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7 Steps to Train a Dog on a Leash

Updated on October 11, 2016
DrMark1961 profile image

Dr Mark is a veterinarian in Brazil. He also trains dogs, mostly large breeds, and ones that suffer from aggression problems.

A tiny dog does not pull much on a leash.
A tiny dog does not pull much on a leash. | Source
Walking with a leash can be a lot harder with a strong dog.
Walking with a leash can be a lot harder with a strong dog. | Source

Training a dog to walk without a leash is an important and rewarding experience, but not everyone lives in a region where they can walk their dog off leash. If you have to walk your dog on a leash, and he is pulling and making your walks uncomfortable, here are a few good tips to make the walks more enjoyable:

Steps To Train A Dog On A Leash

 
Walk in an enclosed yard
Start out with a loose collar and some treats
Praise and treat the dog for not pulling or dragging
Try new moves
Try new area

1. At least for the first few days, try walking in a fenced off or walled yard so that the dog is not really going anywhere. (If you do not have an enclosed yard try a park where there are no other dogs or people around. Quiet dog parks surrounded by chain link fences are your best option.)

2. Give your dog a tiny treat to make him interested in you, put the leash on your dog, and start walking. If he starts pulling immediately stop, turn right, and walk again. If the dog starts pulling, just repeat this exercise. This may need to be repeated several times, but most dogs will just give up if they realize they are not getting anywhere.

3. If your dog is dragging along instead of forging ahead, call his attention to you and give him a treat. (You can say his name but do not give the recall command. Some people like to use a clicker; I like to make a sound in the back of my throat.) This usually keeps the dog focused on you and he is too interested in you to start pulling.

4. Walk around the yard with your dog at your side, giving him a treat occasionally so that he will keep focused on you.

5. Once your dog is walking by your side without pulling, introduce some new moves. Try a circle, walk in a square, try a circle eight, etc. You need to do this twice a day, for fifteen minutes or so, for at least a week.

6. If you dog is not pulling on the leash in the yard, you can walk in another area with some distractions.

7. If your dog starts pulling again as soon as you start walking outside the yard there are several options. You can move back to the yard and try to reinforce the basics, you can try a harness that is supposed to make your dog off-balanced and less likely to pull, you can use a prong collar, or as a final alternative you can use the type of collar that will choke your dog.

Walking the dog should be fun for everyone.
Walking the dog should be fun for everyone. | Source
Walking off leash can  be fun too.
Walking off leash can be fun too. | Source

Back in the 90s, when Uncle Matty was the dog trainer everyone listened to and Cesar Millan had not yet been heard of, the best way to stop your dog from tugging on his leash was to stop and start walking the other way.

It still works best.

If your dog does not respond to the stopping and turning method, you can try purchasing one of the no-pull harnesses and try it. If you are still having problems, and are overwhelmed by the strength of the dog, I recommend you use a prong collar.

I have used a prong collar to stop dogs pulling on the leash when stopping and walking the other direction has no effect. A German neighbor of mine, 80 plus years old, walks his Rottweiler on the beach and they used to arrive at my house blue in the face—both of them. He had tried a harness with little effect, had tried stopping and turning, and he finally had decided to use a choke chain and strangle his 130 pound dog each morning. Despite what the moderators of reddit believe, a prong collar is not cruel.

When the dog´s owner switched to a prong collar, the dog stopped pulling. This was the only way that the owner could refrain from being cruel and tugging on the dog.

This book, written by animal behaviorist and cosultant Patricia McConnell, may not help you out by giving specific advice on how to use a leash, but it will tell you a lot about your dogs. It is a great book for anyone interested in dogs, their behavior, and how we feel about them.

It has become an axiom among dog trainers—no two are able to agree. On this subject, however, I have found the advice given by Alexadry very similar to my own. If you are interested in reading about her viewpoint on walking a dog without pulling, click on her link. One of the few things I disagree with is her recommendation for the use of the “Gentle Leader”, or Halti type head halters.

A Halti head halter can actually do more neck damage than a prong collar, at least according to many dog trainers, including Joaquim and Wendy Volhard. They have had to send some of their client dogs to canine chiropractors after the use of a Halti, but have had results similar to my own after using a prong collar.

Not everyone agrees on this issue, of course, and if you would like to read an opposing viewpoint you should read this article.


There are a lot of options available to you if you want to train your dog to stop pulling on his leash. If you need more help, just leave a comment and I will respond as soon as possible.

Walking on a leash is basic good behavior.
Walking on a leash is basic good behavior. | Source

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    • Pinkchic18 profile image

      Sarah Carlsley 4 years ago from Minnesota

      Very useful! My dog keeps pulling and pulling. I'm going to try your tips!

    • ellesvoice profile image

      Elizabeth Hanks 4 years ago from Queen Creek

      Thank you much!

    • DrMark1961 profile image
      Author

      Dr Mark 4 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

      You´re welcome. And welcome to Hubpages, I can tell from your comments that you are going to make a great contributor.

    • ellesvoice profile image

      Elizabeth Hanks 4 years ago from Queen Creek

      Thanks much!

    • DrMark1961 profile image
      Author

      Dr Mark 4 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

      Since you are new here you probably did not see akirchner´s articles on leashes and pulling, publised yesterday. Alexadry also has another viewpoint, so you might want to check hers out too. I hope this helps!

