Leash Laws: Training your pup to walk on the leash

A lot of new pet parents have this misconception that as soon as they bring home a pup, he’ll know how to walk on a leash. That’s not how it goes. You need to train him to walk on a leash properly and here’s what all you need to keep in mind.

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Leash training is something that gets overlooked many times, although it is such a crucial part of your pup’s life. It is important that as a pet parent you teach your pup the skills to walk on the leash with ease, comfort, and discipline. Walking a leash doesn’t come naturally to pups. The process of teaching him to walk on a leash can be time consuming, but don’t lose patience and take things slow.

Get, set, go!

  • Introduce the harness or leash: Start by introducing the harness or leash to your pup. Allow him to sniff the new harness or leash. Make him wear it in the house for a short period of time. And if your pup wears the leash or harness, don’t forget to reward him. This will lead to positive association, instead of something that he needs to resist. Once your pup is comfortable with wearing the leash, you can increase the time period gradually. A great way to do this is to make him wear the leash and engage in a quick play session or play chase or fetch with your pup.
  • Teach a cue: This may not look as an important step right now, but when you take your pup outdoors, this cue will come very handy. You can select a word like ‘yes’ ‘come’ etc. As soon as your pup reaches the end of the leash, you need to remind him with this word that he needs to be near you. Use treats to teach him this cue.
  • Small steps for big milestones: Now that your pup is comfortable with a leash or harness, you are ready to walk him around. Start indoors so that there are limited distractions for your pup. The idea is to make him realize that when he’ll walk near you and with you on the leash, he’ll be rewarded instead of walking at the end of the leash. Give him treats to be near you and even for walking a few steps in the beginning. This is all a part of positive reinforcement.
  • Exploring the great outdoors: The next challenge is to move outdoors where there would be a plethora of smells, sounds, and sights, and distractions. During the first few walks, you need to be extra patient. You need to understand that all this is so new for your pup and can get overwhelming and intriguing as well.

While walking, if your pup is lunging or tugging, you can use the cue that you taught him to avoid distractions and be near you on the leash.

Harness vs. collar – which one is better?

The debate of harness vs. collar – which one is better for my pet is never-ending among pet parents. But it is best to trust the experts. So, here’s what the experts have to say.

It is better to start the leash training with a harness and then gradually move on to a collar. This is because, when puppies are starting to learn to walk on the leash, they tend to tug and pull a lot. A collar may put pressure on your pup’s trachea and can cause damage. Harness, on the other hand, minimizes pulling and balances the pressure if your pup pulls while walking.

All hail harness!

  • Some breeds that are extra sensitive like small toy breed etc. are likely to cause injuries to their throat because of excessive pressure. That’s why it is recommended that you use harness for them.
  • If your pet has neck or throat related issues, then it is best that you use a harness for him.
  • Breeds with flatter snouts (known as brachycephalic breeds) need a harness.
  • Breeds with back related issues like Dachshunds would benefit from a harness instead of a collar.
  • Any dog with glaucoma or other eye issues should use a harness, as pulling on a collar can increase pressure around the eyes.

Leash training troubleshooting

Now that you have crossed the first hurdle of making your pup learn to walk on the leash, let’s move on the other challenges. As he grows, there are chances that he gets distracted more while walking on the leash. You now have to teach your pet – loose leash walking.

Loose leash walking is an important skill for your pet learn and it’ll be easier for you to take him in public spaces. Loose leash walking means that your pet is walking by your side without pulling or tugging on the leash at any time during the walk.

  • If your pet pulls and lunges while walking: If your pet pulls a lot on the leash while walking, you need to turn yourself into a ‘tree’. This means you need to stand absolutely still and refuse to move. Don’t jerk or yank the leash. Just be still and in some time your pet will stop pulling and be back to you. There are chances that your pet lunges towards another pet, children, or a car while he is walking on the leash. It is best to redirect his attention with some treats and increase the space between your pet and the object. This behavior is most common in herding breeds, but you should be cautious as a pet parent.
  • If your pet barks: You might notice that your pet is barking at other dogs while he is walking on his leash. This behavior often comes as a lack of exercise. So, make sure your pet gets ample exercise in the form of long walks, play and fetch sessions, and physically/ mentally stimulating games. Ask your vet which are the best exercises that will suit your pet based on his age, breed, and overall health condition.

You can also offer treats as soon as your pet starts to bark. But gradually you need to reduce the amount of treats and walk him away from the distraction.

Things to keep in mind

  • What age should you start leash training for your pup?

You can introduce a leash or harness to your pup at the age of 8 – 10 weeks. Let him get used to the harness and leash as you make him wear these around the house in the beginning. And once he is familiar with the leash or harness, you can take him outside.

  • Can I pick a side for walking my pet on the leash?

It might be safer for you to have your pet on one side or the other, depending on the circumstances. But generally, it is recommended that you keep your pet to the left.

  • How long does it take for a puppy to get used to a leash?

Experts believe that puppies can be fully leash trained in about a month’s time. But as a pet parent you need to be cautious. When your pet hits adolescence, he might pretend that he doesn’t remember any leash walking rules.

With a little patience and treats, you can make leash walking a lot easier for your pup. In case, you are facing any problems, you can get in touch with your vet or a dog behavior expert.

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