- Why lead training puppies is important
- Mental stimulation
- Further training
- What you’ll need before you start puppy lead training
- A collar or harness
- A lead
- How to train a puppy to walk on a lead
- New encounters when dog walking
- Meeting people and other dogs
- Random rewards
- Dog or puppy pulling on lead
There’s nothing worse than a puppy that won’t stop pulling on the lead. It can be extremely tiring for both you and your pup and can turn a simple walk into a complete nightmare.
If your dog is straining at the lead, or your puppy refuses to walk without pulling with all their strength, it means that you are only controlling them with physical restraint, rather than with the training that should keep them happily trotting at your side. Not only that but, as they get older, the physical effort involved in controlling your dog could be overwhelming, especially if your canine friend is one of the larger, stronger breeds.
To make life easier for you and your dog, all it takes is a little training and they’ll be overjoyed at the sight of their lead in no time. Keep reading to find out how to leash train a puppy!
Why lead training puppies is important
Being able to walk your puppy on a lead provides an opportunity to exercise your dog and keep them healthy while they grow and mature.
Exposing your puppy to new environments is essential to their growth and development, and walking on a lead is essential to exploring many new places. The act of training itself is also great mental stimulation for your dog!
Lead training also improves responsiveness to overall obedience training, and it may become easier to teach other commands such as ‘sit’ or ‘stay’ once your puppy has learned to walk on a lead.
What you’ll need before you start puppy lead training
A collar or harness
Buy 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.
Use treats to reward them for good behaviour on the lead.
Buy a lead that’s of a suitable length to be able to walk comfortably. Make sure that the lead can be attached securely to your puppy’s collar or harness. This is so they are always safe during walks but there is enough slack so your puppy isn’t always pulling.
How to train a puppy to walk on a lead
To train your puppy to successfully walk on the lead, follow these steps:
New encounters when dog walking
Once your dog is walking on a lead and to heel in your garden (and they have had all of their puppy vaccinations), begin taking them to other areas.
Walking a dog on a lead isn’t always plain sailing – remember that they will want to investigate new sights, sounds smells and other dogs – this is where good puppy socialisation is really key – so don’t expect too much too soon. You will have to work harder when faced with competition for your dog’s attention so take some special treats (either a small proportion of their daily food allowance or their favourite toy) and teach them that focusing on you is worth it! Keep training sessions short and positive, always ending with success, and then have a fun play session together.
Meeting people and other dogs
Ask your vet or local training club about training classes that can teach you how to train a puppy to walk on a lead. They’re one of the best ways to prepare you for walking your dog and for trips into the wider world together. Walking a puppy or adult dog isn’t always straightforward - many dogs get very excited when they see another person or dog walking towards them and start pulling on the lead to greet them! It is important to pre-empt this behaviour so that it doesn’t occur. (It’s also where spending so much time puppy training pays off!) If you see someone approaching, get a treat from your pocket, say your dog’s name to get their attention and then calmly show them the treat, which they should focus on. As they walk past the person, give them lots of praise and then stop and give them the reward. They will soon learn good manners if they are rewarded like this.
Once your dog is happily and reliably walking on a loose lead, reduce their rewards and only give them the occasional treat for especially good lead-walking (such as calmly passing an exciting distraction like a cat). Don’t stop giving rewards altogether – a random reward will keep your dog’s interest and concentration far better than either constant rewards or none at all! If you need further help and advice on walking your dog on a lead, enrol with a local dog training club.
Dog or puppy pulling on lead
If your dog is pulling on their lead, or your puppy refuses to walk without dragging you and you are finding it hard to stop them, consider trying a canine head-collar and follow all the steps outlined above.
Never use a choke chain (also known as a ‘check collar’) or a prong collar. Training should always be a positive, reward-based experience that encourages bonding between you, not punish them in a way that may inspire fear – this is usually counter-productive in the end!
That’s our guide for how to train a puppy to walk on a lead. No matter what point you’re starting from, with a little love, encouragement and patience, you will be able to go on some truly memorable and special journeys when walking your dog. If you’re looking for even puppy training and behaviour advice, check out our puppy manners, chewing, mouthing and jumping up guide.