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Teaching a puppy to walk on a leash

Learning how to leash train a puppy is essential for you and your dog’s future enjoyment of walks. It will be far more enjoyable for you and your dog to go off on adventures if they know how to walk nicely on the leash. 

Luckily, it’s pretty simple to teach a puppy to walk on a leash once you know how. Armed with treats and buckets of praise, your puppy will soon be walking on the leash like a pro. 

Teach your puppy a marker

A marker lets your puppy know that they’ve done something right and helps them learn more quickly. If you’ve been training your puppy in other ways, you might have already taught a marker, in which case you can move on. A marker can be a single word, such as good or yes, but some people prefer to use a clicker as a marker. You combine the marker with a treat as a form of positive reinforcement. Say your puppy’s name, and as soon as they look at you, use the clicker or say their marker word and give them a treat. Keep doing this until your pup has started to associate the marker with getting a treat. Once they have, it becomes a powerful tool for training. 

Get your puppy used to a leash

Taking the time to get your puppy used to a collar or harness and a leash will help make the training process smoother. Rush things and your puppy can either get frightened by their leash or so excited that they’re already worked up by the time they see it. Practice putting a collar or harness on your puppy, attaching the leash and letting them drag it around the house for a few minutes. Use your marker and give your puppy plenty of treats while this is going on. If they seem bothered by the leash, take it off. Keep doing this until your puppy is comfortable with the leash. 

Encourage your puppy to follow you while on the leash

Now start holding onto the end of the leash and encouraging your puppy to follow you using treats to guide and encourage them. When they follow you, use your marker and give them the treat you’re holding. If your puppy isn’t following readily, be sure to move slowly, just a step or two at a time, while encouraging them to your new spot. Never drag them or pull them over to you, as this will only cause them to be fearful of walking on the leash. 

Practice leash walking around the house

Once your puppy has got the hang of following you on the leash, pick up your pace a little and practice walking around your house and in your yard if you have one. Again, be careful of your pace and make sure not to pull them along. If they stop, you should stop too and encourage them to follow you again. Keep your training sessions brief, at around 5-10 minutes, as puppies have short attention spans. Once you’ve finished a training session, give them plenty of praise and let them have some fun by playing with them or giving them a chew toy to enjoy.

Take leash walking to the streets

Once your puppy is confident walking around your home and yard, you can practice out and about, although you must wait until your puppy is fully vaccinated. There are more distractions out of the home, which can spell trouble. At first, expect your puppy to stop and sniff regularly and some puppies may try to pull on the leash. All puppies’ progress varies but be prepared not to get more than a few hundred feet from your front door for the first few weeks of walks. 

Puppy leash training troubleshooting

My puppy pulls on the leash

If your puppy pulls on the leash, hold a treat in your hand on the same side that your puppy is walking on and use it to encourage them to walk by your side with a loose leash. Use the command “heel.” When they walk at your side, use your marker and get them a treat. You can also try turning around and walking in the opposite direction or stopping and not moving until your puppy relaxes and lets the leash go loose each time they pull on the leash. This teaches puppies that they won’t get where they want to go more quickly if they pull, but you must be consistent with this technique or it won’t work. 

My puppy won’t walk on the leash

When a puppy sits or stands still and refuses to move on the leash, take things back to basics. Stand a couple of paces in front of your pup and encourage them over using a treat. Use quality, high-value dog treats if necessary to coax them over and praise them effusively when they follow you around. 

My puppy chews the leash

This is a common issue as puppies love to chew and play. Don’t try to yank the leash out of your puppy’s mouth as this doesn’t teach them anything and may encourage them as they’ll think you’re initiating a game of tug. Instead, use the leave it command if you’ve already taught it and praise your puppy when they comply or simply use a treat to distract them and give it to them when they let go of the leash. 

What you need to leash train a puppy

Zuke's Mini Naturals Peanut Butter & Oats Recipe Training Treats

Zuke’s Mini Naturals Peanut Butter & Oats Recipe Training Treats

Never underestimate the number of treats you’ll need when training your puppy to walk on a leash. These treats are small enough even for little puppies and low in calories, so they’ll still have room for dinner. 

Where to buy: Sold by Chewy


PetSafe Premier Nylon Dog Leash

PetSafe Premier Nylon Dog Leash

This lightweight nylon leash is ideal as a first leash for puppies. The narrower widths are especially good for small breed pups.

Where to buy: Sold by Chewy and Amazon


Best Pet Supplies Voyager Padded Fleece Dog Harness

Best Pet Supplies Voyager Padded Fleece Dog Harness

When walking a dog, harnesses are a sturdier choice and won’t hurt their neck and trachea if they pull on the leash. This harness is small enough for puppies and highly comfortable for them to wear.

Where to buy: Sold by Chewy and Amazon

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Lauren Corona writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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