Three Steps to Teach Leash Manners

Behavior and Training  •  Pam Karkow  •  Friday, May 15, 2020

My neighbor dropped by the other day to introduce me to her newest addition. A goldendoodle full of boundless energy, the little puppy was timid about meeting a stranger but had no qualms about chasing--and devouring--the crunchy brown leaves that drifted across the driveway. Although she and her boys were enjoying their new four-legged pal, my friend told me she was a little frustrated with how she had to coax her puppy out of the house to walk on her leash.

Teaching a puppy leash manners can be one of the most trying aspects of training. Puppies are usually more interested in chewing on their leash or chasing after any interesting debris they can find on the sidewalk. But they still need their exercise, and if you’ve ever had a puppy, you know that a tired puppy will sleep much better at night – meaning you will too! 

So, how to overcome the pulling and chewing during a walk? You can use Dr. Lisa Radosta’s three-step method. 

The Three-Step Method

  1. Define the behavior. How would you like your puppy to walk on the leash? Would you like him to walk on your left side? On your right? Next to you or a foot in front? Once you have decided, remain consistent about your expectations about where he walks. 
  2. Make sure you are using an appropriate collar to cut down on any pulling or straining. Try the 2 Hounds Design Freedom No-Pull Harness. The leash attaches to the front so it’s easier to control your puppy without tugging on his neck. 
  3. Recognize and reward. When your puppy is walking appropriately, without pulling, call his name and reward him with a small, high-quality treat. Once he is consistently walking nicely on his leash, you can cut back on the rewards, but do not stop altogether or you may see the learned behavior disappear. After all, how long would you work without a paycheck? Make sure to continue to reward his good leash walking skills so he associates his good behavior with a reward.

Tools of the Trade

Here are a few items you may want to invest in as you begin your leash training and as you make walking your dog a routine.  Keep these items in a basket near the door so you’re always sure to have them handy when you head out the door for a walk.

The PetSafe Clik-R Pet Clicker is a timing tool you can use to reinforce good behavior. Take this hand-held device on your walks and click it within a second of good behavior (i.e. walking nicely on the leash). Then immediately offer a reward. This helps your pet understand the behavior you want him to display.

The Ruffwear Treat Trader Bag has a water-proof lining, a one-handed magnetic closure, and an adjustable belt. Keep treats readily accessible, but out of sight, with this handy bag.

Get Walking!

Now you’re ready! Leash training won’t be quite so trying when you follow our tips.  Go out there and master the leash walk so you and your dog can enjoy walks during every season!

You can read more about teaching your dog to walk nicely in our post, Dog Walking Etiquette.

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