How do I teach my puppy to walk sensibly on a lead?

Getting a dog to walk on a loose lead is one of the most challenging behaviours to teach but it is perhaps the one exercise that people most want their dogs to master.  The reason that it is so challenging is that it is not a natural behaviour.  Dogs naturally sit, stand and lie down but they don't naturally walk within a relative distance to something else.

The number one rule when teaching a dog to walk on a loose lead is: DO NOT PULL BACK ON THE LEAD!

Some other things to remember about loose lead training:

  • The outside world is very exciting to puppies, they will want to investigate everything - there is nothing wrong with this!
  • Dogs do not understand how strong they are (they do not understand that they are pulling you over)
  • You encourage the dog to pull on the lead by pulling back
  • Make sure you allow time for your dog to sniff and investigate things (a walk shouldn't all be about walking beside you)

Encourage your puppy to stay close to you with praise and food rewards.  Teach him that being close to you is always rewarding.  If he has wandered to the end of the lead, coax him back by crouching down and calling him.  Make sure you reward him for his good behaviour when he responds.  Keep his interest by changing direction suddenly or walking fast and then slow - see if he can keep close.  Make this a fun game to play.

Pulling on the lead is a very annoying habit and can make walks very unpleasant.  It is important that your puppy never learns to do this.   One way to stop him pulling is to stop and stand still every time he starts to pull.  Use a command such as 'Steady'.  When you stop, he will have to stop as well.  Only continue walking when he is behaving and not pulling.  Praise him quietly when he is walking without pulling.  He will quickly learn that pulling on the lead gets him nowhere! 
Holding the Lead
Put your entire hand through the loop of the lead.  If you want some extra control, hold the strap of the lead with your other hand.

Never wrap the lead around your hand or wrist.  A sudden jerk can result in a sprained wrist or worse, broken bones!

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