Dog Training: Training Your Dog To Walk On Leash
The biggest problems owners have with their dog and walking on a leash, espically with teenage (in human years) dogs. Many dogs pull on their leash as they get bigger, which can be much more frustrating than it was when they were a puppy, becuase they were allowed to do so as a puppy. Something many dog owners misunderstand is once the dog is pulling on the leash, they no longer need to pay attention to you. Instead they are listening to the leash which is telling them they cannot go any further. Also some dogs, espically working dogs, seem to enjoy pulling on the leash.
As with most training it is almost always easier to practice these exercises with a younger dog. One reason is if you train a dog as a puppy, you can teach them the correct way before they develop bad habbits. Another reason is size its often easier to perform these exercises on a smaller puppy than a larger dog while it is attempting to pull.
You should start the training on-leash and indoors. A good basic starting rule is that before a person can walk the dog outdoors they should first be able to walk the dog, indoors, without the dog pulling. This rule will lead to consistent expectations.
Before starting leash training you should first make sure you can get your dog to follow you around the house and that it will sit and stay in front of your for a good thirty seconds. This will let you be sure that your dog is comfortable walking near, stopping and staying on command as opposed to when forced to do so by the leash. You can encourage your dog to walk near you with occasional praise or treat.
The second thing you will want to train indoors is for your dog to stand around, on leash, without pulling. You want to do this in doors because it will allow your dog a chance to get used to being leashed, without the distractions and temptations that come with being outdoors. To start this training simply leash your dog and stand perfectly still while, firmly grasping your end of the leash. He or she may pace, may pull, but simply be patient and wait. Eventually your dog wil sit or lie down, and the second that they do priase them and offer a treat. Then say lets go (or any other keyword you plan to use to tell your dog when they should walk) and take one step, then stop and repeat the previous exercise.
Continue this until you reach a stage where you are able to take a step and stop without your dog attempting to run ahead and/or pull. After you are able to do this, try the exercise with two steps, then three steps, and continue to increase until you reach a point where you are able to walk and stop and your dog knows to stop when you stop without pulling. If your dog ever pulls the leash in the future, simply stop and refuse to move and they will remember this training and sit. Once you get to 3 or more steps you may begin to introduce a command to use if your dog begins walking too far ahead of you (but is not pulling yet) use this command to tell your dog to heel, or slow down in order to return to the distance you would like them to be at.
Practice walking your dog around the house, backyard, apartment building hallways or if you do choose an outdoor area try to find a place with distractions during this training period. Once you feel comfortable that your dog understand to walk without pulling when you say Let's go (or chosen keyword) and to stop and sit when you stop walking. The next step is to practice walking in and out of your home. Some dogs may lung at doorways so this step may take some extra practice, however you should train your dog to stop at the door and sit until you give the keyword for them to walk. If your dog attempts to lung or pull to exit or enter simply stand still and wait as you've done in the previous exercise. At this point your dog, should understand what is expected of them and they will eventually settle down after a few consistant successful trips through the door they should know to stop before entering and exiting, and to walk, without pulling when you tell them.
Once outside you should be ready to take your dog on several trips around the block. Dogs like other animals tend to lead when leaving and lag when coming back you can use this behavior to your advantage. Start walking with your dog, if your dog begins to pull stop, turn around, take your dog back home and start again. You should teach your dog that, pulling is not the way to get you to take them where they would want to go and if they want to advance in their exploration they will do so on leash without pulling.
Once your dog has mastered this and walks without pulling some owners may consider allowing the dog to pull on command. Some dogs, such as Huskies, enjoy pulling and if equiped with a proper harness can be allowed to pull, on command, as long as they have mastered walking on leash and stop pulling on command.
Training your dog to walk on a leash is one of the most important lessons you can teach your dog. It will not only save you the pain (and embarrassment) of being pulled around by a 75lbs+ dog, it is an important lesson for them to learn for their safety. It is dangerous for your dog and others to have your dog pulling you when approaching other dogs, other people, and streets (or other dangerous areas) but if you are patatient and consistant and follow the directions in this article you will have a well mannered dog in no time.