As a puppy parent the list of things to do and buy with your puppy can be long and stressful. One of the things new puppy parents might not realize needs attention right away is getting your puppy walking on a leash.
You may be thinking well I need to work on potty training as well as crate training but one area I think puppy parents overlook is leash training their puppy. Sure you are going to hear from your veterinarian recommendations on waiting until your puppy is fully vaccinated but that does not mean you should not work on leash training.
That is why I decided to write a blog post on this topic as there are things to do to get your puppy ready for the whole experience of a walk from inside to outside on the actual walk.
How to Leash Train Your Puppy
I think it does not matter if you just got your puppy today or three months ago the idea of leash training your puppy may seem simple. Buy a leash and a collar then put them on the puppy and go out the front door when for a walk. That sounds nice and easy but we have to remember a puppy might not have any experience with a collar let alone a leash.
That is when the confusion sets in and the feelings of my puppy is so cute turn into thinking he/she is difficult. I understand how you feel but with everything as a puppy parent it takes time and not giving up. Leash training is not something you can master in just one day but working on it each day with your puppy will get you closer.
When you think of leash training your puppy it really comes down to steps leading to your puppy being okay on leash whether in the house or outside on a walk. Each day you and your puppy are going to have a chance to work on things and leash training is just one area that needs your attention so you and your puppy can enjoy the outside world safely together.
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What age to start Leash Training a Puppy
A question you may have as a new puppy parent is what age should I start leash training my puppy. The answer is right now. Yes, I understand if you have a puppy who is not fully vaccinated yet and your veterinarian said not to take them out on walks. However, you can still start leash training in your house, backyard, living room, etc.
Moreover, working on leash training in your house is going to give you an advantage because there are less distractions, then the outside world, to get your puppy’s attention. Therefore, this will give you another area to practice even when your puppy is all vaccinated to go on walks.
Tip: Having more then one leash is essential as your puppy may chew on it in the beginning or somehow find the leash and destroy it. Save yourself the stress and have a couple leashes on hand.
What type of Collar to use with Puppy Leash Training
You may be wondering what collar to put on your puppy. I like the martingale as it helps to minimize the possibility of your puppy being able to squeeze out of a collar which can happen quickly before you realize it. Make sure you can put two fingers under the collar so that it is not too tight around your puppy’s neck.
Another option for a collar is a quick release snap one or a flat collar. I tell my clients to make sure these collars are tight enough so that your puppy cannot get out of one. Like I mentioned above that you should be able to put two fingers under the collar.
A flat collar that you may want to use for your puppy is the CollarDirect Reflective Dog Collar with Buckle Adjustable Safety Nylon Collars for Dogs Small Medium that has a buckle so that should help to make it easy to get on and off.
We want the collar to work well and you may feel having a loose collar is better for your puppy but I have seen first hand how a puppy or dog can get out of a leash. You do not want to try to get your puppy back when they are running loose.
Finally, as your puppy gets bigger it is important to check that the collar is not too tight and adjust it to make sure it fits right. Adjust the collar as much as you can to work on your puppy. However, If you bought the wrong size then you just need to get a new one.
How to put a Collar on Your Puppy
Make sure to have treats on you along with the collar and make sure to keep it short and simple in the beginning. A collar is going to be new and maybe scary and that is why your expectations should not be low and be happy if your puppy is open to it.
Keep in mind the goal is to put the collar on your puppy. The possible ways to put it on could be loosing the collar to put it over your puppy’s head or to be able to clip the buckle around your puppy’s neck. Your puppy may get scared by the sound of the buckle that is why you need to go slow each time you work on putting the collar on your puppy.
Another technique you might try with your puppy and the collar is to already have the collar clipped together and putting it over your puppy’s head. This may seem easy but it could scare your puppy. I am all for trying new things with your puppy but depending on how comfortable your puppy is with the collar going slow is the best approach.
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What type of Harness to use with Puppy Leash Training
There are a lot of options when it comes to buying a harness. The main thing you want for the harness is to clip in the front (near their chest) and not on the back of your puppy. It is easy to want to choose a color and style you like but we want it to help going on walks and not encourage leash pulling.
Here are a couple harnesses I recommend:
Balanced Harness- I have used this harness with my mother-in-law’s dog as well as one of my clients that is helping with leash training. You can clip your leash on the front or on the back of the harness. I recommend clipping on the front as it will help you in working on the pulling on leash.
Having the leash on the top of this harness will not help with the pulling even if you think it works better. Also, I recommend putting the first part of the harness that goes over your puppy’s head first as that will help make it easier to get it on.
Front Range Harness – This harness is another one that can be easy to use on your puppy. Like the Balanced Harness will help in working on the pulling a puppy can do when walking on a leash.
Whichever harness you choose for you puppy make sure that you feel comfortable putting it on and taking it off. Also, when using something new there is a learning curve and both of these harnesses may have videos to show how to put the harness on and how to adjust it.
There is nothing wrong with asking for help if the harness seems confusing and going on Youtube to search for an instructional video or go on either company’s website will save you time and frustration.
Tip: It is a good idea to get a little bigger size of a harness so that your puppy can grow into it. If you know how much the father and mother of your puppy weighed that could help. However, keeping in mind that your puppy is going to grow and the harness will need to be big enough to fit well for that.
How to put a Harness on Your Puppy
When putting a harness on your puppy make sure to keep things simple. Often getting the harness on your puppy will feel like a win. However, if you do it quickly when your puppy has never worn a harness it might not be as easy to put it on again.
Instead, grab a couple treats your puppy likes along with the harness and go slow. Place the harness on the floor and let your puppy approach and or sniff it if he/she wants to go near it. Give praise and a treat if your puppy goes near the harness and then move on.
