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How to Teach a Puppy to Walk with a Leash

| Updated September 26, 2017

All puppies need to learn certain commands and skills to become good companions. They should know their names, how to sit and how to wait or stay in place. Walking quietly on a leash is also one of these essential skills. Dogs who pull incessantly on the leash are unpleasant and tiring for their owners to walk and may be dangerous to have in public. Fortunately, teaching loose leash walking is a fairly simple task.

Choose Your Equipment

Start the training process using a flat buckle collar attached to a 6-foot leash. Do not use a harness to teach loose-leash walking, as harnesses were designed to encourage pulling. If your puppy is motivated by food, a clicker or other behavior marker is useful, as long as you learn to use it properly. Other training aids, such as head halters, should be used only as supplements to ordinary leashes, training collars, clickers and treats, when those ordinary devices have failed. Otherwise, your puppy will learn the desired behavior is connected to the halter and will not behave well when it is not in use.

Understand Your Puppy’s Limitations

Early puppy leash training should be kept short and simple. Puppies have short attention spans and limited control over their bodies. Expecting your puppy to endure long, focused training sessions without exploring his surroundings is unreasonable. He is still learning about the world and should not be punished for it. In addition, puppies under 6 months of age lack fine motor skills. These puppies can learn loose-leash walking, but you cannot expect him to learn precision heeling worthy of an obedience trial champion.

Working Toward a Goal

Your puppy should not be expected to walk on a loose leash in a day. Puppies must first learn the process of learning, starting with attention-getting exercises and teaching simple concepts such as his name, yes or good, and no. Once those concepts are understood, you can place your puppy’s collar around his neck and teach him what it means to be under your control. It is enough at first to teach him that he cannot always go where he wants to go, when he wants to go. After he understands what the leash and the collar mean, you can choose a preferred training method.

Different Methods for Different Puppies

Your choice of training method will rely on the drive your puppy exhibits. Food treats are usually the first choice as training rewards; however, not all dogs are readily motivated to behave in a certain way by food. These dogs may be motivated by tossing a ball or they may work for a happy-sounding voice and a pat on the head. Puppies with a high food drive are generally easier to clicker train; the clicker marks a behavior and the puppy receives a treat as a reward. However, puppies who lack motivation may need to have minor corrections, in which the desired behavior -- walking -- either stops or changes direction from where the puppy wishes to go. Some puppies may need physical corrections, such as collar corrections, though such a training method should be used only with older puppies.