How To Train A Puppy To Walk On a Leash
Dr. Joyce Ashamalla
Dr. Joyce Ashamalla is the managing partner at Hinsdale Animal Hospital with Kremer Veterinary Service, as well as a partner at CARE Animal Emergency Hospital. She received her BS in Animal Sciences from the University of Illinois- Champaign Urbana, where she also completed her Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine in 2007. She is AO certified, USDA-APHIS accredited, and is a member of the CVMA, ISVMA, AVMA.
Ah, the joy of puppies. Other than their natural instincts that they are born with, puppies are like a blank canvas in the sense that you can train them properly and not have to spend time breaking bad habits. Many people believe that dogs naturally know how to walk on a leash, but this of course is not true. In this blog, we will look at the best ways to teach a puppy how to walk on a leash and troubleshoot any problems that may arise.
When To Leash Train A Puppy
While you can start working with your puppy on obedience training early on, vets do not suggest you start walking her until she has had all of her essential vaccinations to protect her from the parvovirus and from Bordetella bacteria. Once your puppy has received her second round of shots, usually by 10 weeks old, she is safe to go explore the great outdoors on a leash.
The Process Of Leash Training
Here are the steps that vets and other professionals suggest when first starting out leash training a puppy.
- Introduce The Collar/Harness – Letting your puppy wear their walking harness or collar around the house for a month or so before taking her out is a great way to get her used to wearing it.
- Collar/Harness Time = A Tasty Treat - When the pup is wearing her collar or harness and leash in the house, make it fun by playing with her and giving her some treats. She will begin to have a positive association between wearing her collar or harness and leash with a pleasurable experience.
- Practice Walking Inside – Before the big day comes outside, practice walking your puppy back and forth in the house. Continue to offer praise and treats as she walks along with you on the leash.
- Puppy Meets World - When the big day finally comes to walk your little tail wagger outside, don’t set your expectations too high. She will be inundated with new sights, smells and sounds, which will be distracting. Be patient with her and keep the first walk short.
You did her indoor training, gave the first outdoor walk a try but alas, it didn’t go as well as you had hoped. Don’t worry. Many puppy owners encounter problems with first trying to leash train their dogs. Here are some of the most common issues with leash training and how to help resolve them.
- Pulling – If your puppy is pulling on her leash, do not yank her back with it. Calmly stop the walk and stand very still. Don’t move until puppy comes back to you, for this is now a contest of wills. Once she does return to you, praise her (maybe a treat is in order) and continue the walk. If it happens again, repeat the process. The dog will eventually get the idea that in the battle of wills, you are going to win.
- Barking – Sometimes dogs will bark at people or other animals because they are not getting enough exercise and it is a way to exert energy. Make sure she is getting plenty of exercise, which should help the barking. In addition, a verbal correction and a spray from a water bottle should send the message that barking is not appreciated.
- Lunging – If you see your dog is about to lunge after another animal, a car or person, try to stop the action before it happens by training your dog to sit, stay or heal. Being proactive with regard to this issue will go a long way in helping to avoid it in the first place. Also, be sure to put plenty of distance between the dog and her object of interest. That should minimize her level of excitement about wanting to lunge.
Above all else, be patient with your new pup as she learns how to walk on a leash. Remember she is a baby and everything is new to her. The good news is that dogs are very good learners and with repetition, consistency and positive reinforcement, puppy should make great strides toward the goal of being a great leash walker. One last bit of advice….don’t forget to enjoy the walk yourself!
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