If your dog is pulling on the lead just remember that there’s lots to explore and your dog is probably just pulling to try and get there faster! To make sure you’re safe from being pulled over, it’s important to teach them to walk calmly.
One of the most common reasons dogs pull on their lead is because they’ve learned that’s how they get to move forward. But, there’s no need to worry about your next walk with your pooch. A few simple training techniques consistently applied can transform your walk. Teaching your dog to walk with a loose lead takes patience and time, but it’ll be well worth it when you’re out on a lovely, calm stroll together.
How to train a puppy to walk nicely on the lead
Bonding with your puppy is such a fun time. They’re cute, playful, loving, and you’re adjusting to your new life with them. The foundations you can set up at this stage will guide the relationship with your dog going forward, so it’s important to make a positive start.
It’s vital when training your puppy to walk on the lead to keep everything fun and positive, and to keep instructions simple. Remember it is normal for your new dog or puppy to make mistakes, help them by rewarding them for the behaviours you do like.
Keep our step-by-step guide handy to refer to when you’re out and about:
Step 1: Choose a place your puppy feels safe and there are no distractions
Start lead training somewhere your puppy is already comfortable, ideally your garden. Remove any toys or distractions from the space. Clip a lightweight lead to your puppy’s harness and let your dog move around the space with the lead attached. Give lots of treats and praise while they’re wearing the harness and lead.
Step 2: Teach your puppy that being near you is rewarding
If you haven’t already, take a look at our guide to using rewards in training, which explains how to introduce a marker to your dog. A marker is a clear signal that tells your dog they’ve got something right and can be really helpful when training a new behaviour.
Starting in your home or garden, mark and reward your dog for offering to sit or stand by your side. It’s much easier for your dog to learn new behaviours in quiet places where they won’t be easily distracted.
Imagine a hula hoop on the floor at your side – you want this to become a zone of rewards for your dog. Whenever they are next to you in this imaginary hoop, mark and reward them. Think about your positioning and how you can make it as easy as possible for your dog.
You may need to hold some tasty treats or a toy to get your dog by your side to start with, before marking and rewarding them. Over time you won’t need to hold this in your hand but remember to always mark and reward them when they stick close to you.
Step 3: Add movement
Once your dog is reliably staying nearby, you can start to add in movement. As you move forward, mark and reward your dog for moving with you. Only take a one step at a time to begin with.
When your dog gets the hang of it, you can start to increase the number of steps you take before rewarding them – remembering to always mark and reward when their lead is nice and loose! Changing direction every so often will teach your dog to keep a close eye on you. Gradually build in more distractions but remember to always go at your dog’s pace. If your dog is struggling, go back to a stage where they were successful and take things slower.
Step 4: Venture out to a quiet park to practice
Now your puppy is comfortable with their collar and harness, and they associate the lead with treats and fun, it’s time to head out to a quiet area to practice some more. Remember, a new place for any puppy can be a little overwhelming. There are new smells, sights, and sounds to process. It’s important to find a quiet area to start walking your dog on the lead. Keep up the praise and treats. If you’re puppy does get distracted or starts pulling it’s OK to stop training or take it back a stage until you feel more confident that they’re listening.
Nice walking with older dogs
If you’ve adopted an older dog, you can absolutely train them to walk well on a loose lead. The first step is to remind your dog that it is rewarding to be near you. This means giving them praise and treats to show them you notice their good behaviour and you’re fun to be around.
Next, double check their collar/harness, and lead is still the right choice for them. Does it need to be adjusted, or perhaps a new one purchased? Making sure your dog is comfortable should always be a priority.
Everything you need to train your dog to walk nicely
This is a super exciting time in your relationship with your dog or puppy. They’ll learn your expectations, and they’ll get the chance to meet other dogs, have fun, and get some exercise. You’re going to need a few things to ensure you can train your dog to walk on a lead, and for it to be a positive experience too.
Collars and harnesses
Your dog should always feel comfortable. Use a flat collar and harness that doesn’t restrict their movement in any way. Choose equipment that is the right size for their age and breed. Use the adjustable buckles to make sure it closely fits but does not rub their skin or restrict their movement.
Introduce the new collar or harness slowly. Your dog should feel safe and relaxed, and you should reward your dog with praise and treats.
Don’t use any collars or harnesses which promise to ‘cure’ your dog of pulling. These usually have sharp sections which cause the dog pain or discomfort when they pull. Some equipment causes pain or discomfort when the dog pulls by putting tension in a sensitive area. This is unnecessary and can be unpleasant and confusing for them.
Choosing the right lead for your dog is important. It’s best to choose a flat lead that will clip nicely to your dog’s harness. Avoid slip leads which can choke your dog, and retractable leads which will encourage your dog to pull.
You’ll need lots of delicious treats for your dog to let them know they’re doing well. Find out what your dog’s favourites are and make sure your dog knows they’re in your pocket. Watch our “Training with Reward” video above to learn how to find your dog’s favourite treat.