May 21, 2019 4 min read

2019 is here, and it’s time for you to own up to your New Year’s resolution of training your dog to be the politest pooch on the block! With January being both National Walk Your Pet Month and National Train Your Dog Month, there couldn’t be a better time to teach your dog (puppy or adult) some proper leash etiquette. Simply follow these instructions, and you'll find that leash training your pup isn't as difficult as you think!

This will be the first in a series of training posts this month, so be sure to stay tuned for more tips and tricks!

Leash Training a Puppy

When leash training your puppy, there are a couple of things to keep in mind that will be the key to success. First is that a puppy's attention span is that of a gnat, so always keep your training sessions short. Second, being that consistency is key; the more you train, the better your results will be.

Before you begin, it is important for you to pick the right type of leash and collar for your puppy. Be sure that it is firm but comfortable. Also, keep ample stock of high-value treats for when it's time to give out rewards!

Start Inside

Begin by introducing your puppy to the leash and collar, letting them wear it for short periods of time while in the house. During these short periods, it's important to play with the puppy and give them treats. Wearing a leash and collar is new and sometimes uncomfortable, so you must ensure that collar/leash time becomes synonymous with play/treat time.

Next, teach your puppy a command to come to you. Practice this command inside, for short periods of time, with minimal distraction so that the puppy understands that coming to you means that they will be rewarded with a treat. Continue as needed until it really sinks in.

Take it Outside

Once your puppy has mastered walking on the leash inside, then you can start practicing outside with short walks and many rewards. If your puppy gets distracted by something while outside, then utilize your “come” command and reward them for coming to you and staying by your side. Avoid using force (yanking or pulling on the leash) so that your puppy does not get discouraged. Continue to use positive reinforcement so they associate calm, loose-leashed walking with getting a reward.

Leash Training an Adult Dog

Leash training an adult/rescue dog can be similar to training a puppy but may include more time and patience in order to break any learned behaviors (pulling, lunging, barking, etc.). Just like a puppy, you must pick the right type of leash and collar for your dog. Keep in mind that a shorter leash and a harness may be better suited for dogs that pull a lot.

Before we begin, it is important to put an emphasis on positive reinforcement, rather than punishment, so that you can establish trust with your dog. Breaking a learned behavior can be hard for an adult dog, so both patience and consistent rewards are key.

Curtail the Excitement

Properly dealing with excitement is crucial. Adult dogs (especially rescues) will likely get very excited when they know that they are going on a walk, and their excitement will generally be harder to handle than that of a little puppy. Teach them that being calm before/during the walk means that they will be rewarded.

A good way to help prevent pre-walk excitement is to play with your dog beforehand. Getting some of their initial energy out can make all the difference when getting ready to go for a walk. Try our Toy Finder for a variety of interactive play options to get your dog good and exercised before walk time.

Prevent the Pulling

If pulling and lunging are problems, then teach that pulling you will not help them get to their destination sooner. You can do this by stopping dead in your tracks and not moving, walking in the opposite direction, stepping backward, and offering treats to your dog to entice them not to wander off. Be sure to always offer rewards and praise when they stop pulling. Just like with a puppy, always use that positive reinforcement so your dog knows that remaining calm and obedient will result in a better walk.

For additional help on preventing pulling, check out these 4 helpful steps.

Get Out There!

Now that you have a good foundation of how to effectively and humanely leash train your dog, it's time to put your methods to good use! Remember that training time should be a fun bonding experience for you and your pup. Some dogs might require more time and attention to reach your training goals, but practice always makes perfect! Even when they do reach your desired training goals, it is good to consistently practice. This will not only keep them at the top of their game but will also strengthen the relationship between you and your dog.