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! :D

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  1. 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

  2. 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.

  3. 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. :D

      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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