We know ever since you got a dog, you can't wait to take it out for a long walk to watch the sunset together. But his scenic journey can turn into a wild zigzag if you've skipped leash training. It is an essential part of owning one and no matter how long it takes to leash train a dog, there is no escaping it.
Leash training is about changing your dog's perspective. From their point of view, that leash is the ultimate tug-of-war toy. So your task is to flip that script and teach them that walking calmly by your side is the new cool – not as easy as it sounds.
Then we have the issue of attention span. When they are more interested in every scent, leaf, blade of grass, and passing squirrel, focusing on walking in a straight line becomes secondary.
If you don't want to be that person who is frantically pulled down the street by your dog, we just made your day. Our article is a complete guide and your leash training survival kit. From covering the basics to reaching the bottom of this, you will find everything here.
Understanding The A-Zs Of Leash Training
Since the day the puppy stepped into your world, you have been on a loop teaching it the ins and outs of living an urban life. This can include crating, housebreaking, basic obedience, and socializing. You may have not noticed but there is something very crucial missing from this list. It’s called walking on a leash aka leash training.
Leash training is like a crash course for your dog to learn sidewalk manners. The main purpose of this training is for the dog to understand that when outdoors, following your lead is the ultimate thing to do. It keeps them safe and promotes a positive walking experience for both the dog and the owner.
You may think how complicated leash training can be?. Just buckle the leash with the collar and off you go. Well, to be honest, it’s not complicated at all. Only the surrounding competition can make it fierce. Since it's you against the interesting outdoor world that includes squirrels, kids, buzzing cars, and yes more squirrels, these stimuli will urge them to yank or pull the leash towards these profound distractions.
This is where loose leash training steps in.
What Is Loose Leash Training?
As the name suggests, a loose leash is when your dog is walking by your side and the leash does not have a pull to it. It can only happen if the dog is trained to walk close to its owner's side – not ahead and not behind. We agree that teaching your dog to walk calmly on a leash is an investment of time and effort but it yields a lifetime of relaxed outdoor time with your furry friend.
Loose leash walking has lots of benefits. While out on dog walks, the aim is to keep everything calm and under control. No chaos, no havoc. Also, to teach the dog that it is you who makes the decisions.
As you go through this process, your dog becomes a master of self-discipline. They learn to resist the urge to pounce on that leftover pizza crust on the sidewalk or to resist chasing after every fluttering leaf in the wind. It's all thanks to the groundwork you've laid in their training.
Loose leash training your dog gives you social ease. You can actually engage in a conversation with your neighbor that doesn't involve contorted arm positions and strained "I'm-trying-to-control-my-dog" smiles. It can also help steer clear of trips and fall injuries for you and the people around you.
Here's a neat advantage: loose leash walking also provides a mental workout for your dog as they learn how to navigate the world around them. All those sights, sounds, and smells are like a puzzle, and they're on a mission to figure it all out while staying calm and composed.
The Ideal Time To Start Leash Training Your Dog
If you have an older dog (that you adopted from a rescue home or for whatever reason) that has never been leash trained before, the ideal time to start leash training is now. For puppies, we suggest starting loose-leash training as soon as they are brought home.
Puppies have a natural tendency to follow their owners around which helps in lease training. Additionally, they are more receptive to learning and adaptive to new experiences. The earlier they become accustomed to the sensation of wearing a collar and a leash, the stronger the foundation for leash training will be. Knowing these insights, it is much easier to leash-train them before they reach adolescence.
Also, we can't ignore the fact that puppies need to be socialized as soon as possible since their socialization window is very small. It's during this period that they learn what's normal, what's exciting, and what's just part of everyday life. But if they are not fully leash trained, the socialization experience could quickly turn into a wild chase scene from an action movie.
Just a word of caution here: older dogs have already developed their core habits and are rigid towards absorbing new ones. It is going to take more effort, patience, and consistency from your side to train loose-leash walking without playing tug-of-war.
Even if you have already fully leash-trained your puppy, a little reinforcement now and then comes in very handy. Dogs tend to forget what they have learned earlier, especially when they reach adolescence.
How Long Does It Take To Leash Train A Dog?
On average, a 3 to 4-week period is enough to leash train a dog. That said, it varies for every dog. Your dog’s age will be the major deciding factor here. A puppy’s brain is like a sponge, absorbing everything they see quickly. So it is natural that they start picking up the basics of leash training more swiftly.
