Teaching your dog to be comfortable walking on a leash is a very important part of pet care. Not only will a leash allow you to take your dog out on a regular basis, it will help your dog learn how to obey basic commands. Most communities have a “leash law”, which prohibits dog owners from taking their dog outdoors unless they are on a leash. Though it may seem intimidating, leash training a dog is not very difficult, as long as you follow a few simple recommendations.
Before you begin leash training, it is first beneficial to get your dog used to wearing a collar. Choosing the right collar is a very important part of leash training, since the wrong collar could cause your dog to be very uncomfortable, or begin displaying behavioral problems. Though “choke” collars and spike collars were popular for leash training in the past, it is generally not recommended that you use these collars to train your dog. You want your dog’s collar to be secure, but still comfortable. As a general rule, the collar should be tight enough so that it can’t slip over a dog’s head, but loose enough so that you can fit several fingers between the collar and your dog’s neck.
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Before taking your dog out for leash training, try an experimental training session in your own backyard. Attach the leash to your dog’s collar, and try leading them back and forth. This can help your dog to understand that the leash is meant to represent a boundary. Don’t let your dog pull you along while on the leash, as this represents breaking the boundary.
When you take your dog out on a leash for the first time, it’s very important to maintain control, while still providing positive reinforcement. Walk at a moderate pace with your dog, and keep their attention with a small treat. If your dog begins to pull at the leash, the best tactic you can use is the “be a tree” technique. This means that immediately after your dog pulls on the leash, you stop walking. In other words you “become a tree”. Try to remain completely motionless while your dog pulls on the leash. Eventually, your dog will realize that they are no longer able to move, and will come back to your side. When they return, immediately give them a treat reward, and a lot of praise. This is a great positive reinforcement technique, since it teaches your dog that staying by your side produces rewards.
This tactic may have to be repeated several times before your dog understands, but eventually your dog will be able to walk with you on a leash without problems. Over time, you may not even need to reward your dog when they behave on a leash. Some dogs even progress to the point where they stay by their owner’s side while walking outdoors, even if they are not walking on a leash. However, if your community has a leash-law, you should still keep your dog on a leash at all times.