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7 Steps to Effectively Train Your Puppy to Walk on a Leash

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Dr. Mark is a veterinarian. He also trains dogs, mostly large breeds and those that suffer from aggression problems.

Leash training can be fun for both of you.

Leash training can be fun for both of you.

Training a dog to walk without a leash is a rewarding experience, but not everyone lives in a region where they can walk their dog off their leash. If you have to walk your dog on a leash, and he is pulling and making your walks uncomfortable, here are a few good tips that will make the walks more enjoyable.

Tips to Train Your Dog to Walk on a Leash

  1. Train your dog in an enclosed yard.
  2. Start out with a loose collar and some treats.
  3. Praise and treat the dog for not pulling or dragging.
  4. Keep the session interesting by introducing new moves.
  5. Introduce some new moves.
  6. Try a new area.
  7. Move back to the yard.

1. Train your dog in an enclosed yard.

Attach your puppy's buckle collar. At least for the first few days, try walking in a fenced-off or walled yard so that the dog is not really going anywhere. (If you do not have an enclosed yard, try a park where there are no other dogs or people around. Quiet parks surrounded by chain-link fences are your best option, but if there are other dogs around when you start, then this might not work.)

2. Start out with a loose collar and some treats.

Give your dog a tiny treat to make him interested in you, put the leash on your dog, and start walking. If he starts pulling immediately stop, turn right, and walk again. If the dog starts pulling, just repeat this exercise. This may need to be repeated several times, but most dogs will just give up if they realize they are not getting anywhere.

3. Praise and treat the dog for not pulling or dragging.

If your dog is dragging along instead of forging ahead, call his attention to you and give him a treat. (You can say his name but do not give the recall command. Some people like to use a clicker; I like to make a sound in the back of my throat.) This usually keeps the dog focused on you so that he'll be too interested in you to start pulling; this is the key to teaching your puppy to walk with you on a loose leash.

4. Keep the session interesting by introducing new moves.

Walk around the yard with your dog at your side, giving him a treat occasionally so that he will keep focused on you.

5. Introduce some new moves.

Once your dog is walking by your side without pulling, introduce some new moves. Try a circle, walk in a square, try a circle eight, etc. You need to do this twice a day for fifteen minutes or so, for at least a week.

6. Try a new area.

If your dog is not pulling on the leash in the yard, you can walk in another area with some distractions. (I walk on the beach but a park is also great. There are usually fallen logs and driftwood to practice circle eights and keep the walk interesting for your dog.)

7. Move back to the yard.

If your dog starts pulling again as soon as you start walking outside the yard there are several options. You can move back to the yard and try to reinforce the basics, you can try a harness that is supposed to make your dog off-balanced and less likely to pull, you can use a prong collar, or as a final alternative, you can use the type of collar that will choke your dog.

Walking the dog should be fun for everyone.

Walking the dog should be fun for everyone.

What If Nothing Works?

Back in the early 90s, when Uncle Matty was the dog trainer everyone listened to, Cesar Millan had not yet been heard of, and clickers were just used to train dolphins, the best way to stop your dog from tugging on his leash was to stop and start walking the other way.

It still works best.

If your dog does not respond to the stopping and turning method, you can try purchasing and using one of the no-pull harnesses. If you are still having problems and are overwhelmed by the strength of the dog, I recommend you use a prong collar.

I have used a prong collar to stop dogs from pulling on the leash when the technique of stopping and walking the other direction has no effect. A German neighbor of mine who is 80 plus years old, walks his Rottweiler on the beach. They used to arrive at my house blue in the face—both of them. He had tried a no-pull harness with little effect, had tried stopping and turning, and he finally decided to use a choke chain on his 130-pound dog each morning. Despite what the moderators of Reddit believe, a prong collar is not cruel.

When the dog´s owner switched to a prong collar, the dog stopped pulling. This was the only way that the owner could refrain from being cruel and tugging on the dog.

Walking off leash can  be fun too.

Walking off leash can be fun too.

The Gentle Leader and Halti Head Collar

What about using a head harness like the Gentle Leader or Halti head collar?

A head halter can actually do more neck damage than a prong collar, at least according to many dog trainers, including Joaquim and Wendy Volhard. They have had to send some of their client dogs to canine chiropractors after the use of a Halti, but have had results similar to my own after using a prong collar. Not everyone agrees on this issue, of course, and if you would like to read an opposing viewpoint, you should read other articles and form your own opinion.

There are a lot of options available to you if you want to train your dog to stop pulling on his leash. If you need more help, just leave a comment and I will respond as soon as possible.

A tiny dog does not pull much on a leash.

A tiny dog does not pull much on a leash.

More on Training Your Dog

  • How To Teach A Dog Not To Jump Up On People
    Jumping is normal behavior and not something you should punish your dog for. If you don’t want a dog that jumps you can utilize these training techniques. Even if your dog is well trained she might make a mistake, though, so don’t punish her for it.
  • How to Train Your Dog to Stop Digging
    Dogs love to dig. This article will tell you the reasons dogs dig, and give you a few tips to decrease your dogs´digging.
  • How to Train a Dog Not to Bark
    The main cause of excessive barking in dogs is boredom. Boredom is caused by lack of a job, lack of a diversion, and most of all lack of exercise. Learn what you need to do to stop barking.
Walking on a leash is basic good behavior.

