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Everything you need to know about training your dog to walk on a leash

Teaching your dog to walk on a leash is an important milestone for both you and your pup. It also sets the stage for almost every outdoor activity you experience together.

As such, training your dog the right way is crucial to making the process easier and more effective. With the proper guidance and tools, training your dog to walk on a leash can prove to be an incredible experience.

Here’s a quick guide to everything you need to know about leash training:

Leash training: Why is it so important?

Effective leash training is a crucial aspect of enjoying the time spent with your dog. It is not only a matter of safety, but it also greatly enhances your experience as a dog owner. Some of the more obvious benefits gained from leash training your dog include:

It teaches manners and cooperation –

Imagine walking on a crowded pavement or down a busy street, with a cacophony of sounds and smells that drives your dog to distraction. Does the mere thought make you anxious? With leash training, even this will seem like (literally) a walk in the park.

Leash training teaches your dog how to be around crowds, and other animals, and helps control his reaction to distractions. It also teaches you exactly what you can do to create a positive experience in this scenario.

Helps adhere to leash laws –

Leash training enables access to numerous places that otherwise would not be possible. This is because many localities and parks have mandatory leash laws. More importantly, leashes help keep your dog safe in high-traffic areas even where leashes are not obligatory.

This is especially important if your dog hasn’t been spayed or neutered, as it helps avoid the inconvenience of accidental puppies.

Prevents injury –

Teaching your dog how to walk on a leash is more than just about keeping them safe from vehicles and dangerous situations. A well-trained dog is much less likely to pull or tug against the leash. This is important because strong pulling can cause serious, and sometimes permanent injury to your pup overtime.

Creates a stronger bond –

Besides safety, one of the best benefits to be gained by leash training your dog is the bond it creates between you and your pet. A well-trained dog can understand your cues and signals instantly and requires the lightest touch on the leash. This loose leash is directly associated with a positive emotion both by you and your dog.

Curbs behavioural issues –

Trained dogs obey commands easily and are therefore easier to control. Training helps teach dogs the appropriate behaviour in different situations.

Leash training also makes your walks easier, and you are therefore more likely to be consistent with them. This in turn, provides your dog with the mental and physical stimulation he needs, which curbs aggressive and disruptive behaviour.

What is the best age to start training a dog to walk on a leash?

The sooner the better. Quite simply, the puppy stage is the best age for leash training.

You can start training your puppy from as young as 4 to 6 weeks old. Though they have relatively short attention spans, puppies are fast learners and can quickly become leash walking experts.

What do you need to start training?

Some essentials that you will need, to start the training with, are:

  • A leash- A standard, non-retractable leash, at least 4 feet in length is recommended for beginners.
  • Collar or harness- Select a collar or harness based on your dog’s size and breed. For example, a nylon-webbed Martingale collar is ideal for pups as they are safe, gentle, and prevent their heads from ‘backing out’.
  • Treats- Choose your pups favourite!
  • Clicker- This can help to make the training extremely effective and efficient.

How to go about training your dog to walk on a leash?

  1. Be patient-First things first. Take your time. Go slow. Approach the process with a patient and positive attitude.

Leash training is not an instant process and is specific to different dogs. Meaning some may take longer than others to be trained. The important thing is not to get frustrated or disheartened. The long-term benefits to be gained from training your dog far outweigh any short-term frustration you may feel.

  1. Ease into the process –
    Take the time to familiarise your dog with the collar and the leash. Gently introduce the leash and ensure that they are comfortable with it. Do this indoors and make it fun!
    This way, your puppy associates the collar and leash with positive situations such as tasty treats or playtime.
  2. Choose an appropriate location –
    Once your dog is comfortable with the collar and leash, it is time to start walking! You can start indoors at first but try to find an open space that is free from distractions.
    This allows your dog to explore the space while testing out the leash.
  3. Use sound cues –
    Use a clicker or even simple words such as ‘yes’ or ‘come’.
    Make the sound, and when your dog looks towards you, immediately reward him with a treat. Very soon, your dog learns to associate that sound with a treat. This means your puppy will now quickly come to you every time he hears that sound.
  4. Follow a step-by-step approach –
    Once your dog has learnt to come to you, you can move on to the other commands essential for walking.
    Teaching him how to ‘heel’ with a leash on is imperative for a safe walking experience.
    Say ‘heel’, point to the side on which he must walk on (traditionally to the left side), and wait for him come beside you. When he does, click and reward.
    Overtime, this command will be the core from which you can teach your dog to walk alongside you, at your pace, stopping when you stop, and walking when you walk.

These methods and commands require consistency. So, practise daily and remember to go heavy on the treats!

Tips and tricks-

  • Position your leash to optimise comfort-

Ideally, the leash should be anchored to the hand opposite to the side on which your dog walks. So, if your dog is walking on your left, anchor the leash with your right hand.

To anchor, slip your thumb through the loop at the end of the leash. Do not wrap the leash around your arm, instead gather some of the slack of the leash and fold it in your hand. Use your other hand to adjust the remaining length of leash.

  • Walk at a suitable pace-

You can begin with short distances as most pups have a limited attention span and may tire easily, and then work your way up to longer distances.

Depending on your dog’s size and fitness level, a twice-daily walk of 20-30 minutes should be ideal.

Try not to go too fast as it can excite some playful pups. A pace of 1.5-2.5mph is perfect for getting in the exercise required, without overtiring your pet.

How to stop your dog from pulling on the leash?

By the end of training, loose leash walking should come naturally to your dog. This way, your dog can freely explore his surroundings while being safe.

However, there are situations in which your dog may begin tugging or pulling at the leash and may even lunge towards another person or animal. When this occurs, it is imperative that you take immediate steps to curb this reaction.

When you feel your dog pulling on the leash, you may be tempted to pull back. Instead, become statue-like, and refuse to move until your dog returns to you.

If you notice any distractions that may cause your dog to lunge, it is important to take pre-emptive action. Redirect his attention and put some distance between your dog and his intended target.

How to train an adult dog?

The adage of ‘you cannot teach an old dog new tricks’ does not necessarily have to be true. Rescued dogs, or dogs which associate the leash with past trauma, may have a deep mistrust of leashes.

However, being patient and consistent with them, while following the above-mentioned steps, is usually all it takes for them to feel secure and trust you while heeding the lessons learnt.

Training an adult dog, may be harder and may take longer than for puppies, but it is no less rewarding.

Conclusion

Walking your dog is an essential part of the day and contributes to your dog’s physical and mental well-being. And with proper leash training, your walks can quickly become something you both look forward to.

Walking not only provides your dog with the physical stimulation required to curb disruptive behaviour, but with leash training, he is free to explore his surroundings while being safe and protected.

Leash training does not have to be an arduous process. In fact, with the right guidance, it can be an immensely satisfying experience. The most important thing is to allow yourself and your dog to have fun, take your time, and reap the rewards!

The benefits of walking your dog are clear. However, it might not always be easy to find the time to walk your dog to reap these benefits.

When scheduling regular daily walks become unmanageable, it may be time to look into dog walkers in your area.

The GoWalkies app instantaneously connects dog owners, to trained and screened dog walkers in their respective localities. This allows you to have the peace of mind that your dog is looked after in the best possible way, whilst allowing your dog to enjoy and experience all the fun and benefits of stimulating exercise.

To find out more, download the GoWalkies app for dog owners and dog walkers today!

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