How to Get a Puppy Used to Walking on a Leash

Oct. 1 to 7 is National Walk Your Dog Week, so this week is a great opportunity to encourage other dog lovers to get out and walk more with their dogs.

For this post, I thought I’d focus on puppies and when to start teaching them appropriate leash manners.

If you've recently adopted a puppy, you're probably already teaching her the basics such as “sit.” But at what point should you start teaching your puppy to walk nicely on a leash?

I reached out to a professional dog trainer and asked for her tips on when and how she begins teaching a puppy to walk on a leash. Here’s what she had to say:

Tips for getting a puppy used to a leash

Get the puppy used to a collar first

Kate Connell is a professional dog trainer and owner of Calmer Canines. She said the first step to getting a puppy used to walking on a leash is to get the puppy used to wearing a collar.

You can do so by having pieces of food ready as you gently place the collar around your puppy’s neck, she said.

If you're looking for a collar, dogIDs has several puppy collars available.

Use a lightweight leash

Once the puppy is happy about wearing a collar or harness, Connell said you should practice clipping a lightweight leash to the collar. Once the leash is on, give the puppy a piece of food. Then, unclip the leash and give the puppy another piece of food.

“This teaches the puppy to be calm for having the leash put on, and the treats usually become unnecessary after just a few days,” she said.

At this point, she said the puppy can be allowed to drag the leash around, when supervised, Or, the owner can hold the leash and let the puppy get used to wearing it while walking around the house.

Connell said this type of training can start as young as six weeks.

Carry treats and get the puppy to follow you

Before expecting your puppy to walk nicely while you hold the leash, Connell suggested you work on getting your puppy’s attention (using food) while walking around the house without using a leash.

According to her, the best way to start doing this is to lure the puppy with a treat using your left hand. You would hold the food at the puppy’s nose level, right next to your left calf.

Take one or two steps, and when the puppy catches up to your leg, give the puppy the treat, she said. Then, you can gradually hold the treat a little higher, until it is at your waist height.

Teach the puppy to sit at your left side

Connell said you can teach your puppy to sit at your left side every time you stop by lifting the food treat over the puppy’s head. This will naturally lure the puppy into a sit position.

Start using the leash for short walks

Once your puppy will pay attention to you without the leash, Connell said to repeat the above exercises after clipping a lightweight leash to your puppy’s collar.

“Because the puppy is so focused on you, he'll hardly notice the leash,” she said.

Practice taking a couple steps like you did before, and give the puppy treats for following you.

Give your puppy lots of breaks

Connell suggested using some sort of word such as “Free!” to release your puppy after every 10 to 15 food rewards. Eventually, you can take more steps before each food reward and the puppy will have to work longer and walk further before getting released to play or sniff.

“This creates a very elementary version of the heel exercise, and it teaches the puppy to focus on where their owner is walking,” she said.

Have any of you recently adopted a puppy?