Lead Training Your Dog

Optimum M5 - Lead training your dog

Photo by Andriyko Podilnyk on Unsplash

Dogs love a good walk, and lead training them is one of the most important things you can do for their safety, and for the safety of those around them. While part of it is teaching your dog how to walk nicely beside you, lead training is also about guiding them on how to handle different distractions and challenges on their journey. Whether they’re a puppy or an older dog, there are a few different techniques worth trying to help them master good walking habits.

The importance of lead training

When near a road or out in a public space, walking on a lead is essential for your dog's safety, regardless of size or breed. A dog who is not trained to walk on a lead can pull, run off, or get loose, putting themselves and others in danger. Whether it's on the footpath or the park, lead training is an important step to help your dog build confidence, learn discipline and socialisation skills, and make the walk enjoyable for both of you.

Why starting early is important

Beginning your lead training early is best, as it helps your dog get used to the idea of walking calmly alongside you. Puppies are particularly receptive to training, and starting early helps to establish good habits from the get-go. Older dogs can also be lead trained, but it may take a bit more effort and patience. Regardless of when you start, consistency is key. Regular training sessions will help your dog to develop the right habits over time.

How to train your dog to walk on a lead

Start by standing next to your dog, holding the lead with a loose but firm grip, walk a few steps forward, stopping if your dog starts to pull ahead. Call them back and praise them if they come back to your side. Repeat this process until your dog starts to walk alongside you with a loose lead, without pulling or lagging behind. Every time they walk nicely, reward them with treats (such as some OPTIMUM™ Treats), praise, and positive affection, like lovingly petting your dog behind their ears. Next, introduce a vocal cue, such as “heel”, by saying it at the same time you reward your dog for walking with a slack lead. Over time they will associate the cue with the action. Once they’ve got the idea, you can gradually increase the length of time spent on lead training, introducing distractions, and increasing the distance you walk. If they’re responding well to the vocal cue, you may be able to remove treats from the equation.

Training a puppy

Training a puppy to walk on a lead involves slowly introducing the lead to them first, then following a routine to help them get used to the gear. To begin, you’ll need to choose the right lead and collar or harness for your pup, make sure that they are comfortable, and check the collar or harness is not too tight. Then let them wear the lead without the distraction of walking for some time so that they get used to it. After ensuring that they are comfortable with the gear, move onto training them while you walk with them, praising them often and rewarding them with treats. Remember to keep training sessions short, five to ten minutes is enough, and repeat often. It’s advised that you don’t take your puppy outside until two weeks after they’ve had their final vaccinations, but you can always get started by letting them practise inside or in your backyard first.

Training an older dog

Training an older dog to walk on a lead may be more challenging, but it's certainly not impossible. Similar to a puppy, start by introducing your dog to a lead and their collar or harness. Let them explore and get used to the feel of them, then slowly introduce short lead-walking sessions, beginning with just a few steps. It’s also a great idea to train your dog in a familiar environment, then gradually introduce them to less familiar public spaces as you also slowly increase the distance and duration of each walk.

Troubleshooting issues during lead training

Like any other training method, lead training can sometimes be challenging, so your dog might face some issues with it. For instance, they might try to pull on the lead. The best way to address this is by stopping walking and standing still until the dog calms down, alternatively, you can use treats to distract your dog from pulling while working on their ability to heel. Never force your dog to walk on a lead if they’re uncomfortable, as it may result in a negative association that will only make things worse. If they’re having a hard time with lead training, consider swapping to a new type of collar or harness, depending on what they’re currently wearing. Each has its own benefits, and it could be that one suits your dog more than the other, for example, a front attaching harness is great for dogs that pull on the lead. Lead training is a vital skill every pet parent needs to teach their dog. It’s much easier to teach a puppy than an older dog, but with the right techniques and patience, it can be done with any dog breed, and at any age. Don't forget to praise them and give them treats to reward their excellent behaviour and make the training sessions enjoyable. For more tips and advice on training and caring for your dog, check out our pet care blog.

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