Walking on a leash is basic good behavior.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

Comments

Sarah Carlsley from Minnesota on March 25, 2013:

Very useful! My dog keeps pulling and pulling. I'm going to try your tips!

Elizabeth Hanks from Queen Creek on February 23, 2013:

Thank you much!

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on February 23, 2013:

You´re welcome. And welcome to Hubpages, I can tell from your comments that you are going to make a great contributor.

Elizabeth Hanks from Queen Creek on February 23, 2013:

Thanks much!

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on February 23, 2013:

Since you are new here you probably did not see akirchner´s articles on leashes and pulling, publised yesterday. Alexadry also has another viewpoint, so you might want to check hers out too. I hope this helps!

Elizabeth Hanks from Queen Creek on February 23, 2013:

Great tips! I do practice with my dogs in the yard and in the house before I take them out for a real walk already, but I definitely like the idea of turning and walking the other direction when they start to pull. It seems a lot easier than having to stop, make them stop, sit and stay until they give me their undivided attention again, haha. Will give it a shot next time I take them out!

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on February 08, 2013:

Thanks kellyanne I hope they work. What kind of puppy?

kellyanne828 on February 07, 2013:

I am in the process of training my puppy how to walk nicely. Thanks for the tips! I will definitely try them.

Adrienne Farricelli on February 05, 2013:

As the saying goes " "The only thing two dog trainers can agree on is what the third trainer is doing wrong." I am always open to respectful discussions and don't take it personally if others do not agree on some things;)

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on February 05, 2013:

Alexadry, I will look forward to reading that. We don't always agree, but it is nice to see your viewpoint. I will put a link to that here so that other readers can read it if they are looking at this.

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on February 05, 2013:

Hi LetterstoJulia, it doesn't look like you will have a lot of spare time the next, oh, let me see, 4 or 5 years?

I love that avatar of the "Baby Guard"!!!!

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on February 05, 2013:

Bac2basics---they do sound like a chore. Try the stopping and turning, and if that does not work try the harness and then the prong. I hope something will work for you all!

Adrienne Farricelli on February 05, 2013:

Dr. Mark, I shouldn't have any reviews in favor of prong collars unless the article is old like more than 5 years ago when I first joined. If so, I need to update that as I am a cross-over trainer and haven't used such tools for a long time. Yes, I still have my prong, but it's hooked to my wall and use it as a handy key holder, lol! I am writing an article as I speak about why I no longer us prongs since the subject came up and people ask me all the time.

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on February 05, 2013:

Alexadry, I read another of your hubs that had more favorable reviews of the harness and prong collar. Do you want me to switch the link? If you do leave the address for me and I will change it as soon as this goes off "pending" status.

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on February 05, 2013:

Hi Maralexa, I do think the harness is a good second option if the dog is not walking by your side using the "stop and turn around" method. Unfortunately it does not work on all dogs, so that is when I consider a prong collar.

I agree with you, and definitely enjoy time with my dog a lot more when I can release her and let her fun off leash.

Thanks for sharing my hubs with your friends. If you want to link any hub of mine to one of yours I would be pleased! Drop me an email when you do so that I will be sure not to miss reading it!

LetterstoJulia on February 05, 2013:

I am the proud owner of a basset hound and a cockapoo... the basset is stubborn but loves to walk and follow his nose. We do have a prong collar but the fat rolls in his neck seem to prevent it from being completely effective... my husband and I need to be more diligent in his training, I think!

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on February 05, 2013:

Thanks for commenting, truthfornow. I was really glad to see your visit, as it led me to your great hubs. I really enjoyed the hub about reading more, which we all need to do!

Anne from Spain on February 05, 2013:

Hi DrMark. Both my dogs are a nightmare on the leash, my old dog gets so excited he chokes and almost throws up with his insistent pulling and my younger dog is really nervous of almost everything so although he´s not a constant puller he is always on edge when walking anywhere new and with people and traffic, I live in the mountains so he´s just not used to all the noise and movement. Taking them anywhere isn´t fun at all really unless they can run free, so your suggestions are worth a try, thanks :)

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on February 05, 2013:

Thanks for the commen, Victoria. I hope this helps your little gizmo!

Adrienne Farricelli on February 04, 2013:

Dr. Mark, just want to respectfully precise that I am not that big of a fan of the Halti/gentle leader as I find it subdues dogs, some fight a lot against it and as you mention it can cause spine and neck issues. If you have time, read my hub on the "Pros and Cons of haltis" for my most recent views on this tool. I am a big proponent now of Easy Walk Harnesses which have replaced the prong collars back when I used them eons ago.

Marilyn Alexander from Vancouver, Canada on February 04, 2013:

Another excellent article on training (and caring) for your dog. I can understand why a prong collar is not cruel and I would never use a choke collar on a dog, but isn't a harness better than either? I guess I just need a big country estate where my dog can run free.

Thanks, voted up and interesting, useful.

Marie Hurt from New Orleans, LA on February 04, 2013:

I was attracted to your pictures of dogs carrying their own leases. Great tips. I don't have a dog but I have walked other people's dogs who didn't seem to have never been trained on how to walk on a lease or developed some bad habits.

Victoria Lynn from Arkansas, USA on February 04, 2013:

Oh, I love that last picture with all the different types of dogs! Great hub, very informative. My dog is better than he used to be, but he could improve. I may try that turn right and stop exercise with him, along with a clicking noise and treat to see if he can do better. Thanks for this valuable info, Dr. Mark!