How to Teach Your Puppy to Walk on a Leash

Many people believe that dogs are born with the ability to walk on a leash, but this skill is acquired. It’s an essential skill to teach, and you’ll appreciate it whenever you take your dog for a walk.

Introduce the collar or harness and leash to your puppy. Allow your puppy to wear his collar and leash in the house for short periods while you play with him and give him treats. Because collar-leash time represents food and fun, your puppy should enjoy it.

Make a Cue

Introduce your puppy to a sound cue that indicates “food is on the way.” Some people like to click and treat, while others use words like “yes” or cluck their tongues. The method is the same regardless of which you use: Make the sound while your puppy is on a leash and collar in a quiet, distraction-free area. Reward your puppy with a treat when he turns toward you and looks at you. After a few repetitions, your puppy will look at you and come to you for the treat.

Bring Your Puppy to You

Back up a few paces while he’s on his way to you, still wearing the leash and collar, and then reward him when he arrives. Continue the progression until your puppy comes to you and walks a few paces with you after hearing the cue noise. Keep in mind that puppies have a short attention span, so keep your sessions brief and end them when your puppy is still eager to do more rather than when he is mentally exhausted.

Practice Indoors

Now that your puppy understands how to approach you take a few steps in a room with little distraction. Feeling and seeing the leash around him will be difficult enough. As your puppy becomes accustomed to coming to you while wearing a leash, reward him with treats and praise.

Take it Outside

Finally, you’re ready to test your puppy’s abilities in the great outdoors. This step will present new challenges because all of the sounds, smells, and sights your puppy encounters will be intriguing and novel to him. Be patient and take short walks at first. While on a walk, if your puppy appears to be about to lunge toward something or to become distracted (you’ll notice this because you’ll be keeping your eyes on him at all times), make your cue sound and move a few steps away. Then give him a treat for following you.

Troubleshooting with Leashes

Even if your puppy is learning to walk nicely on a leash, you’re bound to run into issues as he grows older, visits new places, and encounters new distractions. You should teach him loose-leash walking because it is more comfortable for both of you!

If your dog starts pulling in the opposite direction:

Transform yourself into “a tree.” Hold your breath and refuse to move until your dog returns to you. You should not yank or jerk the leash, and you should not drag your dog along with you. Alternative training tools for pulling dogs include front-hook harnesses and head halters.

If your dog lunges:

Be proactive if your dog is chasing something on a walk. Try to redirect your attention with a treat and increase the distance between your dog and the target. Stay alert and prepare as your dog’s target comes closer. This behavior is common in herding breeds, but any dog can be startled by something new.

If your dog barks at other dogs while out for a walk:

Some dogs have a habit of barking at other dogs while out for a walk, typically due to a lack of exercise. Ensure your dog receives the appropriate mental and physical stimulation for his age and breed. If this is still an issue, follow the same steps as if your dog was lunging, as described above: create distance and offer treats before he begins to bark so that every time he sees another dog, he becomes accustomed to turning his attention to you.

You’ll gradually reduce the number of treats and troubleshooting that your puppy requires during a walk, but it’s a good idea to keep some on hand at all times so you can reinforce good leash-walking behavior when needed.

Frequently Asked Questions

What age should a dog be able to walk on a leash?

Leash training a puppy at ten weeks is ideal, but you can begin as a few weeks after you get your puppy accustomed to their new home. Your puppy should be aware of when they need to go outside to urinate or defecate by this point.

How long does it take to leash train a dog?

Puppies are easy and can probably be fully leash-trained in a month, but dogs in the “teenage” stage or older usually require a more extended training period.

Which side should a dog walk on?

When it comes to which side the dog goes on, show and hunting dogs are trained to stay on their human’s left side, but it doesn’t matter for most dogs. However, experts recommend that you choose a side — left or right — and stick to it so that the dog doesn’t trip you going back and forth.

Is it OK to let your dog walk in front of you?

If your dog needs extra management and supervision during walks, he will do his best walking directly next to you at all times. In this case, the dog should be given time to explore either before or after the walk.

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