All dogs, regardless of size, age, or lifestyle, should be taught basic leash skills. Everyone wants to avoid the pulling, jerking and a general feeling that the dog is uncontactable. It’s also crucial for you and your dog’s safety.

Walking your dog is important and not only when “nature calls”. It strengthens the dog’s physique and well-being, and also the bond between you. By physically activating your dog, you get to know him, you spend more time together, and you get closer. We spend a lot of time walking our dogs, so it’s worth to put some effort into leash training.

Before you start

Your dog needs an appropriate collar or harness that fits him properly, as well as a suitable leash. A nylon or leather leash usually works best so avoid Flexi-leash during training, you want the dog close to you and not 3 meters in front or to the side. Read our articles about collars and leashes to get some tips.

Before you start leash training outdoors, make sure you have created the right conditions for the walk. If your dog is stressed or afraid, there’s a high risk that the leash training will fail. Do some exercises that you know calms down your dog and make him feel safe.

The same goes for you! If you are angry, irritated or just in a bad mood, you should skip training because your dog will sense it!

You should only train when both you and your dog are in a good mood; then you have the right conditions for a successful and pleasant moment.

And don’t forget to leave your mobile and headphones at home, you should have a full focus on your dog during the training.

Keep sessions short

If you have a dog who never has been leash trained, begin with short and positive sessions. The standard in dog sports and shows is to keep the dog on your left side. In countries with right-hand traffic, it’s an advantage because the dog always ends up on the roadside of the street.

Why does the dog pull?

Why does the dog pull?

It may sound strange – but the dog pulls to come forward, and that is its reward. By walking nicely in the leash, the dog will reach its goal much slower. So, when the dog stretches, he gets what he wants faster, and you need to understand this so you can turn this behaviour!

Don’t forget that dogs need their walks, and you can’t stop them. But, you can make them pleasant for both you and your dog.

It can quickly become a vicious circle – you think it’s hard for the dog to pull, you get anxious, so you don’t go out as often or long as you should. And then the dog pulls even more when you’re out because he has so much to “catch up”.

Set up a target for your leash training

How do you want the walk to look in your dream world? In my dreams…

  • I want to teach my dog that is fun to walk with a slack leash and to pull is hard and exhausting.
  • I want my dog to keep in contact with me during the walks.
  • I want us to be able to pass dogs, people or other exciting things without my dog pulling the leash.
  • I want us to walk calm and safe in areas with traffic.
  • I want us to have fun and enjoy our walks together.
Leash training Reward

How do I get the dog to go fine in the leash?

In the beginning, you should have treats or some other reward for your dog and use a mark for a good response – a clicker or an emphatic “yes!” works. Before starting the training, decide when you are going to reward your dog. For instance, when the dog looks at, you or when the leash goes slack, mark and reward. In the end, the dog will understand, and you can enjoy your walks together.

When the dog pulls: If the dog pulls the leash, which will most likely happen, what should you do? Stand completely still. Do not move out of the spot, however energetic your dog is. Be consistent. If you let the dog go where it wants in this position, it will feel it down the right thing, and that is the last thing you want, because then it will just repeat it the next time. Again, be consistent and stand up for yourself and ignore the dog’s misbehaviour. Wait for the leash to be slack. The instant the leash goes slack, mark and reward. Then start walking in the direction you want, not the way the dog wants. Reward, reward, reward when your dog does the right thing!

If your dog walks pretty nicely without pulling, mark and reward it every so often to give a “reference point.” When your dog understands that you like it to walk calmly without pulling, and sometimes get excited and forgets its manners, be sure to mark and reward your dog when it resumes polite walking.

Train attention and compliance: Take the opportunity on every road or creek you cross, gate you open – stop, ask the dog to wait, you go ahead and check the location, check that the coast is clear, you are the one that scout and keep track, not the dog. Here you send signals to your dog that you are responsible for keeping you safe and that it’s safe and fun to be close. When the coast is clear, you call your dog, and you can continue the walk. By doing this, the dog will become more attentive and responsive.

Tempo, breaks and variation: What is your dog’s usual pace? Try to follow the same, shorten or extend your step, but do not run. In this way, you further increase the conditions for successful training. Build a relationship with your dog – walking with you should be fun!

Play with your dog

Build a relationship with your dog, and walking should be fun!

Don’t take the same walk all the time. Go the other way, find new paths and make them attractive. Break the training now and then, play and have fun. Hide a treat in the grass, play with your dog’s favourite toy, sit down on a bench and enjoy the sun.

It will boost your relationship and make your dog see you in a different light, a leader who has not taken the lead but who deserves it.

Here we have a lot to learn from our dogs; they live in the present and we usually in the past or future or a stressed present. Take the opportunity to stop and enjoy the moment with your dog!

Eye contact: Does your dog prefer to walk with its nose in the ground, put all its attention to a dog far away and totally ignore you when you seek contact? Then it can be in place to practice eye contact. Reward the dog at once when it seeks contact with you, if it turns around and looks you in the eye, reward. When the dog looks for you, turn around and let the dog walk around you and seek contact with you, reward. Quite quickly your dog will understand that exciting things happen and I get rewarded when I look for eye contact, it was fun, and it feels good!

What happens when you snatch the leash, get angry with your dog and hash words are coming out of your mouth?
The dog will try to get as far as possible from this unpleasant situation and will start to pull the leash. The relationship between you is deteriorating. It is not pleasant to be close to someone who screams and hurts you. After all, it’s with you, the dog should be able to feel safe and secure.

The dog usually learns what is unpleasant, but not what you want it to do instead, because you have not explained what.

This attitude towards a dog is based on dominance, “You should do as I say, otherwise …” You could use another approach and build your relationship based on leadership, “If you choose to follow me, then I will make sure you are well”. In the first approach, you have “taken the right”, in the second you have earned it.

Teach him to walk by your side

Teach the dog to walk by your side

Your dog also needs to learn to stay on one side of you. If the dog tends to weave back and forth or runs around you in circles, your walk won’t be much fun, and you could trip and injure yourself or your dog. Here is some step you can follow:

  •  Keep the leash short enough so that your dog can’t leave your side, now you can model the position you want your dog to be, but don’t keep it too short so you are dragging the dog.
  • At the same time, lure your dog into the correct position by your side with treats. You can also mark the right behaviour with a word or clicker if you like.
  • When the dog starts to get the idea, stop luring but do reward it for staying by your side. Give a treat every few steps at first; increase the distance you walk between treats until the dog got the habit of walking at your side without treats. You can also give your dog a bit more leash as long as it doesn’t weave or circle.

If you don’t succeed with the leash training

Your dog is such a determined puller that stopping just makes him pull and dance more.
When he pulls, rather than just stop, turn around and walk the other way. Don’t yank, don’t talk, and don’t wait for the dog. It’s the dog’s job to pay attention to where you are and stick to you. When the dog catches up with you, be happy and reward. Most dogs quickly learn to pay attention and not to pull.

Your dog is a dedicated puller who won’t respond to any of your training tactics.
You maybe need to get a different collar or harness which gives you better control, like a harness with front clip. Of course, the reason can also be that you are not consistent, not encouraging enough or want to move on to fast. Maybe your best option is to take an obedience class or even a few private lessons from a qualified instructor.

Good luck with the training and remember it should be fun!

Annika Nordin Copywriter All best dogs supplies

ANNIKA NORDIN – Writer | Web Designer | Web Admin

Web designer educated in communication. Living on a small island in Greece and writes for us to share her experience of a whole life with dogs.

Articles from Annika Nordin