Training a dog, or puppy, to walk on the leash can be difficult, and confusing to the dog, if you do not know what you are doing. This article is designed to help with leash training not only puppies, but adult dogs as well.
Start training by socializing the dog,or puppy, to you, it should be your friend, and not fearful of you. This is best done with the use of soft treats, something few dogs can resist. Cut the treats small so the dog doesn't become fat during training sessions. Soft treats work best because they offer an instant reward and the dog wont worry about sniffing around looking for crumbs. Keep the treats in a bag in an easily accessible pocket.
Spend a few minutes every day with the dog, calling it to you, and rewarding it with a treat every time it pays attention to you. Do this at first so the dog cannot fail, be right in front of the dog, gradually move away from it and using an excited voice, and the dogs name, encourage it to come to you. Show it you have a treat if it is confused, or move closer.
Before you start training your dog to walk on a leash you need to let it get use to wearing a collar. Leave the collar on but check it for size occasionally if your dog is a growing puppy. Be aware that some small dogs will not want to walk when on a collar, and may prefer to use a harness. Stronger dogs may require a head halter as used to control dogs, but one should resist using a choke collar as these don't really “Train” the dog, and can be dangerous.
Small dog walking on a harness, photo source.
When the dog is responsive and understands that you are a source of treats fasten a short leash (no longer than four feet) to the collar or harness. If you are right handed you will keep the leash in your left hand and use your right hand to offer treats. You will want to begin in a small room, and gradually move to your back yard. *NOTE: Do not take an unvaccinated dog, or puppy, off your property for training.
To train the dog to walk on a leash, start with the dog on the side you are holding the leash, using your excited voice say its name and "walk" and start walking, at the same time reach around with your other hand to offer the dog a treat, encouraging it to move forward with you. It really is as simple as that. Some dogs who are not motivated by food treats will respond to moving forward to get their favorite toy.
A gentle tug may be used but should be released instantly as the dog responds and moves forward, as such the dog gets a reward not only in the treat or toy, but in not being tugged. This tug should not be straight ahead particularly when training a strong dog, as the dog can brace against a forward pull much easier than a sideways one which will put it off balance.
Some dog trainers advocate “Clicker Training” in which a small hand held tool is also used to give the dog a “click” reward in addition to the treat.
As the dog advances you can take it to other areas, larger spaces, and areas where other dogs are (again only after it is fully vaccinated). Ideally the dog should attended proper Obedience lessons as these will also assist in the dog learning social skills, and how to be obedient among confusion. Another advantage is that obedience lessons help owners understand dog psychology.
photo source of a well trained dog
This reward/bribe based training method is the best for training dogs to walk on a leash rather than dragging the animal and waiting for it to figure it out. Keep dog training lessons short and always end on a positive note rather than getting too far too fast and causing the dog mental stress. If your find your dog is frightened of tugs on the collar, keep the collar on, but use a harness for walking, again this is more often a problem in smaller dogs.