Three big dogs on a leash

10 ways in which puppies learn to be on a leash

Going for walks is a unique adventure. But how do puppies learn to be on a leash? The best tips so that your dog doesn’t pull on his leash anymore.

In the beginning, puppies are so overwhelmed by their new, colourful, and smell-intensive world that they scamper from one distraction to the next if they don’t have any guidance. The leash initially seems like a foreign body to a dog but, in our society, you have to have one. How do puppies learn to be on a leash? And what can you do when your dog pulls on his leash? Read the following tips so you and your dog can have relaxed walks together.

10 ways in which puppies learn to be on a leash

Frolicking around is great, playing even better, but what is this person trying to achieve by attaching this long rope to my neck? Being on a leash is anything but self-explanatory to a dog. However, when a dog pulls on his leash his entire life, it’s usually not the dog that’s the problem.

What are the most important rules for training your puppy?

Tip 1: Put on the leash in a positive way!

For many dogs, being on a leash is associated with negative feelings: they’re going to be restricted, the situation is suddenly serious, they can’t do nice things anymore. Therefore, the first trick in teaching your puppy to be on a leash is to keep him on a leash during positive activities. He can also wear a leash while playing or eating. When you put it on, make sure that your body language is open and give him affection in the form of cuddles. Then your puppy will associate the leash with lots of nice things in the future.

Tip 2: Only walk with a slack leash!

The first attempts at walking with a leash should be in a straight line. You walk side by side and the leash is slack. If it works, reward your dog immediately. As soon as your puppy pulls on the leash, stay standing. Talk to him and wait until you have his attention, then change direction. These changes in direction should only be made by you, don’t run after the puppy. The constant stopping, responding, slackening the leash… taking it gradually will bring about the desired learning effect.

Tip 3: Surprise your dog!

Directional changes, which are unexpected but never abrupt, are one thing your dog has to be prepared for. The other is the reality of the leash itself. Be sure to switch between collar and chest harness to make it clear to your puppy that it’s not the aid that matters, but his behaviour.

Tip 4: Stay consistent!

Consistency and patience are the keys to training your puppy. Dogs sense when you’re unsure and take advantage of this. Remember that you are the decision maker: Where to go? Where is safe? You lead your dog and he’ll gain confidence in you if you consistently follow through with your decisions. So, it doesn’t make sense to chase after little explorers or to make “an exception” and leave the puppy on the dog run by himself.

Tip 5: Practice in an environment with few distractions!

Speaking of the dog run, this is obviously not the right environment to start training. It’s best to start within your own four walls or in the garden. You should enjoy the undivided attention of your puppy - strange smells, people and animals are pure distraction.

Tip 6: Train your puppy with different walks!

You need to go on varied walks with your dog:

  1. Slack leash: That should be the standard for you and your dog. This is the mode that always kicks in when nothing extraordinary happens.
  2. Forge ahead: In some situations, your dog has to go first. Therefore, it’s useful to establish the “pull” mode when training your dog. So as soon as your dog pulls, you give him this command.
  3. Within a safe zone: Young dogs experience exciting adventures. Your dog should always know that he’s safe with you. So, practise a command in which you stand in front of the puppy or he can retreat to your side to get past “dangers”.

Tip 7: Adjust your speed!

Walking together can only work if you walk fast and your dog slows down his “normal” speed. If you’re too slow, you risk him pulling on the leash. However, you should not have to run beside your dog to keep up with him.

Tip 8:  Slowly increase your demands!

Every new beginning is difficult. For your first attempts, you should only train your dog with a leash for a maximum of ten minutes. If your puppy masters walking on a slack leash, you can slowly increase your demands: you can gradually introduce acoustic signals for this manner of walking, e.g. “leash” or “foot”.  The directional changes become less frequent and you can increase the difficulty level for both of you by visiting places with more distractions. If the challenge turns out to be too big, take a step back and continue training slowly.

Tip 9: Develop your own rewards system!

Usually dog owners reward their dogs with treats or toys. But there’s also the possibility of using the challenges in your surrounding area as rewards. Your puppy pulls on the leash and is eager to make the acquaintance of a particular dog. Allow the leash to slacken so your dog can sniff the strange dog as much as he likes. It’s important here that you identify this moment and don’t lie to yourself, because, in reality, your dog has taken control.

Tip 10: Easier learning with relaxation instead of fear!

Fear is a bad mentor – for dogs, too. It’s hopefully self-evident to you that the training process will never work through fear and pain. Instead, make sure that the two of you are as relaxed as possible. Handling the leash well is also a question of the safety you provide to your dog. This is achieved through positive body language, praise, and rewards. A break in training that’s spent cuddling is well-invested time. Don’t force it – rather learn together and stay relaxed.

Why dogs pull on the leash

As annoying as it may be sometimes, there are reasons why your dog is pulling on the leash:

  • Longing to go home: Some dogs pull on the leash on the way home from a walk. That’s a sign that your dog is looking forward to whatever awaits him there, e.g. peace, toys, or food. Maybe you can adjust your walk in the future to reduce this strong desire.
  • The joy of the walk: On the other hand, your puppy may be so excited about going for a walk that he starts pulling wildly on the leash at the front door. The only thing that helps against this excitement is training together.
  • Too much distraction: It smells exciting, other dogs are everywhere and strange noises surround him. Often puppies pull on the leash because they’re overwhelmed. Try to find quiet places. If you know what the problem is, you can adjust the leash training accordingly. But in the beginning, it may well be that every reason somehow applies to your puppy.

What if the leash training doesn’t work?

Your puppy is stronger than you thought and pulls you through a freshly planted flower bed? Or you let him off the leash prematurely and now he’s fighting with another dog? These situations are unpleasant and usually also have financial consequences. To insure yourself against possible claims in advance, you can take out dog liability insurance. Before buying a puppy, have an individual insurance package put together, such as Coya offers.

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