Leash training for your newly adopted adult dog is certainly a necessity as you would want to keep him away from any accident and let him explore his new world (new environment, people, pets as well as scent and sight) around him in a safe and non-threatening way.
You would need some form of control over him till he is fully obedient trained and well socialized to be off leash.
How To Leash Train An Adult Dog
Leash training involves getting your adult dog used to wearing a harness or collar having a leash attached to it and to walk and follow you without any pulling. Rewarding your dog for exhibiting good behavior when he is on a leash will positively reinforce his behavior.
Associate Leash With Positive Experience
Start by introducing the collar and leash to your dog when he is doing something pleasant such as when he is eating, or playing with his chewing toy. Keep the leash loose by his side.
The idea is to let him get used to the feel of having a collar around his neck and to associate the collar with him doing something that he enjoys which is eating and playing.
Let your dog get comfortable with the collar on his neck for 3 days (only put him on a collar and leash during his feeding or playing time) and start with the leash walking in the house on day 4 after each meal.
Keep each leash walking to only 5 minutes and remember to keep the leash loose. You do not want your dog to get uncomfortable with the tug from the leash during the training. You can use a treat to reward your dog or praise him when he is obediently walking with you.
This will create a positive association of walking on a leash beside you with rewarding experience. Gradually increase the duration as your dog feels comfortable with the leash walking.
Carry out this indoor leash training on your dog for at least 2 weeks before you start with the leash walking outdoors.
Leash Training Outside
Training your dog outdoors is a totally different ball game. Unlike indoor, there are numerous stimuli outside that can easily grab your dog’s attention and to make him walk on a leash without pulling will be a tedious task.
Start with playing Frisbee with him to get some excess energy off him before you start with the leash training outdoors. This will make your leash training task much easier.
I would recommend starting with the leash training in your backyard. You would have much better control on the environment though your dog might still be distracted by birds or barking from your neighbor dogs or cars passing past your home but that would be some form of good stimuli for his training.
For outdoor training, you would need a better quality treat to make your dog focus on you and stay with you on the leash.
The goal is to make him feel that you are more valuable than chasing after his stimuli and by staying foot, GOOD things will happen.
Certainly this takes time as there are going to be so many “exciting” things outdoors that are going to be very interesting to your dog.
You will have to make him overcome that “lure” and feel that you are the MOST exciting thing that he should focus his attention on.
You can achieve this through rewarding him with high quality value treats that he simply cannot resist.
Give him the value treats the moment he looks at you instead of his stimuli. This is often known as positive reinforcement where you reward him for his good behavior (which is to give up chasing his stimuli).
To start the training, let your dog sniff around the yard and allow him to roam freely while you hold on to the leash loosely. When he had stopped down, reward him with a treat while showing him the leash. This is to reinforce his thinking that while he is on a leash, he gets a reward from you.
Continue with the leash walking training and if you find that he starts to run to the fence because of your neighbor’s dogs barking, simply make a clockwise turn and walk in another direction.
The leash will pull him to go in your direction and as soon as he turns around, reward him with the high value treat. This will train him to know that by following you, he will be rewarded.
When you feel that he is at ease on a leash walking in your yard, you can slowly introduce him to a dog park but do it when it’s off-peak period so that he does not get over stressed with the new environment.
Never exhibit frustration or angry responses to your dog as it is part and parcel of the learning process where things can go wrong such as your dog attempt to pull or break free from the leash while giving chase to his stimuli.
Yelling at your dog will only create negative reinforcer, and he will take it as a form of attention and intensify his pulling action.
Dogs are in fact very teachable and with some guidance and positive reinforcement, your dog can easily be leashed trained.
Be Calm When Handling The Leash
Have you ever seen a situation where a dog keeps pulling the leash and as the owner attempts to hold on to the leash and calm the dog using his nervous voice, the more rigorous the pulling turns out to be and in the end, the owner gets dragged by the dog along the street.
You see, dogs are extremely sensitive to their owners emotional state especially if they are close to them. So if you start to get nervous (maybe you see another dog coming over and you know that your dog is going to act aggressive on this dog) and exert tension on the leash, your dog is going to sense this anxiety emotion and will react accordingly.
Remember, a calm owner brings out a calm dog.
Reinforce Good Behavior
Never be stingy with your praise or reward for your dog when he is exhibiting good leash behavior. This is extremely important as you would want to encourage your dog to perform the right action and associate that with a rewarding experience.
So when you are out for a walk with your dog on the leash, praise him whenever he turns his head and look at you while walking beside you. Offer him a treat every 10 steps if he exhibits obedience behavior.
Establish Yourself As Alpha
One of the natural behaviors for a new dog will be for him to set himself as the pack leader if there isn’t any in his new environment. And when your dog attempts to take over that position, there would be many behavioral issues to tackle.
Dogs who are dominant will resist in training especially to take orders and instruction from others (you) who he considers as his pack member.
So to avoid facing this dilemma, you would need to establish that Alpha role and show your dog that you are taking charge, and he should adhere to the leash walking rules (no jumping, no pulling, no barking or lunging during the walk).
You can attain this position by doing things that a pack leader would usually do such as do not allow your dog to walk in front of you, do not allow him to walk past the doorway before you, allow him to go behind you when he shows signs of fear during the walk.
And of course, when your dog sees you as his Alpha, he will respect your authority over his space and will obediently follow you during the walk.
Leash training for your dog is never complete without teaching your dog on socialization skills.
That is, your dog needs to behave and react in a desirable manner when he faces any stimuli such as seeing a dog coming his way, squirrel running past, cars moving across him, birds flying or anythings that capture his attention and arouse his desire to give a chase.
This is extremely important as the purpose of having your dog on a leash is to control his movement so that there would not be any accidents, and he would not be a threat to others.
By training him to react appropriately when dealing with stimuli, this will certainly make your leash training a breeze and make him stay by your side obediently and peacefully during the walk.
Pick The Right Leash For Your Dog
It’s important that you pick the right collar or harness for your dog so that he gets comfortable with the “thing” on him. So which should you go for? A dog harness or dog collar?
Personally I would go for a harness for my dog as it certainly have the following advantages over a dog collar:
1. Harness allows you to have more control over your dog and most important of all, it will prevent your dog from getting choked when he attempts to pull the leash.
2. Less likelihood of your dog gets tangled up by the leash.
3. Reduce the risk of neck injury especially if your dog is an energetic breed that keeps pulling the leash.
Harnesses come in 2 types – Front-Attaching and Back-Attaching
Front-Attaching will be more effective for larger breed types of dog as they tend to lead from the front and front attaching will offer you more control over the dog.
Back-Attaching is for a much smaller breed of dog where they are sensitive to pressure and front attaching would cause much discomfort for them.
Harness which will be attached to a dog body helps to distribute the pressure evenly across the chest or shoulder (unlike the collar which will exert the tension on his neck) and will reduce the likelihood of any injury to your dog.
Harness will also help to discourage pulling because your dog will see no success in his pulling whereas using a collar, your dog will still be moving forward despite being leashed controlled.
It’s important to keep in mind that your new dog might have an unpleasant experience with a leash, or never on any leash before and that could make him chew on the leash in an attempt to break free from it or to freeze in his walk as he pulls against the leash.
So be patient and go slow with the leash training.
Start with indoor leash training before moving on to outdoor training.
Putting your dog on leash will certainly help you to have more control over him during the walk and avoid him from engaging into any fights with other dogs.
And if you have just adopted a dog of 1 year old and was wondering if it’s too late to train him, this post will shed some light for you!