puppy sitting down wearing a harness and leash

How to Train A Puppy to Walk on A Leash Without Pulling

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Are you tired of taking your puppy for a walk with him or her constantly pulling on the leash? What if you could enjoy the walk without the puppy tug-of-war? Well you can, if you’ll just follow our simple step-by-step guide. This post is all about how to train a puppy to walk on a leash without pulling. Read on to learn more!

Leash training can be a fun but nerve-jarring task, to say the least. But, with the right techniques and consistent training, you can quickly teach your puppy to walk calmly by your side. After all, isn’t that what you really want?  In this article, you’ll learn some time-tested tips and tricks to train your puppy to walk on a leash without pulling you.

One of the first steps you’ll learn is to play with your pup before ever going on a walk. The whole purpose of playtime is to have fun and burn off some of that puppy energy and excitement in the process. So we’ll get into some fun play activities that will burn off a little of that puppy excitement before you go on a walk.

Instead of your puppy dreading the collar and leash, you want him or her to own them and love them. To your puppy, these can never be dreaded objects. These must become the puppy’s possessions to love and wear proudly. So, you’ll also be guided through the process of getting your puppy used to wearing a collar and then calmly walking on a leash. 

Understanding Your Puppy’s Needs

Before you begin leash training, it’s important to understand your puppy’s needs. Puppies have a lot of energy and curiosity. This means your pup needs lots of daily physical and mental exercise to be healthy and happy. Properly walking on a leash is a great way to give your puppy the exercise and mental stimulation it needs. 

At the same time, remember that puppies are still learning and exploring the world around them. They often get distracted by new sights, sounds, and smells, and they may not always understand what you want them to do. This is why if you want to know how to train a puppy to walk on a leash without pulling it’s vital to be patient, calm and consistent.

Here are three mainstays to remember when leash training your puppy:

  • Exercise needs: Puppies need daily exercise to burn off energy and stay healthy. The amount of exercise your puppy needs will depend on their breed, size, and age. A good rule of thumb is to exercise your puppy for at least 20-30 minutes per day. But, always consult with your veterinarian or a qualified trainer to determine the best exercise plan for your puppy.
  • Mental stimulation: Puppies, like human kids, need mental stimulation to grow up healthy and happy. Walking on a leash gives your puppy new sights, sounds, and smells that stimulate their developing brain. Proper leash training also helps their muscles grow and respond to stimuli normally. Don’t forget that you can also provide mental stimulation through house training, fetch training, hunting/pointing training, puzzle toys, and other stimulating play that challenges your puppy’s mind.
  • Positive reinforcement: Puppies respond best to positive training, which means rewarding good behavior instead of punishing bad behavior (negative training). When your puppy walks on a leash without pulling, be sure to praise them and give them a treat. This kind of positive reinforcement will encourage your puppy to repeat the “good” behavior each time.

By giving your puppy all the daily exercise and mental stimulation it can stand, you can help him or her walk properly on a leash. Remember to be patient and consistent, and always use positive reinforcement to encourage good behavior.

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Leash and Collar

Because there are many leash and collar shopping choices these days you should get your puppy’s size, breed, and temperament right. 

Here are four things to keep in mind:

Leash Length

The length of the leash can affect your puppy’s behavior. A shorter leash gives you more power for much tighter control. A longer leash gives your puppy more tugging and lunging power….thus more control. With a longer leash, he or she has more freedom to explore, or to get into harm’s way. A good rule of thumb for proper walk training is to use a dog leash that is 4-6 feet long.

Collar Type

Very Important…there are several types of collars to choose from, including flat collars, martingale collars, and harnesses. Flat collars are real common, real functional, and real long-lasting. Flat collars are typically made of nylon, leather, or other common materials. Martingale collars can be helpful for dogs who tend to pull or slip out of flat collars. Harnesses can be a good choice if you have a puppy that pulls so that neck or throat issues don’t occur due to pulling against their collar

Material

The materials the leash and collar are made of can also affect your puppy’s behavior. Nylon is a very popular choice for its durability and affordability. Leather is usually more expensive but it is a more comfortable material for your puppy. Chain leashes and choke or spiked collars should be avoided because these can injure your puppy’s neck and throat.

Fit

Make sure that the leash and collar fit your puppy properly. The collar should be snug but not too tight. You should be able to fit two fingers between the collar and your puppy’s neck. The leash should be comfortable to hold and not too heavy.

