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Leash Training a Puppy: Top Tips For Dog Owners

New Puppy Training

Puppy on a leash

The day you bring home your puppy is the day you begin training them. From the very start, you are teaching the pup what to do and what not to do by establishing ground rules around the house, placing boundaries on the puppy's living space, and showing the dog where to go to the bathroom. 

These are some of the fundamentals that are important for any dog that is living in your home. 

The leash is just one of the essential tools that must also be mastered since your pup will be wearing one every time you go out. It is crucial that your pup learns how to behave properly on a leash because it will not only protect your dog but assist in positive development and maturity. 

Related: 11 Tips For A First Time Dog Owner

Dog on a leash

How To Leash Train Your Puppy

Much like any other type of training with a puppy, leash training should be done slowly and gradually. Don't rush the process as it will only result in frustration for you and your puppy. 

Introduce Them To The Collar Or Harness And Leash

Do not expect to slip the collar or harness on your pup, clasp the leash, and watch your puppy walk by your side without resistance. It simply won't happen. You need to introduce these items first and let the dog get used to them. That means letting the puppy wear the collar or harness, pet id tag, and leash and allowing the dog to walk around the house with all of it attached to him or her. Let the puppy get comfortable wearing it. If you detect any discomfort or stress in your pup, remove everything and try again tomorrow. But the thing to remember is repetition - by regularly exposing your pup to the leash or harness, they’ll slowly get used to the idea of wearing it.

Teach Them To Heel

The “heel” command is the most critical because it allows you to regain control over your dog in just about any situation. Teaching the dog to understand the command and obey it, even in the busiest and most stimulating of environments, is paramount. When you are training the pup to “heel” it means the dog is maintaining a pace where he or she is walking at your side instead of behind or in front of you. This position may not be physically demanding for the dog, but it does provide a mental challenge that keeps the dog present and alert to your movements. 

Practice Inside And Outside

Do not start leash training outdoors. It's only going to confuse things and make it tougher for your puppy to learn. The best way to begin is by practicing in the house first. This cuts down on the confusion by eliminating distractions that are bound to make the dog lose focus. Start by having your pup wear the collar or harness and the leash in the house. Get them used to feeling of their collar and the sound of their dog tag when they walk. Put your pup through the paces by keeping the leash loose and train the pup to remain focused on you. Rewards should be given when the dog does well with your commands.

Praise Good Behavior

To expand on that last point further, good behavior must always be acknowledged and rewarded. It obviously encourages the pup to do the right thing at all times. You will undoubtedly have some resistance at first, but if you introduce the leash concept slowly (and early) you can reduce that resistance and get your pup ready to walk on a leash correctly. As with all forms of training any dog, always use positive reinforcement and heap on the praise when the dog obeys your commands. 

Select The Right Leash For Your Dog

As you may have guessed, the leash you choose for training your pup is just as important to the process as repetition and reward. The length of the leash and the thickness of it are two of the most vital factors to consider before you buy. In the case of the former, a shorter leash is the best way to go as it gives you more control over your dog, so you can prevent the pup from wandering away from you. As to the latter, a leash at a tighter width is typically lighter and more flexible, while a thicker leash reduces both of these characteristics. The size of your pup and the dog breed should be factored into your decision as to how thick your leash should be. 

Boy running with dog

Common Problems And Solutions

As you train your pup to walk on a leash you're bound to encounter some of the most common challenges that dog owners face on a daily basis. Proper training will drastically reduce these behaviors but don't expect them to eradicated entirely. 

Dogs can have an unexpected reaction to all kinds of stimuli, so don't assume that having your pup on a leash is going to keep him or her in check at all times. You must always be vigilant and aware of your surroundings and anticipate a problem before it occurs, no matter how well-trained the dog may be. 

Pulling

This is probably the most common behavior of any dog when walking on a leash. A pup may pull for any number of reasons and your puppy will likely do it for all of them. You want to curb this behavior early and often, and that can only be accomplished with consistency. Select a method of walking and stay with it, every time. Don't deviate from what you are trying to establish as a norm. This will make training the puppy easier and more effective by teaching the pup what you expect every time you clip that leash on. 

Lunging

This is another common behavior that should be curbed, especially around other dogs when lunging is the most likely action your dog will take in such a situation. This is where you really need to be on the ball and aware of your surroundings. If you think your pup is going to lunge at a person or another dog, get their attention before it can happen. Distract your pup until you are out of range of the stimuli. 

Jumping Up

The same thing is true when a dog is jumping up. Be careful about letting the dog get near the stimuli that will prompt that behavior. Verbal commands for the dog to calm down or heel should also be applied. 

Only Performing For Reward

This is a behavior that can be avoided by phasing out the food rewards for doing what is expected. Your commands should be what prompts your dog to behave properly, not the promise of treats. 

Barking

Dogs are going to bark, no matter what. Shushing them only works so far, it's when they make it a habit that a problem starts to emerge. Curbing this behavior is going to depend on the situation, but remaining firm in your commands will teach your dog you are not going to stand for this conduct.

Looking for tips and tricks to help train your new puppy? Visit the Two Tails Blog to learn more!

Two dogs on a leash



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