How to train a dog to walk on a leash
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Possibly one of the most exciting phrases a dog will ever hear is, “wanna go for a walk”? Inevitably, that question will be followed by a wagging tail and barely contained the excitement. But this wonderful bonding experience can quickly become a source of stress if your pooch doesn’t know how to behave on his leash. Every dog is different and requires a different level of commitment but with a little patience, consistency, and training, you learn how to train a dog to walk on a leash.
It is important to remember that you, as the owner, are the “alpha”. This means that your dog should respect you and follow your lead. Since dogs are pack animals, they establish the pecking order quickly and it is imperative that you are at the top. While this may not seem related to walking your dog, it is the foundation for any obedience training and can make or break your relationship with the animal.
If you are starting with a puppy, make sure that you are in a controlled environment such as your house or fenced-in yard. Once you have a safe, focused place to train, it is time to introduce your dog to the leash.
Have your dog come to you (this is another sign of dominance so that your pup recognizes you as in control of the situation), have him sit on your command and then hook up the leash. As you begin walking, be sure that you are leading the way. Do not allow the dog to pull on the leash, it should be loose at all times during your walk.
If your dog begins to pull correct the behavior immediately with a quick jerk of the leash. A non-verbal, physical cue is the best way to correct the dog’s behavior in that moment. Be consistent with this correction. If the dog continues to pull or is overly excited, stop and make him sit until you are ready to continue walking. You may have to do this many, many times to teach your dog what is acceptable on your walk but it is worth the effort and will make all of the difference in the end. Be patient and be consistent.
Let’s go for a walk!
Once you see that your dog is getting the concept of walking with you, it is time to go for a real walk. The difference, now, will be all of the distractions along the way. You have to be aware of cars, other dogs and many other things that may have your pup excited or distracted.
As you take your walk, be aware of your dog’s behavior and make sure that he remains aware of yours. For instance, stand up straight, look forward, and walk at a brisk pace. If you allow your dog to stop and sniff or explore, that is at your discretion but only you make that decision. The dog should only stop when you stop.
In the beginning, your pup may excessively stop and try to sniff around him. When this happens, give a quick tug of the leash and accommodate the action with, “leave it” or “let’s go”. He will begin to associate that command with not stopping and you will be able to say it without having to tug on his leash.
Keys to a successful walk
There are a few important factors to remember when planning to walk your pup. First, what kind of collar does he have? What kind of leash are you using? Today, there are an overwhelming number of options when it comes to picking “swag” for your pooch. A training collar (one that tightens as you pull on it) can be a great tool when teaching your dog how to walk on a leash. Place the collar high on the neck, close to the jaw, for maximum control. You should also start with a normal leash. Retractable leashes are great for long walks, but they don’t give you much control which could hinder your initial training. It may be best to save that for when you feel confident that your dog is walking respectfully on the leash.
Finally, and possibly most importantly, make sure that your dog is in the right mindset for a walk. If you have a high-energy breed such as a Husky, Australian Shepherd, or any other working breed, remember that their energy may overwhelm their willingness to learn. One great trick is to take your pup to the dog park and let him run, run, and run! Once he has had an opportunity to burn some energy, he will be a much more attentive student.
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