You have got a lovely and energetic puppy in your home and the next task will be to train him to walk on the leash.
However, whenever you have him on a leash, he will simply stop walking and remain in sit position. So how should you make your puppy love the leash walk?
There are various reasons as to why your puppy resists leash walking. For a puppy that has not been leash trained before, the sight, smell and the tightness of the collar on his neck could be a frightening experience for him. You would need to associate leash walking as a rewarding experience to overcome his fear.
This can be done through the following ways:
Choose The Right Collar And Leash
This is an important step. Make sure that you get a leash and collar that fit comfortably for your puppy. The collar needs to fit well and not too snugly around his neck. It has to be of lightweight type of collar and leash.
A leash of length 4 feet will be ideal for the training. You would not want to go for a long leash as it would be difficult for you to control his movement when he can run far away.
The leash and collar ought to be in good condition without any sharp edge or damage that could “give way” under extreme pressure. The clip connecting the leash and collar needs to be cleaned up periodically to prevent any irritation to your puppy.
Most dog owners will prefer a collar that is made of lightweight nylon rather than leather type. Though the leather collar may look attractive, it might be too heavy for your young puppy to have it around his small neck for long hours. This will likely lead to his resistance to leashing.
Remember, the size, fitting and level of comfort of a collar plays a critical role in determining your puppy’s overall leashing experience.
Develop Positive Association with Leash
To a puppy, seeing a collar and leash on him will be intimidating as he would believe that it’s going to be a “lock” down on his freedom, and he would be restrained to any movement.
He will feel nervous and start to jump and bite you when you take him out for a walk with a leash on him.
This is why it is important to correct his thinking and make him believe that by having him on a leash is going to be a rewarding experience.
Start by introducing your puppy to collar and leash during his “fun” time. This could be the time when he is enjoying himself as such meal time or playtime.
These are the moments when he is happily engaging himself with the activities that he likes and would be less resistant to new things.
Your goal is to make him associate leash with positive experience so that he feels that it’s not that frightening to have a collar on him.
It would be hard to put the collar on your puppy for the very first time as he would be very nervous and feel uncomfortable with something that would stick around his neck.
What you can do is to play with him to distract his attention and gently slide the collar on his neck. Alternative, you can offer him some treats to divert his attention while you put on the collar on his neck.
If you find your puppy attempting to scratch the collar or bite it, divert his attention by giving him his favorite toy to play with or you can spend some time playing with him to get his attention so that he will forget his collar.
Once he is comfortable with the collar, the next step will be to put on the leash and drop the other end loose. You do not want him to start feeling the tension on his neck during this initial introducing period.
Let your puppy get used to the smell and sight of the collar and leash for a week before proceeding with the leash walking in the house.
Start Leash Walking In The House
As your puppy starts to get used to the leash, it’s time to work on getting him to walk with the leash inside the house.
Get him to do a short leash walking in the house before his meal. Before his feeding time will be a good moment as he will be tempted to do what you ask him to do by using a high value treat to lure him.
To make him willing to make that first move, make a few steps away from him and with the leash on your hand, use another hand to hold the treat and make him come over to you.
As he makes his way to you, show him the leash on your hand and give him the treat. This is to make him associate the positive experience of getting a treat while he walks with a leash.
Never yell or scold your puppy if he does not make the move to get the treat. Keep in mind that any negative reinforcement will do more harm than good. Yelling at your puppy will only make him more nervous and can lead him to stress and depression.
What you should do is to review the treats. Is the treat of high value type that your puppy seldom gets to have? Make the treats irresistible for your puppy so that he will make that move to go for it. Do not use the normal dry kibble, go for treats such as Peanut Butter, Cheese, Hot Dog or French Fries.
When your puppy gets comfortable moving around the house with his leash for his treats, get him to be trained on the clue command such as “Come”.
Move a few steps back and call out to him “Come”. If he reacts to your clue and comes to you, praise and reward him with more treats. This is to help him associate the “Come” command with good things that will happen when he reaches out to you.
The goal is to make use of the “Come” command for him to react and look for you while he is on a leash.
Keep the leash walking session short as the puppy has a short attention span and you would not want to over stress him on the training.
Take Him Outside For A Walk
Now that he is willing to walk with the leash inside, it’s time to take him outside for another round of leash training.
You would find that your puppy will get quite nervous when he is in an outdoor environment as everything looks different to him (sight, smell and sounds) and he may start to sit down and refuse to take any walk.
What you can do is to take a few steps forward and give him the “Come” command which you had trained him during the indoor leash training. If your dog does not respond to this command, you can hold a high value treat on your hand and call out to him again.
This will likely make him come over to you. Give him another few treats as you show him the leash on your hand. This is to help him reinforce the leash with rewarding experience.
Next, you can hold the treat in your hand to “lure” your puppy so that he will keep walking with you while he is on the leash. Remember to keep rewarding your puppy for every 10 steps that he has made to keep the momentum going.
If your puppy bite on the leash and refuses to make any move, this is what you should do. Sit in front of him, pull out a treat and call his name to get his attention. He will likely drop the leash and reach out for the treat. Give him the treat and stand up to continue with the walk while taking another treat to “lure” him.
Do the same steps if your puppy sits or lays down while leash walking.
Make it a point to bring him out for a walk as often as possible as “practice will make your puppy perfect”. He will get used to leash walking and find it to be a rewarding experience even when you stop giving him treats as he gets to see and explore the world around him during the walk.
Did your puppy only stop walking when he is on a leash or does this happens as well when he is not on any leash.
This observation is important as it would help you to determine if it’s the leash that makes your puppy resist his walking or it’s just because of his health issue that prompts him to stop walking (even when he is not on any leash).
For the former reason, make use of the approach shared in this post to help your puppy overcome his phobia on leash walking.
If it’s the latter reason, you would need to reach out to a veterinarian to carry out a health check on your puppy to address the medical problems.