    • ellesvoice profile image

      Elizabeth Hanks 4 years ago from Queen Creek

      Great tips! I do practice with my dogs in the yard and in the house before I take them out for a real walk already, but I definitely like the idea of turning and walking the other direction when they start to pull. It seems a lot easier than having to stop, make them stop, sit and stay until they give me their undivided attention again, haha. Will give it a shot next time I take them out!

    • DrMark1961 profile image
      Author

      Dr Mark 4 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

      Thanks kellyanne I hope they work. What kind of puppy?

    • kellyanne828 profile image

      kellyanne828 4 years ago

      I am in the process of training my puppy how to walk nicely. Thanks for the tips! I will definitely try them.

    • alexadry profile image

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 4 years ago from USA

      As the saying goes " "The only thing two dog trainers can agree on is what the third trainer is doing wrong." I am always open to respectful discussions and don't take it personally if others do not agree on some things;)

    • DrMark1961 profile image
      Author

      Dr Mark 4 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

      Alexadry, I will look forward to reading that. We don't always agree, but it is nice to see your viewpoint. I will put a link to that here so that other readers can read it if they are looking at this.

    • DrMark1961 profile image
      Author

      Dr Mark 4 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

      Hi LetterstoJulia, it doesn't look like you will have a lot of spare time the next, oh, let me see, 4 or 5 years?

      I love that avatar of the "Baby Guard"!!!!

    • DrMark1961 profile image
      Author

      Dr Mark 4 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

      Bac2basics---they do sound like a chore. Try the stopping and turning, and if that does not work try the harness and then the prong. I hope something will work for you all!

    • alexadry profile image

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 4 years ago from USA

      Dr. Mark, I shouldn't have any reviews in favor of prong collars unless the article is old like more than 5 years ago when I first joined. If so, I need to update that as I am a cross-over trainer and haven't used such tools for a long time. Yes, I still have my prong, but it's hooked to my wall and use it as a handy key holder, lol! I am writing an article as I speak about why I no longer us prongs since the subject came up and people ask me all the time.

    • DrMark1961 profile image
      Author

      Dr Mark 4 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

      Alexadry, I read another of your hubs that had more favorable reviews of the harness and prong collar. Do you want me to switch the link? If you do leave the address for me and I will change it as soon as this goes off "pending" status.

    • DrMark1961 profile image
      Author

      Dr Mark 4 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

      Hi Maralexa, I do think the harness is a good second option if the dog is not walking by your side using the "stop and turn around" method. Unfortunately it does not work on all dogs, so that is when I consider a prong collar.

      I agree with you, and definitely enjoy time with my dog a lot more when I can release her and let her fun off leash.

      Thanks for sharing my hubs with your friends. If you want to link any hub of mine to one of yours I would be pleased! Drop me an email when you do so that I will be sure not to miss reading it!

    • LetterstoJulia profile image

      LetterstoJulia 4 years ago

      I am the proud owner of a basset hound and a cockapoo... the basset is stubborn but loves to walk and follow his nose. We do have a prong collar but the fat rolls in his neck seem to prevent it from being completely effective... my husband and I need to be more diligent in his training, I think!

    • DrMark1961 profile image
      Author

      Dr Mark 4 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

      Thanks for commenting, truthfornow. I was really glad to see your visit, as it led me to your great hubs. I really enjoyed the hub about reading more, which we all need to do!

    • bac2basics profile image

      Anne 4 years ago from Spain

      Hi DrMark. Both my dogs are a nightmare on the leash, my old dog gets so excited he chokes and almost throws up with his insistent pulling and my younger dog is really nervous of almost everything so although he´s not a constant puller he is always on edge when walking anywhere new and with people and traffic, I live in the mountains so he´s just not used to all the noise and movement. Taking them anywhere isn´t fun at all really unless they can run free, so your suggestions are worth a try, thanks :)

    • DrMark1961 profile image
      Author

      Dr Mark 4 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

      Thanks for the commen, Victoria. I hope this helps your little gizmo!

    • alexadry profile image

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 4 years ago from USA

      Dr. Mark, just want to respectfully precise that I am not that big of a fan of the Halti/gentle leader as I find it subdues dogs, some fight a lot against it and as you mention it can cause spine and neck issues. If you have time, read my hub on the "Pros and Cons of haltis" for my most recent views on this tool. I am a big proponent now of Easy Walk Harnesses which have replaced the prong collars back when I used them eons ago.

    • Maralexa profile image

      Marilyn Alexander 4 years ago from Vancouver, Canada and San Jose del Cabo, Mexico

      Another excellent article on training (and caring) for your dog. I can understand why a prong collar is not cruel and I would never use a choke collar on a dog, but isn't a harness better than either? I guess I just need a big country estate where my dog can run free.

      Thanks, voted up and interesting, useful.

    • truthfornow profile image

      truthfornow 4 years ago from New Orleans, LA

      I was attracted to your pictures of dogs carrying their own leases. Great tips. I don't have a dog but I have walked other people's dogs who didn't seem to have never been trained on how to walk on a lease or developed some bad habits.

    • Victoria Lynn profile image

      Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Oh, I love that last picture with all the different types of dogs! Great hub, very informative. My dog is better than he used to be, but he could improve. I may try that turn right and stop exercise with him, along with a clicking noise and treat to see if he can do better. Thanks for this valuable info, Dr. Mark!

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