Remember to always supervise your puppy during training and use positive reinforcement to encourage good behavior.

Start at Home

When learning how to train a puppy to walk on a leash without pulling, always try to start at home where there are fewer distractions and it’s familiar turf to your puppy. Your puppy can then focus on the new experience of walking on a leash. And, he or she will get comfortable with the feeling of the leash and collar.

Introducing the Leash

The first step is always to introduce your puppy to the leash. Simply attach the leash to your puppy’s collar or harness and let them drag it around the house for a bit. This will help them get used to the weight of the leash and the feeling of the leash on their collar.

Once your puppy seems comfortable with the leash, pick it up and let them explore the house. Let your puppy lead the way and follow him or her around the house while you hold onto the leash.

Indoor Leash Practice

As soon as your puppy is okay with the leash, it’s time to start practicing walking. Do this indoors with the leash on. Pick a quiet area of your home, such as a hallway or a room with few distractions, and put your puppy’s leash on.

Start walking a short distance and then stop. Tell your puppy to “come” while you call their name. When your puppy comes to you, reward him or her with praise, pets, and a healthy treat.

Repeat this exercise several times once your puppy does it right. Gradually increase the distance you walk before stopping and giving the “come” command. What about the leash? Keep it slack and avoid pulling on it. If your puppy starts to pull against the leash, stop walking and wait for them to come back to you before starting again.

With consistency and lots of positive reinforcement, your puppy will associate the leash with something good — something that pleases you. After all, he or she wants nothing more than to make you happy, so there is no excuse for negativity or punishment.  Soon, you and your puppy will be happily ready to take the training outside.

Outdoor Leash Training

Once your puppy has mastered leash training indoors, it’s time to move on to outdoor leash training. Be sure you use a proper four to six foot training or walking leash and always keep the leash on your puppy.  Do Not Use a ridiculously long retractable leash! 

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Your pup will now experience new challenges because of all the new outside sounds, smells, and sights. However, with your patience and proper training, your puppy will soon learn to walk calmly by your side on a leash.

Starting Out

Start with short walks around your neighborhood. Keep the leash loose and let your puppy explore their surroundings. If your puppy starts to pull, stop walking and wait for him or her to settle down. Do not pull back on the leash as this will only telegraph to your puppy to pull even harder.

As your puppy gets comfortable with leash walking, gradually increase the distance of your walks. Remember to keep the leash loose and let your puppy lead the way. This will help them feel more confident and the pup will interpret this confidence as pleasing to you.

Handling Distractions

Outdoor leash training can be hard because of the many distractions. To help your puppy stay focused, start training in a quiet area with minimal distractions. As your puppy becomes more confident, gradually walk him or her to busier areas that have more distractions.

If your puppy becomes distracted, stop walking and wait for them to refocus their attention on you. Use treats and positive reinforcement to reward your puppy for being mindful of you and walking calmly on the leash.

Other dogs will bark, cats will hiss, cars will speed by, and people will interfere.  So, accept all that and remember to be calm, patient,  and consistent with your puppy. With time and training, your puppy will soon learn to proudly walk calmly on a leash without excited pulling.

puppy sitting in the grass on a leash refusing to move

When Your Puppy Pulls

If your puppy pulls on the leash during walks, it can be maddening and quite dangerous. But, before you can begin to correct your puppy’s pulling behavior, you need to identify the things that make him or her pull. 

Some common reasons why puppies pull on their leash are:

  • Excitement: Puppies are naturally energetic and may get overly excited when they see other dogs or people.
  • Fear: If your puppy is frightened by something on the walk, they may try to pull away from it.
  • Lack of training: Puppies have to be trained to walk on a leash properly. This is not a natural thing for dogs, so if they haven’t been trained they may pull.
  • Discomfort: Sometimes puppies are uncomfortable with their collar or leash. Your puppy may try to pull out of the collar to get away from the leash.

Once you have identified the cause of your puppy’s pulling, you can start some correction techniques.

