Leash Training Your Dog

Leash training a dog, is effectively achieved by teaching him one simple fact-

Pulling will get him nowhere.

Instead, walking properly next to us, is the quickest way to get to his destination.

To teach this lesson, it is important NOT to reward our dog for pulling.

Do not let our dog drag us along, and do not pet or give him any affection while he is pulling. Teach him to walk on a loose leash first, before attempting to walk him close to us in a heel position.

Here are some leash training techniques:

Leash Training Technique 1

Red-Light, Green-Light

A simple way to leash train a dog and teach him not to pull, is to …

  • Stop walking when the leash is taut, and
  • Start moving again when the leash is loose.

We do not even need to say anything to our dog. Through our actions, he will figure out the rules of the game.

When we stop, some dogs may decide to roam around and smell whatever is available in the environment. To stop this, I usually shorten the leash and bring my dog in next to me. This does a better job at limiting his freedom, which makes this technique more effective.

In addition, I only start moving again after my dog does a Sit next to me. I use a shorter lead in the beginning, then slowly lengthen it if my dog walks nicely, and without pulling. By changing the length of the lead, we can control the amount of freedom our dog has, and further motivate him not to pull.

Initially, we may need to stop very frequently, so be ready for really short walks. However, it is important to be patient and absolutely consistent with the stop rule. Otherwise, our dog will learn that if he pulls enough times, we will give-in and let him go wherever he wants. This encourages him to pull more in the future.

Leash Training Technique 2

180 Degree Turn

Depending on the age and temperament of our dog, frequent hard stops may cause him to get frustrated. Too much pent-up frustration can make a dog act out in other ways, for example, he may resort to leash biting.

If we are leash training an easily frustrated or excitable dog, it may be more effective to use the 180-turn technique.

As soon as our dog starts to pull, quickly turn around and start walking in the opposite direction. In this way, the dog can release his pent-up energy, because he is still doing something physical – walking. At the same time, he learns that when he pulls, he just gets farther away from his desired destination.

If our dog walks properly on a loose leash for a few seconds, we can mark him for his good behavior (Good), turn back, and resume our walk. If he starts pulling again, it is fine to walk back and forth on the same stretch of ground until he learns not to pull.

Leash Training Technique 3

Hand Targeting

Start by training the dog to target our hand at home.

First, I put some dog treats in my hand, and make sure my dog knows that it is there. Then, I put my hand close to his muzzle and say Nose. As soon as my dog touches my hand with his nose, I mark him (Yes) and treat him. I repeat this exercise until I am confident that he has learned the command.

Next, I move a few steps away, put my hand out in the same gesture, and say Nose. When he moves toward me and touches my hand, I mark the behavior (Yes) and treat. I keep repeating this inside the house, then continue the exercise in the backyard.

Once we are comfortable doing this in the backyard, we can try using this technique outside, while leash training our dog.

If the dog pulls, non-mark him (Uh-oh), get him to do a Sit, re-target him on our hand, and continue the leash training session.

In this way, our dog learns that pulling is inappropriate, and walking close to us will get him affection and treats. We can treat less often, and slowly phase out the treats altogether, once our dog learns to walk calmly by our side.

Leash Training Technique 4

Collar Correction/ Leash Correction/ Leash Jerk

The most common aversive technique for leash training a dog, is to perform collar corrections (also called leash corrections or leash jerks).

A collar correction must be a quick jerk of the leash. There is only tension for an extremely short amount of time (a quarter-second or less), and then the leash should be loose again. Most people tend to do tugs rather than jerks, which will do little in leash training the dog.

Tugs may actually exacerbate the situation, because it places continuous tension on the leash. This tension may cause the dog to get tense and frustrated.

We must also be properly positioned for the collar correction, so that the force is always to the side rather than directly back. Jerking to the back may encourage the dog to lunge forward to oppose the force, thus causing him to pull even more.

To work well in leash training, collar corrections must be executed with the proper force, proper timing, and proper redirection. This is necessary so that the dog learns that pulling is wrong, without becoming afraid of his surroundings, or distrustful of his owner.

If not properly implemented, a collar correction may backfire and cause additional behavioral problems including dog aggression.

Only use collar corrections as a last resort for leash training. Only use collar corrections under the direction of an experienced professional trainer.

