A lot of people assume that dogs instinctively understand how to walk on a leash. On the other hand, anyone whose ever trained a new puppy knows that this is not the case. But sometimes it isn’t just puppies who have trouble walking properly on a leash. If you are wondering how to leash train a dog that won’t walk, you’ve come to the right place!
As mentioned, sometimes older dogs have problems walking calmly and obediently beside you. For example, if you’ve adopted an adult dog who hasn’t ever been training properly, you may find yourself at your wits’ end amidst a flurry of leash-pulling and crisscrossing.
While nearly anyone can leash train a dog, there are certain steps you’ll want to take to ensure that going for a walk is just as easy and enjoyable for you as it is for your dog.
In this article we will cover the basics of how to leash-train your dog, as well as how to avoid some common pitfalls that could make your dogs leash training take longer than necessary.
Things You’ll Need
Whether you’re training a puppy, or correcting behavior in an older dog, you’ll need some dog treats.
Ensure you have a collar that fits the dog properly; it should be snug enough that your dog cannot slip their head out of it, but not so tight that it is restrictive. A good rule of thumb is that you should be able to slide two fingers snuggly underneath the collar without required too much squeezing.
Have a specific command or clicker to reinforce good behavior – the standard “good girl/boy/dog” works well.
If you walk your dog when it’s dark out, consider an LED collar to increase visibility and ease of training.
Avoiding and preventing ‘The Pull’
While some dogs are timid and reluctant to walk on a leash, most new puppies have the opposite problem: they’re so excited that they practically bounce all over the place, moving from one side of you to the next as if trying to pull your arm right out of it’s socket.
And, if you are leash training a large fully grown dog like a Samoyed, this pulling can become exhausting or even dangerous.
We’ll discuss what to do with a dog that’s too timid to walk a bit later, but first let’s address the issue of pulling.
Preventing a dog from pulling on the leash
When a dog pulls on their leash, it basically means one thing. They want to go somewhere – it could be a nice looking patch of grass or a squirrel they spotted– and they don’t want to wait for you to catch up.
The first step in training your dog not to pull on their leash is simply to reward them when they don’t pull. Even the most active pullers have some moments, however brief, where they are not pulling.
Any moments when there is slack on the leash represent your best opportunity to correct your dogs leash pulling. The instant you notice that your dog has taken a break from pulling and the leash goes slack, reward your dog both with positive commands, and with a treat.
The idea here is to positively reinforce this ‘accidental’ good behavior so that it gets ingrained in your pup’s mind, and becomes the norm. Very soon, your puppy will associate slack on the leash with getting rewards, and this good behavior will turn in to habit.
Fixing leash pulling as a habit
As we discussed earlier, when a dog pulls on their leash it is because they are trying to get somewhere. Once we understand this, the solution becomes fairly clear. In essence, you need to teach your dog that pulling won’t get them where they want to go any faster. In fact, it will make it much slower. Herein lies the key in retraining a dog who has already established a habit of pulling.
Your dog must learn that the only way to move forward is to do it gently. First, start by walking your dog as normal. As soon as the leash begins to tense up for more than a moment, completely stop in you your tracks. Because a dog who pulls is very eager to make forward progress, they will see this constant stopping and waiting as rather uncomfortable and inconvenient.
Next, and just as we discussed earlier, each time there is some slack on the leash, reward your dog with both a treat and some vocal praise. Through a combination of coming to an abrupt stop the moment they pull even a slight amount, and rewarding each brief moment of slack, your dog will begin to understand that walking at your pace is best for them.
Just like most aspects of dog training, teaching a dog to walk on a leash doesn’t have to be overcomplicated. By simplifying things into a system of praise and corrective feedback, most dogs can learn to walk calmly on a leash before too long.
Even those older dogs who have ingrained bad habits can eventually be transformed into excellent leash walkers with a little patience and consistency!
Now that you know how to leash train a dog that won’t walk, make sure to stay consistent and follow all of the above steps closely.
P.S… If you are dreading walking your dog during harsh winter weather, check out our tips on How to Exercise Your Dog Indoors!
One last note – if you need help training your dog but don’t want to hire an expensive trainer, it’s worth considering online dog training courses
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