Correction Techniques

Here are four techniques to correct your puppy’s pulling behavior:

  • Stop and start: When your puppy starts pulling, stop walking and wait until they calm down. Then, start walking again. Repeat this process until your puppy learns to walk calmly on the leash.
  • Change direction: If your puppy pulls, then change direction and walk the other way. This will teach your puppy to pay attention to you and follow your lead.
  • Give treats: Reward your puppy with treats when they walk correctly on the leash. This reward will encourage them to repeat the behavior.
  • Use a harness: A harness is more comfortable and less dangerous for your puppy than a collar and it will reduce aggressive pulling. Look for a harness that has a front clip and that fits your puppy properly.

Remember, correcting your puppy’s pulling behavior takes time and patience. With consistent training and positive reinforcement, your puppy can learn to walk calmly on the leash.

Reinforcing Good Behavior

When your puppy gets the hang of walking on a leash without pulling, reinforce your puppy’s good behavior. This will help him or her understand what you expect and make it more likely that your pup will continue to behave well on future walks.

Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement is a powerful training tool for your puppy. When he or she walks calmly on the leash without pulling, always praise them and offer a small doggie treat. Your puppy will learn that good behavior is rewarded.

It’s important to be consistent with your positive reinforcement. Make sure to praise and reward your puppy every time they behave well at all stages of training. This will help reinforce the correct behavior and make it more likely that the puppy will behave well on future walks.

Maintaining Consistency

Consistency is key to training your puppy to walk on a leash without pulling. Always use the same commands and techniques every time you go for a walk.  Be consistent!

If your puppy starts to pull on the leash, stop walking and wait for them to calm down before continuing. This will help your puppy understand that pulling on the leash won’t get them where they want to go.

Remember to be patient and consistent when reinforcing good behavior. With time and practice, your puppy will learn to walk calmly on the leash without pulling.

Troubleshooting Common Problems

Even with the best training techniques, some puppies may still struggle with walking on a leash without pulling. 

Here are three problems that may occur and some solutions to correct them:

Pulling on the Leash

When any untrained puppy constantly pulls against the leash, it is frustrating for the owner and unhealthy for the puppy. One quick solution is to stop walking immediately when your puppy starts to pull. Then wait until the leash goes limp before continuing your walk. Your puppy will learn that pulling is pointless and will not get them where they want to go.

Another popular solution is to use a front-clip harness which will discourage your puppy from pulling in the first place. The harness works like this: when your puppy pulls, the harness will turn their body around, making it difficult for them to continue pulling. Your pup will likely try again, but after the second failed attempt it is doubtful he or she will try a third time. Lesson learned!

Refusal to Walk

Fear or anxiety may cause your puppy to refuse to walk. This is another reason to use a short leash from the get-go rather than a long retractable leash. Injuries or entanglements can cause a pup to be fearful and retractable leashes can cause bad things like these to happen.

Perhaps making the walk more fun for your puppy by bringing along their favorite treats or toys will help. Also, you can try walking in a different location or at a different time of day to see if that helps.

If your puppy is still refusing to walk, you may need to start with shorter walks and gradually increase the distance. 

Patience and consistency are key when dealing with a reluctant puppy.  You can always ask for your local vet’s advice too!

Distractions

Puppies are naturally curious and may become distracted by their surroundings during a walk. If this happens, then try to keep your walk focused by using a shorter leash and avoiding busy dog parks and streets.

Naturally, you can also use treats or toys to redirect your puppy’s attention back to walking. For instance, if your puppy starts to sniff around, use a treat to lure them back to walking beside you.

By troubleshooting common problems, you can help your puppy become a confident and well-behaved walker. 

How to Train a Puppy to Walk on a Leash Without Pulling – Words of Encouragment

Remember that leash training takes time and patience. Don’t get discouraged if your puppy doesn’t learn right away. Keep practicing and reinforcing good behavior, and soon you’ll be able to enjoy peaceful walks with your new puppy.

During your walks, be sure to walk at a slow pace and stop to redirect your puppy’s attention if it begins to pull. Use verbal cues such as “come” and “sit” to encourage good behavior. Don’t forget to reward your puppy with treats and praise when they respond correctly.

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Steve Mann is a professional dog trainer and behaviorist with over 30 years of experience. As the founder of the Institute of Modern Dog Trainers, he has transformed the lives of over 100,000 dogs and their families.

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Leash training your puppy is an essential part of responsible dog ownership. With patience, consistency, and the right tools, you can learn how to train a puppy to walk on a leash without pulling. Finally, remember to start slow and gradually increase the length and difficulty of your walks and always use positive reinforcement techniques such as treats and praise to encourage good behavior.

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