Training your puppy to walk on a lead is one of the most important aspects of your young dog’s upbringing. In this article, we’ll explore why puppy lead training is such a crucial thing to learn, what you’ll need before you start and how to effectively teach your puppy to walk on a lead.
Why lead training puppies is important
Exercise - Being able to walk your puppy on a lead provides an opportunity to exercise your dog and keep them healthy while they grow and mature.
Mental stimulation – Exposing your puppy to new environments is essential to their growth and development, and walking on a lead is essential to exploring many new places. The act of training itself is also great mental stimulation for your dog!
Further training – Lead training also improves responsiveness to overall obedience training, and it may become easier to teach other commands such as ‘sit’ or ‘stay’ once your puppy has learned to be walked on a lead.
What you’ll need before you start puppy lead training
A collar or harness - Buy a collar or harness that fits your puppy appropriately, never too loose or too tight – you should be able to fit two fingers between the collar and your puppy’s neck.
A lead – Buy a lead that’s of a suitable length to be able to walk comfortably. Make sure that the lead can be attached securely to your puppy’s collar or harness. This is so they are always safe during walks but there is enough slack so your puppy isn’t always pulling.
Treats – Use treats to reward them for good behaviour on the lead.
Puppy lead training step by step
Get your puppy used to the lead – It’s important to remember that the experience of wearing a lead might feel strange for your puppy at first. It’s for this reason that you will need to get them used to the idea of wearing it before taking them on an actual walk. To do this, you can let your puppy wear the lead in the house. Just make sure that when you’re doing this, you are monitoring them so they don’t get trapped, caught or accidentally injured. If your puppy is afraid of the weight of the lead at first, you can use something lighter like a shoelace (make sure they’re supervised!). Once you puppy is more comfortable with the idea of having something around their neck, you can introduce the real lead.
Associate the lead with playtime - It’s important to make the lead seem fun, otherwise your puppy might tense up every time you put it on. Once the lead is on, you can use treats or toys to entertain your puppy. By association, your puppy should anticipate fun once you put on the lead and will be much more likely to co-operate.
Take your puppy outside – Once your puppy has learned to accept the lead and doesn’t become agitated or stressed when it is put on, it’s time to venture outside. Again, keep in mind that this will be a new experience for your puppy. There will be lots of new sights, sounds and smells. If your puppy seems overwhelmed or over-stimulated at first, don’t worry, this is normal given the circumstances. Over time they will become used to the experience as it becomes a new part of their routine.
Carry treats with you – Use treats to reward them for good behaviour on the lead.
Find a quiet area – Since most puppies are very excitable and full of energy, it’s best to find a quiet area to teach your puppy how to walk on a lead in the initial stages. Once your puppy has become more used to the idea, only then should you move into busier places (e.g. parks with other dog walkers).
Use commands – Throughout puppy lead training, use consistent commands such as ‘heel’, ‘sit’, or ‘stay’. You can learn about teaching your puppy to sit or stay here. It is important to be consistent with the commands or you run the risk of confusing your puppy and slowing down the learning process.
Be patient – Remember that walking on a lead will be a new experience for your puppy and, for this reason, it’s important to be patient during puppy lead training. If your puppy stops, don’t be tempted to ‘pull’ them along. Instead, do everything calmly and gently. It can be good idea to just stop and kneel until your puppy figures out what’s going on and what the lead is for. Only reward good behaviour, and discourage other behaviour (such as pulling) by calmly ignoring them. The important thing is to stay collected. By doing this, your puppy will gain confidence in you and is likely to accept walking on the lead more quickly.
If you’ve managed to make it this far with your puppy, then well done. You’ve successfully taught your puppy how to walk on a lead. If you’re an owner whose puppy is a little slower on the uptake, then remember to remain calm and eventually your puppy should learn to walk alongside you. Like people, all puppies have different characters so no puppy lead training process is ever exactly the same.
So, it’s time to grab that lead and enjoy a great walk with your puppy - you’ve both earned it!