How to Stop Dog Pulling

Some dogs and some dog breeds will pull more than others. For example, I have two Siberian Huskies, and they both pull more than my Shiba Inu, because Huskies are bred to pull. However, by starting leash training early and being very consistent, even Huskies can be trained to walk at a measured pace by our side.

In the beginning, I leash train my dog in the backyard, where there are very few distractions. Once my dog is comfortable walking there without pulling, I move on to more quiet areas of the neighborhood. Another alternative is to walk during off-peak hours, where there are fewer people and dogs around.

By carefully choosing our leash training environments, we can set our dog up for success, and help build his confidence. Once he is comfortable walking in a given area, we can slowly increase the level of distraction.

Before we know it, we will be enjoying a wonderful neighborhood walk with our dog! 😀

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  1. Lori says

    I have the opposite problem of pulling with my husky/malamute pup. She is 10 weeks old, and she is fine on the leash around the yard most of the time. When we go on walks outside of the yard, she doesn’t want to go, and will dawdle, and try to smell and/or eat everything in sight, and I really have to coax her to walk with me. She doesn’t act frightened at all, just reluctant. Then when I give up and we turn around and head for home, she goes at a flat out run. I don’t mind the run, because I want to train her to run long distance with me eventually, but I would love it if she enjoyed the “out” portion of the walk more…

    • Lori says

      I suppose I should also mention that Daisy is the first puppy I have had in about 20 years so I am new to the whole puppy training thing…


    • shibashake says

      When I first started leash-training my Husky puppy, she didn’t want to go very far. The surroundings were very very new, and she was uncertain of the environment. That is fine, we just take our time, I let her sniff, I play games with her, we do obedience exercises, etc. In general, I want to try and make outside time as positive and successful as possible. If she is engaged with me and doing fun and rewarding activities, then she is less likely to get stressed over her surroundings.

      Successful experiences help my puppy to build confidence and trust. As she gains confidence, she will be ready to go farther and handle more challenges. Similarly, negative experiences will undermine that confidence and trust, set back training, and create greater uncertainty. Therefore, I want to always set my puppy up for success. I start small, go at a pace that she is comfortable with, set her up for success, and do not expose her to more than she can handle (at the current moment).

      Finally, I do not walk my puppy in public places until she is fully vaccinated. Puppies still have developing immune systems, so they may catch something from sniffing or licking at contaminated water or poop/pee from other dogs or animals.

      ASPCA article on puppy socialization.

  2. Rob Tate says

    Hi I have 2 dogs a bitch Siberian husky and a male Siberian husky cross Alaskan malamute and every time I walk them they pull like crazy, I have ready about many different methods of leash training but unsure which is best. Hard to train at home with both about as they distract and play together when training, there both approx 14 months old and wondering which one to train first away from the other and which method is best?

    • shibashake says

      With my Huskies I use the the Red Light/Green Light technique and the 180 Turn-Around. During the training period, I walk my new puppy separately. I do short but more frequent walks, so that neither me nor my puppy gets too frustrated. However, we still get a fair amount of training time in.

      I first do walks in a very quiet and low distraction area, e.g. my backyard. I have my other dogs inside the house when I am training my puppy in the backyard so there are no distractions. Once we are doing well in the backyard, then I can very slowly increase the environmental challenge. I do door manners before leaving the house, so that my dog learns not to bolt out doors and so that she gets used to following my commands before even leaving the house.

      I have only gotten one puppy at a time. With two, I would probably do the easier one first, so I start on a positive note. Then I will be more up to the challenge of the more difficult one. I would still try to do separate, short, and frequent daily sessions with both dogs.

      More on how I leash trained my puppy.

      Big hugs to your two Huskies!

  3. Maureen says

    When I walk my 5 year old, 60# neutered male pit/boxer/lab, he is fairly good on loose leash but he is like a faucet. He is reactive and highly sensitive to noise and movement. He goes to the restroom (#1) any chance he can get and pulls big-time to get to “that” spot. I use the Freedom Harness. He sniffs constantly and looks like he is on the lookout for something. His head is always down low. Some people say to let your dog be a dog and enjoy the walk, some say to have your dog relieve himself at home first (doesn’t work), and some say to correct or treat to have the behavior averted. I want my dog to enjoy the walk but I also want to enjoy it too. What are your thoughts?

    • shibashake says

      How long have you had him? Has he always shown this behavior or did this only start recently? What happens when there is a loud noise – does he try to pull away or go towards home? Or does he try to go and explore?