If you are leash training an older dog, the timeline might stretch beyond those initial weeks. May take a few months also. The reason here is these seasoned pups have already gotten used to their own way of doing things. They have established their walking pattern fine-tuned over the years. You know what they say, old habits die hard. Trying to break free from those habits can be a bit like teaching an old dog a new trick, quite literally.
So it is going to take some tactical training for older guys that need more precision, persistence, and patience. On the plus side, since older dogs are well-versed in basic obedience commands, it makes it easy to communicate with them.
Remember, it's not just about the age, but also the temperament, breed, and past experiences of your dog. If your pup had a not-so-pleasant run-in with a vacuum cleaner, they might approach the leash with caution. On the other hand, if they've been the social butterfly at the dog park, they will take leash training like a champ.
Other factors include the location where you are training your dog, the weather (believe it or not), and most importantly, the training strategies used.
If you're using leash training methods that have some gaps in them, you might find yourself on a bit of a detour before reaching your training goals. But we will make life easier for you. We compiled the 5 best leash training strategies that will give you sure-shot results. Hop on to the next section for the full blowout.
5 No-Fail Leash Training Steps For Enjoyable Dog Walking
All you need to do is to set aside 5 to 10 minutes of your time every day and follow our foolproof strategy for leash training your dog. Good things are coming your way.
1. Gather The Right Tools
This is important for laying the right foundation. If you have the right tools by your side, achieving the goal is much easier. Get yourself a collar that fits just right – not too roomy and not too snug. Once you have the collar on your furry buddy, give a gentle tug to see if it slips over their head. If it does, remember your smart pup can likely do the same trick.
For the leash, choose a sturdy leather or nylon six-footer with a good grip. While we are at it, don't get a retractable leash as much as you get enticed by it. Even though they are popular, when it comes to handling a reactive dog, retractable leashes are not exactly the dream team. Sure, they give your dog some freedom while still on a leash, but they cause many issues. So simply avoid it.
Now that you have the perfect tools, it's time to introduce your dog to them. Let them sniff the leash and collar. Their sniffing is a positive sign. Reinforce! One of the best things to do here would be to reward them. A reward can be in any form; verbal praise, a doggie treat, a kong toy (any toy will work), or a warm physical gesture.
Just a heads-up, go easy on the treats. The big picture we're painting here? We want your dog to listen to you – treats or no treats. It's all about that rock-solid obedience, no strings attached.
Build up exposure. Attach the leash to the collar even when indoors so the thing doesn't seem alien to them when the real action begins.
2. Pick A Distraction-Free Zone
To keep your dog fully focused, you need to start training in a distraction-free zone. Let this be a room that has you and your doggo only in your home. The training span is small – not more than 5-10 minutes. So hogging a room for this small time can be easily managed.
Set up a stage for training. Get rid of all the chords lying around or that shoe your dog is eyeing to chew on. Remove all sharp and fragile objects as well, just to ensure your dog’s safety.
Now here’s what you have to do. Channel your inner leader and be clear, confident, and assertive with your commands. Hold the leash with a relaxed grip, letting it hang a bit loose. Take a walk together and when your dog stays by your side and follows your lead, toss in a treat or a simple "good job".
3. Introduce To The Real World
Time to push things a bit further. Take your dog outdoors with all the safety precautions taken well cared of. The identification tag should have the updated contact details. When we say outdoor, we don't mean the highway outdoors. Take it to your backyard or your neighborhood sidewalk initially.
Apply the same tactics that you learned in the previous section. Get your dog’s attention. Start walking on a loose leash and encourage them to walk beside you. Take the help of cue words. Remember to keep the tone commanding but not harsh.
Let the comfort level build up. Your dog’s body language will show and tell. Once everything is under control, start taking your dog to the distraction zone – but gradually. This will have your dog get accustomed to various scents and other sensory stimuli. Your job here is to show consistency via your actions.
If they encounter other dogs, chances are they might stop. What you will do here is give the leash a little tug (two maybe) along with the verbal commands to get your dog back on track. Once done, reward with praise. Do it until you achieve what you are looking for.
Now turn around and test your dog again. Keep doing this as dogs thrive on repetition. Eventually, your dog will understand that these encounters do not need a reaction but to stay calm and focused.
For best results, stage the encounter. Ask a friend to bring their dog (fully leash trained) for this park encounter.
