When you made the decision to bring a dog into the family, you were likely daydreaming about all the fun walks and adventures you would be taking your new pup on. Long runs, walks on the beach, strolls in the neighborhood, challenging hikes? Add in a stylish Freedom Harness, cool dog collars, and leashes, and you thought you were on your way, right?
If you have found yourself here, it probably isn’t quite a walk in the park you were expecting with your new pal. That’s okay! And truthfully, that is much more normal than you probably expected. Don’t worry, whether you have a reluctant walker, an unruly wanderer, or a tank of a tugger, we have some simple leash training strategies that will get you and your best bud going in the right direction.
Understanding Dog Behavior
The first strategy for successful leash training is understanding dog behavior. There are different challenges when it comes to leash training a puppy vs. a rescue. For instance, a puppy is learning how to function and do all the things necessary to grow and succeed as a dog. The same way babies learn to walk and talk, puppies learn how to walk on a leash, go to the bathroom outside, and follow commands.
Rescues can be older so they pose a different list of challenges. One being they may have never been on a leash so it might be completely new to them. They may have been tied up on a leash to a pole outside their whole life so they may have trauma associated with the leash. These all can cause frustrating and challenging leash behavior.
One of the biggest challenges in leash training is pulling. However, pulling is not the only problem you may encounter. Your dog may show aggressive behavior on a leash, such as lunging at other dogs or becoming unruly when on a leash. Your dog may also do things like attack or try to play with the leash. Some dogs may even be afraid of the leash as mentioned above. The good news is that these are problems you and your dog can overcome with the right tools and training.
Choosing the Right Collar, Leash, and Harness
Just like building a house, you need the tools before you begin your leash training project. Consider collars, leashes, and harnesses your foundation for your training. Now we know there are many types of collars, leashes, and harnesses to choose from, so don’t get overwhelmed. Picking the right ones can aid your leash training process, and we are here to help you find those perfect options. What are the biggest challenges you face with leash training? Keeping your dog secure? Combating pulling? Whatever it is, we’ve got you covered. Check out our highly recommended options below to get started:
- Martingale Collar. A Martingale Collar is a no-slip dog collar is designed to evenly distribute pressure and prevent choking or injury when the dog tries to pull. The Martingale is a safer, more ethical, and more effective collar in providing more control. It is preferred and recommended over choke or prong collars.
- Freedom No-Pull Harness. The Freedom No-Pull Harness is our go-to suggestion for training because it provides maximum control with front and back leash attachments. The design includes a loop that constricts like a Martingale with the addition of a loop on the chest of your dog to redirect their attention back to you. The instant pressure and tug at the dog’s chest causes them to refrain from continued pulling.
- Double Connection Leash. A double connection leash has a loop for the handle and two ends with trigger hooks to attach to dual points. The Freedom No Pull Harness works best with the use of a double connection leash. Without it, you are not getting the benefit of the chest tug that redirects your dog’s attention.
7 Vital Steps to Leash Training
- Keep Training Sessions Short. For best results, focus on smaller, more frequent training sessions. Try multiple 10 minute sessions a day, spread out 15 minute sessions, or one 30 minute session a day.
- Start Training Indoors. Begin training in a safe, comfortable environment for your pup. If you would prefer to do your training outdoors, we recommend a fenced in yard that is familiar. Make sure your dog is well-acquainted with the harness, leash, and collar you will be using.
- Reward for Eye Contact. The foundation of training is keeping the dog’s attention on you. Practice walking on and off the leash. Use a clicker, cue word, or another sound to gain the dog’s attention. Each time the dog looks at you when you make that sound, reward them with one of their favorite treats. When you go on a walk, repeat this process to reinforce the behavior.
- Reward Them for Walking Alongside You. As you walk, use the click and treat method whenever your dog is walking alongside you in the correct position and direction. As your dog masters this skill, slowly decrease and phase out the treats.
- Practice Changing Directions. Take a few steps backward, make a quick turn, stop abrupty. Do a mix of these and reward your pup for following.
- Stay Put. When your dog pulls ahead, immediately stop. Wait until they take a step back and focus on you before proceeding. Let the pressure of the collar or harness work to apply behavior modification.
- Master and Test. Gain the skills on and off-leash in a safe environment, then move to more challenging locations. Go on neighborhood walks and gradually increase the distance where you can employ the methods.
How to Stop Leash Chewing
Many dogs bite their leashes. Sometimes out of playfulness and other times out of anxiety. In either case, it is important to train them not to bite the leash to prevent damage to the leash and their teeth. Here are some tips to help stop leash chewing.
- Don’t Pull. Dogs understand pulling differently than we do. If you pull, they are likely to tug back thinking it is a game.
- Stop. Do not continue to walk. Stop and wait for your dog to redirect their attention. Even acknowledging their chewing in a negative way can have problematic effects. When you acknowledge the behavior your dog is getting a reaction, even if it is a bad one, and that teaches them to do that when they want attention. Instead, stop and use the click and treat method when the dog stops chewing to reward their positive behavior.
- Replace. Use an appropriate chew toy to give the dog each time they begin to nibble at their leash. Replace the leash with a proper toy to show them the difference in a toy vs. the leash.
- Eliminate Temptation. If your dog starts to chew on their leash or harness, replace it as soon as there is visible evidence of chewing. Signs of destruction, such as fraying or holes, invites a dog to further destroy the item. Replace the chewed product before they do more damage. (Psst! Your Freedom No-Pull Harness comes with a lifetime chewing replacement warranty.)
- Remove. Keep the leash out of their reach when it is not in use. This will train your dog that when the leash comes out it is time to work, not time to play.
- What About Harness Chewing? If you have a leash chewer, your pup is likely also at risk for harness chewing. While our Freedom No-Pull Harness is built for even the toughest chewers, we know some pups are too determined and will still find a way to get through. If this is your pup, check out our Freedom No-Pull Harness Chewing Warranty Replacement coverage.
What if your dog doesn’t like putting a harness on?
Some dogs don’t love having a harness or collar slipped over their head, but our friend Liz with Animal Insight created a great video showing some tips and tricks using treats or a clicker that will make getting your dog dressed in his or her Freedom Harness or dog collar much faster and pleasant for everyone!
Finding Dog Trainers
Like any great dog parent, in addition to leash training, you are likely interested in formal all-around dog training classes for your best bud. After all, teaching your dog advanced leash skills and basic obedience is important for their safety and well-being.
As you search for the right training, beware that dog training is an unregulated industry. Anyone can call themselves a “dog trainer”, whether they have the skills or not. So it is important that you do your research and evaluate potential trainers before you entrust your dog’s training to them.
There are many places to get a recommendation for a trainer, from referrals to trusted people in your network and your local vet office. Another suggestion is to search based on certifications and specific credentials. Certification with an organization like the Certification Council of Professional Dog Trainers, while not mandatory, demonstrates a certain level of knowledge, dedication, and seriousness to the profession.
Let Us Help!
Still unsure which “training tools” to start with? Let us help! For questions about all of our available products for leash training including our Martingale collars, Freedom No-Pull Harnesses, and double connection leashes, feel free to reach out to us. Our team of dog lovers and pet product enthusiasts are ready to help you any time! Shop all of our products here.