      Two common reasons for reactive behavior is over-excitement and fear. For example, when my Shiba was young, he would get over-excited and reactive when he sees another dog, and he would start pulling to get to the other dog. My youngest Husky, Lara, on the other hand, was afraid of people on bicycles and skateboards during puppyhood. When she sees something new and unusual, she would become uncertain and a bit fearful, and try to pull towards home or pull to get away.

      I help my dogs by starting small and setting them up for success. I start by leash training a new dog inside my house or in my backyard. My dog feels safe there, and it is also familiar and quiet. This allows me to get them used to the leash and also to teach them not to pull. I can also practice focus exercises and fun games in that safe environment, so that I have tools to divert and refocus my dog later on.

      Once we are doing really well in the backyard, then we start practicing outside. In the beginning, I do short but frequent walks. I drive to a quiet location if necessary, and I walk close to the house or my car where my dog feels more relaxed and safe. In this way, I control the environment and set my dog up for success. The more successful walks we have, the more confidence my dog builds, the more positive associations he forms, and the better his behavior becomes.

      I also did desensitization exercises to help my Husky become less fearful of bicycles, skateboards, and loud noises.

      As for peeing, most of the people in my neighborhood are really good about it and do not mind. There are a few people who do not like it, and we avoid those houses.

  4. Abby says

    I just got my shiba puppy Bear and have a few questions. She does great with being held, taking bathes, being brushed, getting her nails trimmed and listening to “no” for the most part. But I’m having problems potty training and getting her to use stairs. The slider to the yard is down a few stairs and she is refusing to use them. She seems terrified of them. She’ll go up but never down. How do I get her to use them without force or scaring her?
    Another thing I’m worried about is leash training. I put a leash on her today and she did her shiba scream. How do I ease her into using a leash?
    thank you so much

    • shibashake says

      Congratulations on your Shiba puppy!

      How old is Bear? Is she big enough to go down the stairs easily? Are the stairs solid or are there empty spaces in between? Is it a solid railing or are there spaces in-between?

      The first thing that I do is make sure that the steps are totally safe and that my puppy is big enough so that he won’t fall through the railing or between the steps if he makes a mistake or gets spooked. I put a leash on him for added safety if necessary. Then, I sit one step down, and have lots of high priority smelly treats with me. I read a book and let my puppy come down to me when he is ready. When he succeeds, I make a big deal out of it, and reward him really well with food and affection. Then, I go one step down, and repeat.

      I start small, go slowly, and make each training session short, fun, and very rewarding.

      More on how I potty train my puppy.

      How do I ease her into using a leash?

      How I desensitize my dog to collar and leash.

      Big hugs to Bear! 😀

    • shibashake says

      I use a regular 6 foot leash leather leash when I start training my puppy, and continue to use it afterward. With a fixed length leash (*not* a flexi leash) it is easy to hold in more leash, thereby shortening it, or to let it out, thereby providing more freedom. I give my dog more freedom when he is walking well and I shorten the leash when I need more control.


  5. brenda says

    I have a 10 month golden ret. and she pulls 0n the leash when go to the dog park or when we are on a walk if she sees other dogs pass us she wants to play. I do the red and green light or walk the other way but she still pulls me. I use the gentle lead. and I try the easy walk harness and noting is working. we go out everyday to the park and I take her for walks. I really do not know what to do any more…….

  6. Palamy says

    Thank you for your advice.
    I just wanted to let you know that I found the reason why my little Shiba doesn’t like walking.
    He has gone blind.
    He must have been partly blind when we got him at 9-10 weeks old. He is now 7 mths.
    So he doesn’t like to walk because he can’t see where he is going. It’s a very sad situation.

  7. Brodie & Loki says

    Hello, I need help! Whenever I try and put my leash on my Shiba he gets scared and runs and hides and when I do get it on him and try and get him to walk he begins to scream and holler bloody murder and run in circles as if he is dying. Any suggestions as to get him to learn to walk. Note: He is only 2 and half months old

  8. Palamy says

    My Shiba is 5 months old. I also have a 11 year old husky. When we go for a walk the Shiba does not want to. I try to walk him separately, but still he barely goes down the driveway. He resist when I encourage with tugging the leash and he will take a few steps if I entice with food, but I hardly make it out of my front yard. What do I do? I usually walk for 30 minutes every day and the Shiba should be part of this family routine.