We have to remember your puppy does not know what a harness is and that we have to make things easy for your puppy to be open to this whole process. Also, do not rush into putting the harness on your puppy right away as that can be scary and make the next time you put it on more of a struggle.
I have heard many times from client’s that the harness did not work out because their puppy did not like it, or it was too hard for them to put it on. I would recommend looking up the harness your purchase and see if they have a video to show you how to put it on.
Once you have any idea of how to put the harness on then I would start connecting the first part of the harness before showing it to your puppy. That way when your puppy wiggles around (as they do sometimes) when you put the harness on at least you can get part of it on and that is a good start.
Each time you go to put the harness on will become easier as you both will know what is going to happen. Treats, a positive tone in your voice, and praise do a lot to make things go smoothly as well.
If things do not seem to go well with the harness I would take a break from it and give it a try another time. It is okay to stop while you are ahead rather then stress you and your puppy out. You are a team and it takes time to get into a routine, like putting a harness on to go for a walk, but it will happen.
How to put a Leash on a Puppy
A leash is a tool that can help not only on walks but in your house too. When you show the leash your puppy is going to get excited so give he/she a chance to get use to seeing it. Often the jumping up and down when putting the leash on is another thing a new puppy parent will experience too.
The more you bring the leash out and use it on your puppy the easier it will to latch it on the collar or harness and get out just in time to avoid an accident. Getting on the floor with your puppy and putting the leash on can be another way to get your puppy use to having a leash put on them.
Another thing that can help with putting a leash on your puppy is to have some treats and give one to your puppy when showing and using the puppy. If things do not go as well as you hope then going slower is a better option with the leash.
Do not give up even if you get frustrated as that is not going to help you or your puppy. Another thing that may add to putting a leash on your puppy is if you have a floor or carpet. You may be asking what does that have to do with putting a leash on?
If you let your puppy walk around with the leash and it makes noise on a floor then that could scare your puppy. That is just something you may experience with your puppy while using the leash. Knowing that what you might not think is scary to your puppy could actually be will help you stop that from happening.
How to Walk a Puppy for the First Time
When walking your puppy for the first time it is best to keep it simple. Depending on your puppy’s age walking in the backyard or house may be a great start. Shorter is better as you and your puppy are going to make progress by going slow in the beginning.
Make sure to hold the leash loosely and to not try pulling your puppy back towards you. It is natural to want to move your puppy around, but watching how your puppy acts on leash will help you learn what you need to work on each walk.
Whether you walk your puppy in the backyard (if they are not old enough) or down the street. I would recommend setting a 5 minute timer, carrying some treats, and be patience with your puppy.
Keep in mind that your puppy might get excited, try to bite the leash, and even know how to walk on the leash for the first time. If your puppy does this the best thing to do is not react by saying, “Stop” or “No” as that is not going to help.
It is natural as a puppy parent to want to say something to your puppy if he/she is doing something wrong on your first walk but that only reinforces that behavior and does not stop it.
Puppy Leash Training Supplies to Bring on Walks
Treats: I like treats that are soft and easy to break up for your puppy. Remember you do not need a lot of treats to work on leash training your puppy.
Here are a couple dog treats I like:
Zuke’s Mini Naturals Dog TreatsI like these treats because they are easy to break up and are on the small size. The variety of flavors are great and a lot of the puppy’s I have worked with like the chicken flavor.
Merrick’s Power Bites– I like these treats because they are easy to break up so you can make them smaller and not use as many treats with your puppy. Also, they have a good variety of flavors and that will help you know which one your puppy likes best.
Patience: This can feel hard to do when you are with your puppy and he/she are acting like you do not exist. Taking a deep breath and working on leash training at a time when you are not rushed will give you more patience.
Poop bags- I like these poop bags because they are good for the environment and are durable. You could have poop bags that have a scent on them if the smell of poop is not your thing. I think having poop bags when you work on leash training is you can clean up quickly if your puppy poops.
Also, I like the scented poop bags I used recently, which helped when dealing with puppy poop.
Treat Bag- There are two bags I recommend for treats that have been helpful for me. They are The Doggone Good Company Trek N Train Treat Pouch with Belt and Petsafe Treat Pouch Sport Durable Convenient Dog Training Accessory
Toy- A toy could be one your puppy loves to play with and you only bring it out for your walk to make it valuable. A tennis ball, dog toy – dog chew toys are a couple of ideas that can be used as a positive reward (play time/attention) for doing great on the leash training.
Related Post: How to Choose and Use Dog Treats in Training Your Dog
Puppies need to get some of that puppy energy out to make Leash Training go Better
In getting ready to work on leash training your puppy, one last thing to think about doing is getting out all that puppy energy. Sure it is cute to see you puppy run around and be silly but not when you want to work on training.
Just going out for 10 to 15 minutes prior to working on leash training will help set you and your puppy for a better training session together. Playing in the backyard or in the house will get that energy out before the walk and lessen then chances of frustration with your puppy because he/she will be able to focus better.
Finally, when working on leash training I would keep it simple like five minutes so that you leave on a good note. Your puppy and you are getting use to each other and training everyday for five minutes and seeing great change is better then dragging it out and feeling like you are making no progress with your puppy.
I hope this blog post was helpful and if you are looking for more help on leash training your puppy then my course called Who’s Walking Who? A Guide to Leash Training Your Dog will very helpful for you.
In this course you get videos, checklists, tips, and explanation of why a puppy or dog will pull on a leash and how to stop it. You can watch the videos over and over and go at your own pace. This course goes through the same training I do with each puppy or dog client I work with in person.
If you are struggling on walks with your puppy I encourage you to grab Who’s Walking Who? A Guide to Leash Training Your Dog and start learning how to enjoy walks with your puppy today.