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How To Get A Dog To Walk On A Leash

  • 24/11/2020
dog-on-leash.jpgIn Ireland, it’s encouraged to keep dogs on a leash whenever they’re in public. However, if you’ve got a young pup in your life — or a particularly rambunctious adult dog — walking on the lead might feel like an impossible feat.

But believe it or not, any dog can learn to walk on a leash. All it takes is careful training and lots of patience. Here are a few key tips for teaching your four-legged friend to walk on a leash.

Start in an Enclosed Area

For some dogs, the excitement of the outside world is simply too much to ignore. How is your pup supposed to learn a new skill when there are so many sights, sounds, and smells to take in?! Therefore, the best way to leash train a dog is to start small — more specifically, to start inside the home.

Start in an enclosed room (or, if you don’t want your dog inside, start in a fenced-off yard). Let your dog smell the leash, then clip it on his collar — but DON’T PULL ON IT. In fact, you don’t even need to hold the leash at first; simply letting your dog wear it on his collar will help him get comfortable.

Let your dog walk around the space with the leash dragging behind him. Reward him with treats when he comes to you, as this will help him associate the leash with positive things. Repeat this activity several times until you’re confident that your dog is ready for the next step.

Nip Biting in the Bud

At this point, you are ready to pick up the leash and lead your dog around your enclosed space. However, this might introduce a new challenge: biting and chewing. Many dogs (especially young puppies) think of the leash as just another toy — and if you start pulling on it, she might think a game of tug-of-war is afoot.

If your dog begins to bite or chew on her leash, you may need to distract her with other toys. Instead of letting her chew the least, give her a squeaker toy or toss around a favorite ball (drop the leash before throwing, of course). This will distract her from the new sensation of wearing and being pulled by the leash, while helping her get used to wearing it.

Continue walking your dog around the yard until she stops biting the leash and keeps pace with you throughout the walk. Eventually (and remember, there is no set time: every dog learns differently), your dog will be comfortable enough on the leash that you can take her out onto the street for a real adventure.

Reward Good Behaviour (But Don’t Punish Bad)

Training a dog is always a work in progress. Dogs have their own minds and their own personalities — and that means it’s not always easy to read their behaviour. This can be stressful when you’re taking a walk, as you don’t know if your pup will bark, lunge at someone, or simply pull the leash to make the walk uncomfortable.

Obviously, there’s no guarantee that your dog won’t engage in these irritating behaviours. However, you can help reinforce good behaviour by rewarding your dog when he behaves. If your dog stays by your side as another dog passes, he gets a treat. If he stops pulling or chewing on his leash, give him another. This will help him understand what’s expected of him and will encourage better behavior on future walks.

That said, it’s also very important that you DON’T punish bad behaviour — particularly not by pulling on the leash. Leash-pulling can feel like a threat to your dog, and he will likely react by pulling harder against you. Instead, stop what you’re doing when a dog exhibits bad behaviour and wait for them to relax. (Obviously there are exceptions to this rule — for example, if a dog attacks another dog or a person — but stopping the walk and waiting is sufficient for most poor walking behaviour).

Once they’ve calmed down, you can resume the walk without excess stress for both you and your pup.


Clint is the Founder and Pack Leader at dogIDs, which started in his basement in 2005. Clint is a lifelong dog lover with a passion for developing functional and beautiful products for dogs.

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