    • shibashake says

      Has he always shown this behavior or did it only start recently? What is his body language like? Does he seem fearful? Is there a lot of traffic and loud noises? What is his temperament like? How does he do in more quiet areas? How does he do with car rides? Does he walk fine on a leash inside the house or in the backyard?

      The first thing that I do when trying to change my dog’s behavior is to try and identify where the behavior is coming from. For example, a dog may be fearful of the noises outside, or fearful of all the new things. Some dogs may not like the cold, the wet, or it may be too hot. I try to observe my dog very closely, look at his body language, as well as the surrounding environment. This helps me to identify the source of his behavior, then I can come up with a good plan for helping him get past it.

    • Palamy says

      He actually has been like this since I’ve had him as a little puppy. It is not noisy, as we walk in the evening. We live in a nice quite area. He walks normally in the house and in the backyard. He is very active. But not active in the front yard. Perhaps he needs more time in the front yard, even if he is just sitting there and not going anywhere.
      Also perhaps he is a little afraid of an unfamiliar surroundings. As he has freedom of the house and backyard but not the front yard as it is not fenced off from the road.

    • Palamy says

      He is very good in the car as he is crate trained and is happy to be in his crate wherever the crate is located (in cars, friends homes, hotels).
      Also thank you for writing back so quickly.
      If he is fearful of unfamiliar places, he won’t like swimming and hiking etc which is such a shame. What will I do, I’m a very active person and he is acting like a little lapdog just wanting to play at home.

    • shibashake says

      So he is comfortable in friend’s homes and hotels? Have you driven him somewhere else (e.g. quiet trail) for a walk? How does he do there? Did anything happen to scare him when he was out in the frontyard, e.g. sudden loud noise, person on a skateboard/bicycle, etc?

      My youngest Husky was a bit fearful of the outdoors when she was young. I slowly got her used to it by starting small and very slowly building up her tolerance. First I would take her out to the front yard (on-leash), and we would play some games there, such as the Find-It game. The game makes it fun and distracts her from being afraid. I make sessions short, fun, frequent, and very rewarding.

      The more positive experiences she has outside, the more confidence she gains. As she gains confidence, I take her a little further and so on. Similarly, however, bad experiences will undermine that confidence and significantly set back our training. Therefore, I always try to set her up for success and I go at a pace that she is comfortable with, so that she doesn’t go into panic/fear mode.

      The key though is in identifying what exactly is causing her behavior – is it fear of new things or something else.

      ASPCA article on Neophobia (fear of new things).
      ASPCA article on puppy socialization.

  9. Victor says

    I really like your website. It is very helpful and de design really beautiful too.
    I started a dog walking business (side business if you want). I have trouble with a pair of golden retrievers that I walk. The female is 2 and a half years old and the male just about 1 year old. Since the younger one joined the family the older seems fearful and has not been the same…
    The owners want us (me & wife) to walk them twice a week, half an hour, and teach them not to pull. They are super excited when we get there so when we walk them together is very difficult to train them, it looks like they are competing between themselves.
    Of course, walking them separately means not getting payed for that extra time, but i took it personally so i tried to walk them on their own and they are fine! They pay attention to me, i can correct when they pull and so on. But, when they are together, it’s a nightmare.
    Do you have any ideas about how to make the walk together more enjoyable?
    Thanks a lot!!!

    • shibashake says

      Yeah, my Sibes are like that. They both want to be lead dog. 😀

      With my younger Sibe, I first start leash training her by herself. After she was really good with that, I walked her with my Shiba Inu who is now very calm during walks. In the beginning, I would walk Husky Lara, and a friend would walk Shiba Sephy. In this way, I can still control and train Lara during the walk, but she gets the experience of walking with another dog – a calm one first.

      She can now walk pretty well with Shiba Sephy, so the next step would be to do the same training with the other Husky and so on. It took time and repetition before Lara started to improve, and she is much better when she gets regular daily walks and exercise.

      With reactivity issues, what has worked for my dog is to start small and slowly build up her tolerance. I start with a lower stimulus situation where she can have success, and only very slowly increase the challenge.

      Some people with large dogs use a head-halti to control pulling. However, like any other piece of equipment, it has its pros and cons. It also has to be fastened and used according to instructions, or it may cause harm to the dog.

      More on what I do when introducing a new dog.

      Do the Goldens only get walked by you? Do they get any other exercise? Do they get training at home? What is their daily routine like?

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