How to Leash Train a Puppy
The right type of leash and harness teaches your puppy to stop pulling during leash training. You can also use a reward to mark your puppy’s desired behavior.
What is the best type of leash for a puppy?
Leash type comes down to personal preference. Consider the size of your puppy now and his expected adult size. Thinner/lighter weight leashes will be more comfortable for a smaller dog or a smaller puppy, but may not be as appropriate for an adult giant-breed dog. A 6’-8’ leash will be more appropriate for a puppy than a 4’ leash, especially if being walked by a taller person.
There are many types of dog leashes. Nylon leashes are one of the most common products. These stand up to daily use fairly well and come in a variety of colors, patterns, and sizes. Some nylon leashes are covered in a coating to help the leash be waterproof and easy to clean.
Chain leashes are typically not a good option. While this may seem like a good idea because puppies are less likely to chew on a chain leash, it is usually a heavy material. Retractable leashes are not a good choice early in leash training. With a retractable leash, a puppy has to pull to get more freedom. This experience can train a puppy to pull more.
The Best Collar or Harness for a Puppy
A regular flat collar with a buckle or snap is a great option for a puppy. A large ring for the leash will make it easier to quickly attach a leash for bathroom breaks compared to a very small ring for the leash.
Identification can be important if your dog gets loose. Some collars can be embroidered with your phone number, or you can attach a silicone or flat tag to slide onto a collar. Traditional hanging tags are another option, though they may be more likely to get caught on things, and the sound can attract the attention of barking dogs.
There are many styles of harnesses for different functions. Some harnesses have a leash attachment on the back of the puppy. These can be good for hiking and adventures where you don’t mind some leash pulling. Note that some products are not designed with a dog’s comfort or range of motion in mind.
Another style of harness allows for the leash to be attached to the front of the dog. This can be helpful for giving you more leverage if you need to redirect a puppy when he is excited or pulling on the leash.
First Leash and Collar or First Harness Experience
Many puppies may find the sensation of the leash and collar to be uncomfortable at first. You can help your puppy by engaging him in toy play or training games with treats while the harness or collar is on. Keep these sessions short—just a few minutes at a time.
When you first attach a leash, use your body language and voice to encourage your puppy to follow you. Move in a playful way, pat your leg, and crouch down if you are able to do so. You want to minimize your puppy going to the end of the leash and feeling tension.
How to Train a Puppy to Walk on a Leash
You need to be especially cautious about exposure to infectious disease prior to your puppy being fully vaccinated. Talk with your vet about what is appropriate for your area. Even if you are advised to not walk your puppy, you can start training your puppy to walk on a leash in your house, your yard, or other safe areas.
Puppies can learn about leash walking from a young age. You want your puppy to learn to walk calmly and without pulling on the leash.
For puppies, a leash walking session may need to start with play. You can encourage your puppy to chase a toy or tug a toy in the house or backyard. You will have an easier time with walking training when your puppy has his needs met for running and exercise.
Start in a quiet room, yard, or area in front of your house. Give your puppy a few rewards to be sure he is engaged with you and is interested in what you are offering. If your puppy is eager about the rewards, you can proceed with training. If your puppy is not eagerly eating, then you may need to try other food rewards or a more simple task.
Encourage your puppy to follow you for 1-2 steps, then reward with a food treat next to your leg. Move 1-2 steps and reward. Repeat until this is easy for your puppy. Now, you can begin to space out the treats even more. You might move to 3-4 steps, then 5-10, and gradually increase the amount of walking. If your puppy tries to pull ahead, turn back and go the other way.
If 1-2 steps is too much for your puppy, you might try taking smaller steps or talking to your puppy enthusiastically while moving.