How to leash train your puppy

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Leash training is a very important step in establishing your role as the dog's owner and caretaker. Kathy Santo, professional dog trainer, discusses the theory, equipment and process of leash training so that your dog is always happily looking to you for direction (and not the other way around)!

How to leash train your puppy

Practice and keep in mind the following when leash training your new puppy or dog:

  • Begin leash training as early as eight weeks old.
  • Have your puppy wear the collar or harness and leash around the house so he becomes used to the feeling. If your puppy is noticeably struggling or looks scared, start off with a shoelace or a small piece of rope so he can get used to dragging something around. Be sure to keep an eye on your puppy to make sure he doesn't get trapped or accidentally injured.
  • Make sure the leash always has slack.
  • If your puppy starts to move ahead too quickly, come to a complete stop and wait for him to cease pulling before going forward.  Never allow your puppy to dictate your pace.
  • Practice frequently and always use patience and positive reinforcement, not punishment.
  • Begin incorporating specific commands for your puppy while walking. Basic commands include sit, stay, and heal, or let's go. Do your best to remain consistent with commands and guide your puppy through the learning process.
  • Do your best to avoid tugging. As your puppy enters adolescence and can clearly comprehend the difference between right and wrong, then you can give a slight occasional tug on his leash if he’s being difficult. Leash training takes time and patience.
Transcript Hi, I'm Kathy Santo for Iams with Howdini, and today we're going to talk about how to leash train your puppy. Once your puppy is around eight weeks old, you can begin leash training. The first thing he'll need is a collar or harness that fits your puppy appropriately, never too loose or too tight. You should be able to fit two fingers between the collar and your puppy's neck.
 
When deciding between using a collar or harness, there are few things to consider. Does your puppy have any respiratory issues? Does your puppy pull when being walked on leash? Use a harness or head halter if your puppy pulls on leash or has respiratory problems.
 
Before you can jump right in training, you'll need to get your puppy used to wearing a collar and having the added weight of a leash. The best thing to do is have him wear the collar or harness and leash around the house, so he becomes used to the feeling. Be sure to keep an eye on your puppy to make sure he doesn't get trapped, caught, or accidentally injured.
 
If your puppy is noticeably struggling or looks scared, start off with a shoe lace or a small piece of rope so he can get used to dragging only a little something around. This will help him get used to the added presence and weight of a collar and leash.
 
Now for walking on a leash. The leash should have some slack. Because when you put pressure on a dog, their natural reflex is to move or pull in the opposite direction. If you find that your puppy is afraid of walking with the leash, try placing treats along the route you know you'll be walking to give him the notion that good times are ahead. That way he learns to focus on what's ahead of him with curiosity and not fear.
 
As you begin walking your puppy, you will notice that your pace will sometimes have to be faster than you expect to retain slack in the leash. The more you work with your puppy, the quicker you'll be able to train him to slow down while maintaining the needed slack. As you walk around, begin incorporating specific commands for your puppy. Basic commands include sit, stay, and heal, or let's go.
 
Do your best to remain consistent with your commands and guide your puppy through the learning process. For example, when you say sit, guide your puppy to sit until the command is recognized by the puppy. When you say heel, make sure your puppy is obeying your command before you start walking again. When your puppy starts to move ahead too quickly, come to a complete stop and wait for him to cease pulling before going forward.
 
Practice this stop and go, never allowing your puppy to dictate your pace. If your puppy continues to pull on his leash, ask him to change directions while saying turn. This while condition your puppy to always look for you for direction instead of him feeling like he can dictate where the two of you go next. I also like to run backwards and then switch to a different direction. This gets your puppy excited about chasing you.
 
Remember to reward your puppy when he does the right thing so that he begins to understand what you're asking him for. If your puppy still isn't catching on, try upgrading your treats, practicing in an area with fewer distractions, or working on more basic commands. Leash training takes time and patience. Both you and your puppy may give frustrated during the learning process. Do your best to avoid tugging. It's not fair to correct them for something they don't understand.
 
As your dog enters adolescence and clearly knows the difference between right and wrong, it's OK to give a slight occasional tug on his leash if he insists on being difficult. If you remain patient and consistent with your puppy, he'll be leashed trained in no time.
 
I'm Kathy Santo for Iams with Howdini and I hope that you've found this helpful as you welcome your new addition to your family.
 
For more information on puppy care and training, visit iams.com/puppy.
meet theexpert
  • Kathy Santo

    Kathy Santo Professional Dog Trainer Kathy Santo is a columnist for the American Kennel Club’s Family Dog Magazine, and House Beautiful. Good Housekeeping has launched her as their online “Pet Expert” and in 2005 her dog training book, Kathy Santo’s Dog Sense was internationally released. more about this expert »

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