Leash Training for Your Dog: The Low Down
Your dog won’t like his leash at first, but that can change over time. With the right training, your dog will respond to your commands and will make it a joy to take him on the leash rather than a chore. Here are some guidelines you can use to keep your dog under control and have an enjoyable time walking your canine companion instead of a miserable one.
Leash training takes a lot of one-on-one time
If you are going to teach your dog how to obey your commands and work with you on the leash, then you will have to spend some serious time working with him with just the two of you together. Your dog will probably get distracted easily, so find a quiet place to start the leash training that won’t include any other dogs, any cars passing by or anything else that diverts your dog’s attention.
Keep your dog motivated
You want your dog to look forward to the leash rather than dread it, and the only way you will do that at first is by giving your dog rewards for good behavior on the leash. Use doggie treats, constant affirmation and pleasant words to keep your dog on the right track. Try to keep the punishment to a minimum. In time, your dog will learn to accept the leash and find enjoyment in getting to go wherever you choose to walk or just spending time with you, and the treats will no longer be necessary. DogTime covers how you can do that pretty effectively:
“Substituting food lures with verbal commands and hand signals comprises the first stage of training — teaching the meaning of instructions. Once the pup has learned the meaning of verbal commands and hand signals, it is no longer necessary to use food as a lure to get it to respond, since the word ‘sit’ has become a verbal lure and the lure/hand movement has become a hand signal. Substituting food rewards with more valuable life-rewards comprises the second stage of training — teaching the relevance of following our instruction.
From the outset, alternate sessions using food as a lure only with sessions using food as a reward only. Your dog will quickly learn: 1) just because you have a goodie in your hand does not necessarily mean it will get it and 2) sometimes it will receive a treat when it responds correctly, even if you did not have one in your hand.”
Respond to straying appropriately
One of the big mistakes dog owners make with leash training is trying to jerk or pull on the leash when their dog strays. Instead of fighting the dog, simply stand still and don’t budge. The dog will have no choice but to stop doing what it is doing as it realizes it is futile. The American Kennel Club calls this “turning into a tree”, and it is very helpful for getting the desired response from your dog. If your dog is pulling often, then be sure to use a harness to help get the animal’s full body under control when leash training.
If you’re leash training your dog on how to use a wireless dog fence, the same rules apply: Use a long leash to allow your pooch to explore the property land, but allow controlled recall and guidance as your dog nears the edges of the fence or the ‘boundaries’.
Getting the right harness is key
If you want your dog to be happy instead of miserable while on the leash, then you should get an accompanying harness that works well for your dog. It needs to be the right size for your dog type, and you can use doggie review sites like Pup Junkies to help sort through your options to find one that is a good fit for your dog. The team there even recommend the right dog harnesses for specific breed, for example, the best dog harness for German Shepherds.
Note: A harness that is too small will make your dog uncomfortable, whereas one that is too large will make it difficult to control your dog effectively.
Start small and work your way up
Your dog will take a while to get used to the leash, and you will want to take baby steps with your pet to get it to where it needs to be. Your dog doesn’t understand what you are trying to do at the start of the training, so take things slow- as slow as your dog requires. Different dogs will move through the training at different paces. Try these first steps to get things moving gradually toward a fully leash-trained dog:
- Work on sitting and staying
- Get the dog to come when you call
- If your dog is resistant to the training, then slow down and work on that area more
- Try a few different kinds of actions and movements with your dog while he is on the leash (side to side, stop and start)
- Get your dog to walk on the leash before trying to run with him
Use training helps when necessary
You may not be able to get as far as you want in the training without a little help. Some people find that using a clicker or whistle can get their dog to understand concepts that he would not otherwise get. You can use the whistle or other device to make a noise when the desired behavior is performed, and your dog will eventually understand what you are expecting of him. You can double the click or whistle with a reward, and your dog will start to associate the two. This is especially important at the beginning of the training. Eventually, you will be able to use just the sound to get the dog’s obedience, as we mentioned earlier.
People who struggle with their dog, trying to keep the animal under control as they take him for a walk, haven’t taken the time to work properly with their dog. Hopefully, with the guidelines we give you here, you won’t have that kind of problem.