Welcoming a new pup into your life is an exciting time, but it also comes with a pretty big to-do list of training principles. Top of the list for many new owners? Puppy leash training - one of the first, and most important basic skills to cover.
When to start puppy leash training? As soon as possible!
The correct puppy leash training age isn’t restricted to those first post-vaccination walks. In fact, the earlier you start your puppy’s leash training, the more successful those first walks will be
So here’s a proactive, positive, step by step approach on how to start leash training a puppy.
The first thing you’ll need is some leash walking equipment!
Which harness is best for puppies?
The 4Pooch Control Harness or the Blue-9 Balance Harness offer a range of smaller sizes that can suit any puppy build, plus the ‘H’ style design offers maximum security for those early walks and adjustable sizing as they grow.
Built to allow freedom of movement, they will also allow your youngster to feel fully comfortable, whilst offering you added security with a front connecting option. This will help your puppy to more easily acclimate to wearing one and allow them to concentrate on you while training.
The Freedom No Pull Harness offers a range of sizes that suit young dogs from as little as 3.5kg, so there’s an option for every kind of puppy. One of my top-rated brands, 2 Hounds Design harnesses have innovative sizing options, so it’s easy to find the right fit for your pup.
Built for comfort and control, the velvet-lined tummy strap and ergonomic design reduce chafing & keep your puppy secure, whilst allowing freedom of movement.
With a patented control loop, it’s built to aid your loose-leash training perfectly - to make walking your youngster an easy, more enjoyable experience for both of you
Be sure to use our handy measuring guide to make sure you’ll provide your new pup with the right fit.
You might also consider a longer training leash like this Canny Long Recall option. This can be a great starting point that allows you to stay in control of your pup, while using the exercises below to build positive loose leash behaviour.
Allow your puppy to sniff and explore the equipment before attempting to put them on. Some may take to harnesses like a breeze, but others might be a little afraid of these odd things you are trying to put over their head!
Mark and treat your puppy for any investigations they make, and slowly build up to them offering to step in or place their head through the hole. Don’t be disheartened if this takes a few sessions to achieve!
To begin building the foundation for loose leash walking, you’ll want to start with getting a reliable attention reaction from your pup.
You can use a kissy sound, their name or any other signifier you want (as long as it gets your pup’s attention). Once they look at you - mark and reward. Build this association until it’s rock solid.
By reinforcing your puppy coming to you and with you, you’ll be building great habits for future leash walking.
Moving away briskly from your pup will usually encourage them to follow you. Using your peripheral vision, note when your puppy appears at your side. Instantly mark and reward. Repeat this until it becomes a natural behaviour for them to aim for your side when walking.
Most puppies will naturally follow, but if your pup is distracted, try the exercise in a less exciting space or use your attention noise to excite them into following you - mark and reward.
Once your puppy has a solid ‘come’ and naturally gravitates towards you, begin to up the ante a little by asking more of them. For example, marking and rewarding only when they are closer to a heel position, and by then asking for more steps in that position before marking and rewarding.
Once they get the hang of this, add in changes of direction, and see if your puppy can stay with you.
If at any point they lose their way, consider lowering the criteria a little to boost their chances of success. Either by taking a step back in the process or taking a break if they seem a little fatigued.
Now your puppy has a foundation in desired behaviours, you can play the leash pressure game.
Apply light pressure on the leash, lure your puppy forward, and once the pressure is released mark and treat. This will begin to build an association that the way to react to leash pressure is to come towards you, not back off or lean against the weight (which is a natural reaction for most young dogs.)
Once your puppy has mastered this, add in a distraction, such as a few treats scattered on the floor so that your pup will reach out away from you, then lure your pup back to you or use your attention noise to get them to come back and release the pressure. Mark and reward when they do.
If your puppy won’t turn around, try going back a step, use lower value treats on the floor or work further away from the distraction.
Once your pup has the idea, you can now start to work on real-world distractions. Either different types of food on the floor, new people or other dogs.
Using the same principles, you could warm your puppy up with the first few exercises before introducing the distraction. Then work on the leash pressure exercise.<
Additional puppy leash training tips: