Training your dog to walk on a lead
In association with MORE THAN insurance
One of the most important and useful things you can teach your dogs is how to walk happily beside you on the lead. Nobody wants to be dragged around by their dog and lots of tension on the lead means lots of pressure around your dog’s neck which isn’t at all good for them.
Why should I teach my dog to walk on a lead?
Relaxed lead walking is important because:
- It keeps walks calm which keeps both you and your dog safe out and about in areas of high traffic and people.
- It teaches your dog about self-control and what behaviour to offer around distractions – which is super useful when teaching them recall.
How do I teach my dog how to walk on a lead?
As with any training, teaching your dog to walk nicely on a lead takes patience and needs to be practised regularly to ensure your dog remains calm and understands what you are asking of him or her.
Obviously, putting a collar and lead on your dog and expecting a paw-perfect performance only happens in the movies. So, as with all training, you need to start at the very beginning and work through a few steps to guide them.
You will need:
- a filled treat bag – you can take some from your dog’s daily food allowance
- a flat collar*
- a lead; choose something that is lightweight, durable and is long enough to give your puppy or dog enough room to allow for a nice loose lead
*At Dogs for Good we don’t recommend the use of slip leads, choke chains, half checks or shock collars. Kind and patient training will teach your dog everything he or she needs to know and will help you to foster a deeper bond with them.
Remember that with all training, keep sessions short (max three minutes), make it fun and don’t hold back on praise and rewarding the behaviour you’re seeking.
The first thing to introduce to your dog is their collar.
It’s really important that you get the right size collar and that you fit it correctly. You should be able to fit two fingers width between the collar and your dog’s neck and, if your dog is still a pup, you obviously need to keep checking as they grow and adjust accordingly.
Then you can start to get them used to their collar and the best way is to do it gradually, getting them used to the sight and smell of and then eventually to the sensation of having it fastened around their neck.
A good way to start introducing their collar is to simply place the collar next to their food bowl while they’re eating. They can have a sniff at it and because it’s introduced at meal times, this will help them form a positive association with it. The next step is to regularly stroke them – a few times a day – with it in your hand so they get used to it being near their body. Then, when they’re happy with all of this, you can pop it around their neck for a just a few seconds – maybe at dinner time – and gradually build up the time it stays on until they’re happy with it on all the time.
When your dog is totally happy wearing his or her collar for long periods of time, you can start to bring in the lead. Start off by taking them into the garden or select a room indoors which isn’t too full of furniture.
Then, just as with the collar, introduce the lead gradually and positively. First, attach the lead to the collar and let your dog wander around wherever they want, making sure that they don’t get tangled up in their lead.
In the next session, call your dog to you and reward with praise and a treat – the aim here is for your dog to move around freely without worrying about their lead.
At the next session, repeat the previous step to remind your dog what he or she has already learned. And this time, when they come to you, pick the lead up and and follow your dog where they go. Don’t try and control their movements at this stage; you’re simply asking them to be comfortable with their lead and you at the end of it. Give them lots of praise when they move freely.
When your dog is happy with these steps, pick which side you want your dog to walk on and get them used to the movement of walking beside you. Start small and encourage your dog to walk with you by holding a treat in front of their nose.
Take one step forward and offer praise and reward. Continue with one step at a time until your dog is happy doing this and you feel you can increase to two steps, three steps etc. Always work at your dog’s own pace.
Once you have steps in the right direction, you can gradually introduce movement such as circles, walking left to right etc. Keep your dog positively engaged with you and always reward and praise them for being next to you in the right position.
Lead walking is all about practice. The more you do it in short two minute sessions, the quicker your dog will understand what you’re asking of them and where they should be walking. This training is a lot for your dog to take in so make sure you use better treats such as cheese for harder tasks.
If your dog starts to pull ahead on the lead towards people, other dogs or even the odd squirrel, the most important thing is don’t pull them back.
When the lead goes taut, simply plant your feet and keep still. Obviously, don’t reward this behaviour and instead, simply wait for your dog. It might take a minute or two but give them that time. Remember that sometimes, it’s really hard for them to disengage from the distraction so as soon as he or she looks at you, starts coming back to you or even just loosens tension on the lead, praise them, fuss them and give them a really tasty treat. They did great!
Remember to positively reinforce the good behaviours when you get them, this will really help your dog understand what you’re asking of them.
Lagging behind or stopping
Remember, being on a lead is quite restrictive for a dog and we need to make sure we keep reinforcing that being on a lead is a positive experience. There may be a few reasons your dog starts to lag behind:
They could be processing things, taking in what’s going on around them and that’s totally fine. Give them a little time to do so.
It could be that they’re not yet used to their collar or lead and if that’s the case, take things back a step or two and build up again.
Alternatively, it could be a degree of anxiety that’s making them lag behind. It may be something they’ve seen that has worried them; a full bin bag on the side of the road or something along those lines. And, if this happens, take it at their pace and encourage them gently past or around whatever it is. Your dog must be confident that you’re listening to them and you’re not going to force them to walk close to the object of their worry. Remember to make a mental note of what it is so that you can work on it positively another time by stopping at a distance they’re comfortable with, rewarding them and gradually taking them closer each time.
We hope that this Good Advice helps you with creating some lovely, enriching walks with your dog. Go fetch!
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