How to Teach Your Dog to Walk on a Leash

          If you have ever owned a dog, you will know that he will approach new stimuli in an attempt to meet it, smell it, or defend you from it. This behavior is often at odds with the discipline of walking obediently beside you while on a leash. If you are tired of playing tug-of-war with your pup every time you clip the leash to his collar, it may be time to work on leash training to make the experience more enjoyable for you both.

Leash Familiarity

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          Unfortunately, walking politely on a leash is not an innate skill for most dogs and will take some effort on your part.  Do not be discouraged if your pet does not master walking on a leash quickly. This process can take several weeks to truly communicate well with your dog.

          If you dog is not used to a collar and leash, you will need to start with short acclimation sessions in a quiet, indoor setting. Start by putting the collar and leash on him, and then proceed to play with him and give him treats. Over time, he will begin to associate his time spent on a leash with a feeling of positivity.

          The next step involves teaching him a sound cue that he will need to associate with food. Popular methods include clickers, using a command word like “yes”, or clucking your tongue. Whichever you use, the method is the same: In a quiet, distraction free area, with the dog on a leash and collar, make the sound. The second your dog turns toward you and/or looks at you, reward him with a treat. After a few repetitions, you’ll notice your pet not only looking at you, but also coming over to you for the treat. Once he knows that the cue means he should come to you, pick up your end of the leash and move a few feet from him, make the cue sound and then reward him when he gets to you. Continue this until your dog knows that hearing your cue means he should get closer to you.

Patience and Practice

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          Once he understands how to come to you, practice walking a few steps in a room with little distraction. Feeling and seeing the leash around him will be enough of a challenge at this stage. Offer treats and praise as your dog gets used to coming to you, as described above, with a leash on. Once you feel that he is following you while leashed, it is time to take the process outdoors. This is where the real challenge begins!  New environments are rich with fascinating stimuli. You will need to remain patient and keep these initial walks short. As you progress through this stage, watch your dog as he walks next to you. If he shows signs of getting distracted or wanting to lunge, make your cue sound to bring his attention back to you and then proceed to move away from the distraction.  If he follows you, give him a treat.

          Continue working your dog in this manner until you can get him to answer your cue and respond to your direction without the use of treats. Because dogs train best with positive association, you can supplement the treats with praise and affection. With time and patience, your pet dog will soon transform into a much more enjoyable walking companion.

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