sure to give them some extra love or treats when they act the way you want them to in it! Your puppy should learn to love leash time because it represents food and fun, and they should learn how to behave in it fairly quickly. Making other fun associations is a good idea as well, even if it’s as simple as slipping into your cute and comfy women’s dog socks every time you slip them into their collar! While this may seem silly, your pup WILL eventually note this and react appropriately to these associations and cues!
- Get your puppy used to sticking with you while on a leash. While it is important to get your puppy comfortable with their collar and leash, it’s equally important to get them comfortable sticking with you and staying focused while they’re on it. There are certain cues you can give to your dog that will teach them to do this, such as clicking your tongue, but they will have to be used properly. By clicking your tongue while taking a step or two away from your pup, you’ll be able to get their attention and get them to focus up. When this works, make it stick by rewarding the behaviour with a treat or some love!
- Practice inside for a while no matter how eager you may be to take your new pup out on the town. Feeling and seeing the leash around them will be enough of a challenge, but the distractions of the outside world will likely be enough to make it seem like your puppy has forgotten everything they’ve learned — so you’ll definitely want to build up to this!
Tips for Training
Practicing inside with your puppy may have you a little worried about what outside will be like, but even this part doesn’t have to be tricky with the right tips:
- Taking it to the streets will mean your dog taking in sounds, sights and smells that are inevitably going to be intriguing for them. Be aware of this, be patient and keep your walks short at first. You’ll want to have your eyes on them at all times, and if they look like they’re on the verge of lunging toward something (or even just getting too distracted) use the cues you’ve trained them and take a couple steps away if appropriate — don’t forget to reward them when this works!
- Consider picking a side you want your dog to walk on in order to prevent them from running back and forth and accidentally trapping or tripping you with their leash. To do this, consider something as simple as keeping a noticeable treat in your hand, occasionally slipping them it/one when they’re doing well.
- Pay attention to pulling, because when it comes to leashes, this is likely going to be the biggest problem to beat — not to mention a potential risk to your puppies wellbeing! To prevent this from ever becoming a risk, it’s important that you start the leash training process by constantly capturing and encouraging your dog’s correct behavior on leash in a way that they can understand. They’re going to be excited and pull as puppies, but eventually they WILL calm down and look back at you, and the leash will go slack. This is your chance to capture and encourage this behaviour by rewarding them!
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Troubleshooting Leash Training
If you’re having a hard time in a certain area, consider focusing in and troubleshooting:
- Persistent pulling by not putting up with it! This may take a while for some dogs to figure out, but if it’s clear they’re not going to figure it out, you can take this a step further by not only holding your ground but actively turning around and walking the other way. When your dog catches up to you, be happy and excited to see them. Your dog will eventually learn it’s their job to pay attention to where you are and to stick by you.
- Circling in excitement by keeping your dog on a short leash, by your side and modelling correct behaviour. If they really don’t want to stick by your side when you give them some slack, consider keeping a treat in your hand. When you have them positioned with a short leash, let them see the treat is there — give them a treat every couple steps, spacing out the frequency and surrendering the slack slowly.
- Barking that’s excessive by making sure your dog is getting the proper mental and physical stimulation for their age, breed and behaviour. If this remains a problem even with adequate exercise, consider implementing the same technique as you would for lunging and distractions by being proactive and taking a step back (with a reward) before your pup starts to bark, so he gets used to turning his attention towards you instead!
Loving the Leash Life
Sometimes you can do everything right when it comes to leash training your dog, but all it takes is a little patience! So take your time, and if you’re still having troubles in your endeavors, there is a difference between collars and harnesses when it comes to your dog’s behaviour and potential risks to them, so it may be helpful to make a switch!