There are many things that domesticated dogs may inherently know how to do, but walking on a leash is just not one of them. That said, there may be some rare cases where a puppy takes to a collar and leash right away and apparently has no problem with them. As with any dog training, it takes patience, calmness and confidence to successfully leash train a puppy. If you live in a situation that requires your puppy to be on a leash from the moment you bring them home, like in an apartment or condominium setting, this means that you will have to be even more dedicated to their leash training to ensure success, and rapidly, but you must be no less patient and calm than if you had all the time in the world.
Leash Training a Puppy
The simple truth is that there is no single way to successfully train a puppy or dog to do everything one desires him to do. One must nurture a strong bond with their canine friend and develop a loving, trusting relationship that allows training to take place and result in success. That said, there are some basic steps to take when trying to leash train a puppy.
First, you need to acquire the proper collar and leash. There are actually a wide variety of different collars available, but the best rule during initial leash training is to keep it simple. A light, flat collar and a light leash works best, and once you have successfully leash trained your puppy you may choose to move on to a more complex collar if necessary.
It may seem perfectly logical that you should just place a collar around your puppy’s neck and clip on a leash, but you need to take a moment to recognize that even a collar is a foreign, and sometimes scary, new thing in your puppy’s life. You want the collar to be associated with good things, so try to introduce your puppy to a collar when there will be pleasant things to occupy his mind. For example, you can put the collar on when you are going to be outside playing with him or when you are going to feed him. Make sure the collar fits snugly, but not so tight that it’s uncomfortable and irritating. Then, interact with your puppy so as to keep his attention off the strange, new sensation of the collar. You may find it most workable to put the collar on while he is eating dinner or when you are working through other training, because your puppy may accept the collar if he feels it is related to food. If your puppy tries to scratch at the collar, regain his attention in a positive way by encouraging him to play with you or with a favorite toy. Make sure you don’t chastise him for scratching at the collar because your reprimand and the discomfort of the collar may then become related.
Once your puppy has become familiarized and comfortable with his new collar, you can clip on the leash. One of the key problems dog owners encounter when trying to leash train their puppy is that as soon as their puppy feels any sort of tension on the end of the leash, he may immediately resist the leash. He may thrash around in an attempt to remove the leash and collar, having a sort of puppy temper tantrum, or he may simply sit down and refuse to move. In order to avoid this, it is best to simply attach his leash to his collar and let him run around, dragging his leash behind him. As with the collar introduction, you should help stimulate your puppy’s interest in other things by playing with him or putting him through a fun training routine while he wears his leash. He will soon come to understand that having a collar and leash on is not a punishment or terrible thing, and he will be ready to move onto the next step of leash training.
Once your puppy is comfortable with collar and leash, occasionally pick up his leash and encourage him to come to you. Don’t pull on the leash or even apply much tension to it at all, simply hold it in your hand and gently call your puppy to you. It can be very helpful to have treats to reward him with when he follows this direction. Once he comes to you regularly, hold the leash gently as you move around with your puppy. He will likely pull and realize there is some tension, but if you remain very calm and gentle and don’t pull or yank back, he will soon figure out what is happening and that it is okay. If he decides to sit or lie down and refuse to walk, you may find that sitting or kneeling near him and encouraging him with gentle words helps him get up and move toward you again. You should always reward positive behavior with a treat, kind words and gentle pats.
Once your puppy is comfortable with walking on a leash, you may find that he pulls constantly and you wish to further train him in how to heel. To encourage your puppy to walk near you, you may find that simply holding a treat in your hand by your side gets his attention, and if you occasionally stop and ask him to sit, you can reward him with that treat and keep his interest alive. Eventually you may find that your puppy recognizes that a collar and a leash mean good things, as long as he works with you. With patience, calmness and persistence, you can have the leash-trained puppy you desire.