4. Implement The Right Techniques
You are doing great up until now. Time to move forward – here are our 3 favorite techniques that you just can't do leash training without. Read, understand, and inculcate.
4.1. Stop & Stand Technique
Time for the first technique – and while this one is on the table, it is not exactly our top favorite. This is how it works. If your dog tries to get ahead, stop dead in your tracks. This lets them know that the only way to move forward is to walk beside you. Stay sturdy until the leash tension is gone. Keep your patience game high here. Follow this technique wherever and whenever you feel the pull in the leash.
4.2. Take A U-Turn Technique
This is also called a 180° technique. It is used to help in refocusing when your dog pulls. Position the dog on your left. Now practice left U-turns for responsive walking. As you make your 180° turn, start walking away from the distraction until the dog calms down.
Your dog’s slow turns are an indication of progress. U-turns test attentiveness and discourage pulling. You can reinforce attentive, responsive walking through consistent practice.
4.3. Teach Sync Walking
We call this the heel command. It will help your dog learn how to be in a calm and submissive state. For starters, let them play to burn off their energy. Then start the heel command – attach the harness and start walking with your dog on your left. If pulled, give the leash a tug and use the cue word heel.
This will keep them in position. Include the U-turn technique here. You can practice right turns here too followed by a heel command.
5. Sort & Fix
Doing all the steps right and still have a rigid puller at hand? What you need to do here is to think and act smartly. To help you figure out what’s hindering your dog’s progress, we have a collection of some common challenges along with strategies on how to tackle them.
5.1. Fear Or Anxiety
If your dog is reluctant to move or is a puller, read its body language. Trembling, trying to avoid something could be some of them. Address these issues with confidence-building exercises or consult a dog trainer.
5.2. Lack Of Focus
The best way to get your dog’s attention is to keep the training sessions short. Once your dog begins to respond, you can gradually increase the time. Another way to get that focus on track is to use rewards that your dog devours. But don't forget – the ultimate goal is to wean them off these goodies. It's all about finding that balance and letting your pup's progress shine, treat-free. Finally, be consistent in what you are doing.
5.3. Manage Your Expectations
Keep your expectations reasonable. Expecting them to ignore everything and walk as if they're on a tightrope is, well, a bit ambitious. Instead, take it step by step. If your dog manages to walk a few feet without trying to play tug-of-war with the leash or do a 180-degree turn to chase a butterfly, celebrate that mini-victory.
Teaching Your Dog To Walk On A Leash The Suburban K9 Way
When we say the Suburban K9 way, we mean the dog training specialists way. Suburban K9 established in 2006, is a trusted and experienced dog training service working tirelessly ever since. We have gained this trust by successfully training over 20,000 dogs. Our team of 42 expert dog trainers helped a rich amount of dog owners deal with the challenges of leash training their dogs.
Pulling, distractions, fears, or anxieties, our expert trainers have the right knowledge to help out with the leashing troubles so that you have a well-behaved dog who understands sidewalk manners and walks peacefully beside you.
At Suburban K9, we believe that reward-based training has a very limited scope. To maintain a consistent response even in the absence of rewards, we developed an advanced balanced training approach.
This highly effective training method works like a charm for leash-training dogs that pull. It combines the power of positive reinforcement with fair corrections when necessary, ensuring your pup learns the proper behaviors and respects boundaries.
While we do use positive reinforcement, like treats and praise, our training approach does not solely rely on these incentives. These can limit your dog's understanding of obedience. With balanced training, your dog grasps the concept of good leash manners and responds consistently, even in challenging situations.
We prioritize establishing a strong foundation of trust and respect between you and your canine companion. No inhumane or bullying techniques whatsoever. Our main goal is nurturing your dog’s instinct and intelligence through guidance and setting certain boundaries.
What could have been a peaceful walk with your furry friend can be a nightmarish drag race down the neighborhood. Only because you did not leash train your dog. Investing your efforts and time in leash training your dog without wasting time is the sanest thing to do for the dog’s well-being. Yours too!
Once you are on a roll, you won't even notice how long it will take to leash train a dog. All that will matter is reaching the goal. However, the training period for older dogs can get a bit longer compared to puppies. If you are still not getting the desired results, it's time to reach out to dog training experts.
At Suburban K9, our team of expert trainers understands that every dog has a unique personality. To train them, we create a perfect combination of expert dog techniques just about rightly molded to meet their uniqueness. Get in touch with us to learn about our proactive training approach that guarantees lasting success.