Leash training is a quintessential pilgrimage that all dog owners have to go through. Using a leash on a dog is crucial for dogs to coexist in our society of humans and laws, thus training to use a leash with your dog becomes unavoidable. In this article, we go through the ways to leash train your dog.
The main steps involved are:
- Get a Standard Collar
- Get Your Dog Used To The Leash
- Leash Dog Indoors
- Tire The Dog Out
- Reward Good Behavior On A Leash
- Train Dog To Stay By Side On A Leash
- Leash Training At The Doorstep
- Stop Walking When Dog Pulls On Leash Outdoors
- Walk Back If Dog Pulls On The Leash
- Change Direction
- Internalize The No Pull Behavior
- Using Prong And Shock Collars
- Invisible Dog Leash
Get A Standard Collar
Get your dog a normal collar. A standard one will do the trick, like the Blueberry Classic Regular Dog Collar. It is inexpensive but most value for money of all the basic collars you can get on Amazon.
Do not get a martingale collar at this point. A martingale collar is loose on the neck when there is no tension in the leash. They might not know about the presence of the collar and that is not what we want to achieve at this point. Furthermore, it can be used as an indicator of reward when we upgrade their normal leash to a martingale leash.
Get Your Dog Used To The Leash
Dogs are not born knowing what a leash and collar is, and they definitely do not know they are to be bound by it when they are with their masters outside their house. It is a foreign element in their life, and it has to be introduced slowly. The task is definitely much easier for puppies who have not seen the world and tend to accept new practices as facts of life more readily. For a full-grown dog, the resistance you face will be stronger literally as they are bigger. Either way, getting your dog used to the leash involves the same keys steps that will work for both young and adults.
Leash Dogs Indoors
It is always more comfortable to be learning new things in an environment that the dogs are familiar with. And the first step is of course to wear the collar or the harness in the house. This should probably pose no problem unless it is a traumatised dog we are talking about, but that will be outside the scope of this article and would require a specialist.
Leave the collar on the dog for short periods of time initially. Let it move around the house with it for a few days, lengthening the duration of each period gradually.
Wearing a collar should become second nature to your dog in no time. Before we put on the leash and start the training, there is an optional extra step to take.
Tire The Dog Out
It is crucial to only introduce any new concept of behaviors or new practices to dogs when they are tired. They are generally more receptive once they have gotten rid of some of their excess energy. Puppies and high energy breeds like GIVE EXAMPLES.
Once your dog is less energetic, it is time to start the leash training.
Reward Good Behavior On A Leash
Get yourself a handful of treats ready. The treats are necessary to signal to the dogs when they are doing something right. Dogs do not understand human language, and we are no dogs whisperers either, so using a treat to signal a ‘YES’ will be the only means we can communicate with the dog.
I will recommend getting Boulder Dog Food Company All Natural Bits Dog Treats. These dog treats are bite size so after giving your dog a treat for a reward, you can carry on with the lesson, instead of having to wait for it to chew on the treats. They are made of natural meat of bison, turkey or chicken which are highly popular meat choices amongst dogs. Since they are bit size, it is going to be easy for you to carry multiple treats in your hand as you carry out your lessons and reward them conveniently, instead of having to delve into the bag of treats every time you want to reward your dog. It has received a tremendous number of positive reviews on Amazon as well to stake its claim as the Amazon Choice.
However, note that this is not a session for your dogs to balloon. These treats are mere tools mainly use to get their attention on us. Do not dish out treats like there is no tomorrow. Give your dog a treat when it does something right for the first time, and subsequently less.
Train Dog To Stay By Side On A Leash
When indoors, we should master the ability to get the dog to come to your side. For that, you will need a cue. It can be its name, a word or a simple hand signal, like EXPECTO PATRONUM!.
When they do heed the cue and stay by your side on a leash obediently for the first time, reward them. It is a new behavior and we should eliminate the guesswork for them.
Walk around the house. When the dog starts to move away and there is tension in the leash, stop in your tracks, repeat the cue and get it come by your side again. Keep doing this until it is clear that the dog understands what the cue means and how to act accordingly. Reward them with treats more **infrequently** with subsequent successes.
Do not overfeed your dogs with treats!
Leash Training At The Doorstep
Once you gain your first badge in leash training mastery, your next step is to train at the door.
I find that this step is particularly important because this is the part when the dogs start to pull a lot, especially dogs who have been outside and tasted freedom. They will become very excited and jump for joy when they know you are going to take them out.
This, or similar scenarios where you can almost predict the dogs pulling, is the best time to correct their unwanted pulling behavior, right before it occurs. The tension in the leash will be the strongest you experienced so far, but the steps at this point is the same. Stop and cue. And reward them for breaking their usual instinct or behavior.
Repeat this by going in and out the door until you can walk from, say, the kitchen till you step out of your house without your dog ever pulling the leash. I think it deserves a reward at this point of time.
