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At-Home Leash Training for Your Puppy or Adult Dog

How to Leash Train Dog or Puppy

Dog walking has many mental and physical benefits for both canines and humans. It’s a way for pet parents and their pups to get outside, get some exercise and bond over a shared activity.

However, sometimes it can be hard to tell whether you are walking your dog, or your dog is walking you. Training your puppy or dog to walk politely on a leash is the first step in establishing a lifetime of quality exercise and fun. Before beginning this training, you will need to ensure that your pet has the proper combination of a leash, collar and/or harness—and be sure that you’re ready with a supply of suitable dog training treats!

Equipment needed for leash training

Dog Collars

Leashes

Dog Harnesses

Training Treats

Leash, collar and/or harness

For detailed information on selecting the right product, visit our guide to Choosing the Right Dog Harness, Collar or Leash.  

Trainers recommend 6- to 12-foot leashes for training so you can keep your dog within a safe distance. When walking, you may want to keep the leash shorter. Collect any “extra” leash in your hand. Do not wrap it around your wrist and arm, as this is dangerous for both you and your dog—you have less control and could be injured with any sudden tugging or bolting.

Please note that chain and prong collars are not recommended due to risk of misuse that could cause injury.

It’s important to also note that while retractable leashes are popular, they are not recommended for training. In fact, they are not allowed in some regions due to problems with injuries to both pets and pet parents.

Always check your leash for signs of excess wear before and after each use. A frayed leash could snap while walking. If you and your dog tend to wear out leashes quickly, consider a chain leash, which offers durability.

Treats

Treats are a great positive reinforcement tool to encourage your dog’s happy participation in the leash training process. Training treats should be small and low-calorie—even for large dogs, a pea-sized treat is plenty rewarding.

Steps for teaching a puppy to walk on a leash

Puppy leash training at Petco

Teaching your puppy how to walk on a leash properly and safely at a young age will likely help prevent frustrating behavior like leash pulling later in life. It’s important to remember, however, that puppies won’t instinctively understand walking on a leash. Pet parents should be prepared to spend time training their young dogs to walk correctly on a leash. Starting this process indoors can be helpful, as there are fewer distractions. 

Use a lightweight buckle collar for puppy leash training. After getting your puppy safely leashed, start by letting them drag the leash around the house or in another secured area for a few minutes. They’ll get used to the weight of the clip and leash putting a little pressure on their neck. Occasionally pick up the end of the leash and just hold it. They’ll discover that pulling doesn’t release the pressure but giving in to the leash does. Be there to supervise so they don’t get tangled in furniture and get scared.

When you’re ready to begin familiarizing your puppy with what it’s like to walk on a leash, start indoors or in a fenced yard with a pocketful of treats and take just a few steps. They may balk and hang back. Encourage them with enticing sounds and crouch down to their level if you need to (you can be pretty big and scary to such a little pup). Stop and praise them whenever they are by your side on a loose leash. Change the pace and direction of your walk and allow them to make choices, rewarding them when they offer the desired behavior. 

A five-minute session is about all a puppy can handle. Notice their energy level and ability to stay focused, and don’t push them beyond that. Puppy training sessions should be a fun, positive experience for all involved. Always end your session on a high note!

Tips for leash training adult dogs

Although leash training an older adult dog may take more time and dedication, it’s never too late to train desired behaviors. Older dogs can still be leash trained.

An adult dog with a history of pulling will require more time to learn not to pull. Keep training sessions upbeat and fun. Treats and praise create better, quicker results. Change direction, speed and focus frequently to keep your dog interested and listening. Don’t forget to incorporate distractions into your training sessions so your dog learns to respond to your cues regardless of what is going on around them.

How to stop a dog from pulling on a leash

A dog that charges out the front door and drags you down the road will not be very enjoyable to walk with, nor would this be a safe scenario for you or your dog. Ask your dog to sit or wait before you open the door and remain sitting until you release them—then let them walk out.

Similarly, whether you’re training a puppy to walk on a leash or working with an older dog, leash-pulling during the walk may occur. Dogs can become overly excited and try to run out ahead of you, tugging you along.

If your dog or puppy continues to pull on the leash, don’t get frustrated and reprimand them. Simply stop your forward motion and keep working on rewarding them for the loose leash or them being at your side. Soon enough, your dog will start to learn to associate the right behaviors with rewards.

Dedicate some of your daily walk time to training sessions for a few weeks. Be patient and consistent.

If you’re struggling to train an older dog or a puppy to walk on the leash, consider enrolling your dog in training group classes or working with a Petco-certified trainer in a private lesson setting. Petco offers private lessons and training classes both in store and online for puppies and dogs.

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