Whether you use a conventional Collar and Lead arrangement, a choker chain or any number of the myriad of different leash/lead combinations out there, a few basic rules can make the process of Leash training a Dog much simpler. See my post on Choker Chain Dog Training for what I recommend.
Our Dogs are seldom on the lead because we live in the country and often there is no need, but we have made it a point to still regularly train them on the lead so when the need arises they are easier too handle.
Bear in mind this is what works for me. Others will have different opinions but I guarantee these methods are effective. Leash training puppies is probably the easiest as they are more receptive but the same rules can be applied to all ages.
Leash Training Tips For Dogs And Puppies
Patience. The most important one of all. To have a very well behaved Dog on the lead takes time. It will not happen overnight. As with many aspects of Dog training repetition is the key. I have found that a Zen like approach is best.
Don’t get frustrated. It won’t happen overnight and the sooner you accept that the calmer you will be. Dogs all have different temperaments and will respond better or worse than other Dogs depending on their nature.
A perfect example is the difference between our Dog Faye and our young seven month old Puppy Jet. Faye is a bit of a lump and has a lot of force behind here. If we don’t adhere rigidly to the rules then she will very quickly try to revert to pulling. She is (bless her) a simple soul! No sheepdog trials for her.
Jet on the other hand responded within a few days to her training. We can now walk her on a slack lead and she will mostly stay by your side without being prompted.
Get a suitable Leash. This may seem obvious but how many people have you seen with totally inapproprite leads? If you have a big, hefty Dog you need something suitably heavy duty, you can’t control a strong, heavy Dog that always wants to pull if you have it on a flimsy, extend-able nylon cord!
Likewise don’t put a giant, heavy duty chain leash on your Chihuahua! But most importantly of all, whatever the size of your Dog is…..
Keep the leash short! I have found this to be the overriding factor when trying to leash train a Dog to stay by your side. You cannot control a Dog on a long lead. It is dangerous for you, the Dog and those around you. Accidents can be caused and you will have no chance of keeping any kind of control. The bigger the Dog, the shorter the Leash. Wrap your hand around the handle and hold the lead as close to the Dog as possible. You do not want Senor Pooch to be able to put any force at in to pulling.
Keep the Dogs head held high. With a very tight but not aggressive hold on the leash you want to keep it so short that the Dog cannot sniff the ground. It will take a few days for your Dog to accept this but if you persevere you will have it mastered in no time. This really is the key. A super short leash so the Dog can only look straight ahead or up at you. Without being able to sniff the ground you have cut out one of the main obstacles to leash training. That is, the obsessive interest many poochies have with sniffing out who, what and when anything happened to cross the path they are taking.
Body language. Act unconfident and your Dog will take full advantage. They know alright! Head up, shoulders back and act like you “Da Man” (or Woman)! Exude confidence and control and your Dog will know who is boss! Don’t like negative vibes flow through the lead. This is important. If a Dog does not feel you are in charge it will take advantage. This is why staying calm is so important. Getting stressed because things are not going well will give negative vibes to your Dog.
A quick, sharp, snap. This works especially well with a Choker Chain. Be careful. Not using the correct technique is dangerous and if in any doubt don’t do it, or seek professional guidance.
When your Dog begins to pull give a swift, sharp, snap on the lead. Not hard to hurt your Dog but just as a mild shock tactic. As you do this say “heel” or whatever word you use to get your Dog to come to your side. You are also simultaneously pulling the Dog to the desired position. You must be especially careful if your Dog is on a conventional leash as all the force will be placed on its windpipe. Choker Chains are better but if you use the technique correctly your Dog will be safe.
Never forget the short leash. If you are keeping the leash really short with your Dogs head up high then you will hardly need to pull your Dog back with any force. Just keep saying “heel” as you gently pull back slightly so the Dog is right by your side.Repeat endlessly!
Repetition, repetition, repetition. Unfortunately (for us) this is the method you need to constantly be aware of. Keep to the previous rules and repeat endlessly. It is easy to forget sometimes and you will just pull on the leash to get your Dog back or start shouting its name.
Dont. Be aware of what is happening. If you pull then make sure every time you do you say “heel”. If you pull and shout the Dogs name what is the Dog learning? Be ultra consistent and repeat the same procedures.
Treats. I have never used treats as a form of leash training mainly because I know I would forget to bring them with me half the time! Keeping it simple and with only what you need i.e a Dog and a lead always seems the best way to me. If you feel that holding a treat out to encourage or reward your Dog may work then by all means try it. The only problem is you must be consistent and remember them whenever it is “walkies” time.
Rewards. A reward does not need to be a treat. Praise is the best reward a Dog can have. I got in to the habit of always stopping and praising the Dogs whenever they came to heel. If it was a hard won battle so what? If it took many attempts so what? They are Dogs after all. When your Dog behaves or heels by just the word rather than any intervention on your part then give lots of praise. Be the same if it was more of a hard won battle. The more praise your Dog gets the more it will want to heel of its own accord.
One advantage of heaping the praise on is that it is also an opportunity to stop walking for a few seconds. This gives you the opportunity to check your grip, the right length of the leash and to also distract the Dog for a while. Snapping the Dog out of any momentary obsession is an important part of leash training.
Turn the other way. It is a good practise to vary the direction you are heading when in the early stages of leash training or if you have a Dog that simply will not respond properly. Make a swift turnabout whilst saying “heel” and keeping the Dog very firmly by your side. This is very effective at breaking the Dog out of anything it may have fixated on and it enforces awareness in your Dog. If the Dog does not know when you are going to turn, but if you do it regularly, and quickly in a fuid motion, your Dog will pay much closer attention to you. It takes a bit of practise to do it smoothly but once mastered it is a very strong tip for leash training a Dog.
Some may disagree with a few of the above techniques but I stand by them. I don’t harm the little Bone Munchers but at times I believe a firm but guided hand is needed. I believe in using choker chains, especially for strong, big Dogs and many disagree with this. Each to their own.
All the above work with a conventional collar and lead and there is never a need to be violent or overreact. Stay calm and in control and your hard work will pay off.