I will probably want to repeat this successfully a couple more times before going outside of the house.
Stop Walking When Dog Pulls On Leash Outdoors
Now you are ready to enter the wild. Going outside will be more challenging as your dog will be more excited than ever. However, the steps are going to be the same for you and your dogs, just that it is in a new environment.
The first step is always to stop walking when it starts pulling your leash.
When dogs are pulling, it is their way of saying they want to go from point A to point B, but you will need to let them know that that is not how they are going to get there on a leash. They have to wait for you.
To achieve this, stop moving as long as you feel the tension in the leash. This is the way to tell the dog that it is not going anywhere if it pulls on the leash. Stop and cue to get your dog to come back by your side. Then take another step and continue forward until it repeats the same mistake again. Then stop and cue again and repeat. Ad infinitum.
Remember to keep eye contact with your dog. This kind of engagement is a way to tell your dog that you are trying to teach it something.
Reward them the first time you can walk 5 steps without them pulling. This is actually quite a massive achievement for your dog. This is the exact behavior that we are looking for! I would reward them all day long if they can keep this up, increasing the number of steps taken between each reward milestone.
Walk Back If Dog Pulls On The Leash
If this step has become a roadblock for you, try taking a few steps back towards your house instead of standing still and repeat. If they start to learn, you can continue forward, and if they repeat their unwanted leash pulling behavior as you are walking,take a few feet back.
You will come to an obvious dilemma and find that you are not able to move anywhere. That is how it is going to be in the beginning. These are baby steps you will have to experience as you can’t build Rome in a day.
Go all the way back into the house and back to the previous steps if necessary. It will be a good indicator to your dog that it will not see taste the outside world if it does not learn the drill and stop pulling on the leash.
Do not pull the leash for this step, and yes, I mean you. To execute a change in direction, get your dogs attention first. Remember your cue.
Then, walk towards your intended direction, without any tension in the leash, and keep your eyes on your dog to get it to move with you for 5 steps. If you achieve this, reward your dog.
Change your direction and repeat these steps, increasing the number of steps taken after each direction change between each reward milestone again.
You can do this all day long as this is a really big achievement that your dog has achieved. They do deserve the treats for being so obedient.
Internalize The No Pull Behavior
The job does not end here. You will need to carry on this practice for weeks. The reason is because new behaviors take some time to be assimilated into its everyday life. It is just like typing out this guide on a keyboard. I need to learn how to position my fingers and where all the keys are and practise typing, a lot, before I can type out this article in a reasonably short amount of time. This muscle memory takes time to sink in, and it is the same. More practice will make your dog internalize a no pull behavior.
The Country Brook Martingale Collar is the go-to martingale collar on Amazon. It is cheap enough and is highly rated by many of its previous customers. You do not need to do anything fancy for this case, so this simple martingale collar will be the best value for money.
Using Prong And Shock Collars
In some cases, your dogs might still like to pull even though you have done all the trainings. In these cases, you might need a prong collar. However, these should merely be a tool to drive fear into the dog and not use it at all.
I personally recommend resorting to these collars only if the soft method, which is using treats, is ineffective. When the dog pulls again, use the prong collars, and repeat your lessons, still using treats. This time, it should pull less and with less force because of the pain around its neck. When your dogs shows an improvement in its behavior, you can take it off. If it is still being naughty, put it back on. Soon enough it will start to associate the act of pulling on the leash with wearing the dreaded cangue and behave on the leash.
On subsequent walks, bring along the prong collar, but hopefully you would not use it. It is a form of a silent weapon in a way.
It will be the same for shock collars, only the method of triggering will be done actively by you. I cannot get myself to consciously inflict pain on my dogs, so I tend to avoid it.
Invisible Dog Leash
The highest level of mastery with leash training is to be able to wield the invisible dog leash. It means to get the dog to behave and stay disciplined beside you without the use of a leash, ironically.
Making use of their natural instinct to stay in packs together with their familiar and associated elements, you will be able to get them to gravitate towards you without any explicit force. This, however, requires a high amount of affinity and chemistry between you and your pooch, and should only do it after the dog is well trained with the leash.
When the dog is without the leash, it can taste freedom like never before, but it needs to be taught to cherish it. So if it disobeys upon hearing you cue to come back, you can use the leash as a “punishment”.
I am not the chosen one to wield an invisible leash. You can view more about that in the video below.
Do remember that you should not carry this out in the public if you are doing this for the first time due to safety reasons.
Having said all this, I forgot to mention 1 important point. And that is the amount of patience you will need to have. You can see how tough it is going to be if your dog is not the most obedient and it will be a test of your temper management as much as it is for your dog. But this should not be a problem to us dog lovers 🙂
I hope you get a better idea of how you can train your dog on a leash and avoid the use of prong collars or shock collars.