Teaching a puppy to walk nicely on lead
Puppies pull on the lead because they want to walk faster or go in a different direction to us. Since it is usually impossible to allow them to go where they want to go or keep up with them, we need to teach them to walk with us at our pace and not to pull on the lead. Puppies that walk nicely on the lead without pulling often get more walks and are a pleasure to take out.
Most puppies are kept on a lead when going out for a walk to keep them safe on the road until they get to a place where they can safely be let off. This usually means that when the puppy first comes out of the house, he is full of pent-up unexpended energy, especially once he has learnt to enjoy walks and running free. This is not a good time to teach him to walk with you as the desire to use up their energy is strong. Instead, choose a time when your puppy does not have expectations of going anywhere or is returning from a walk and has used up a lot of energy playing and running.
Before you attempt to teach your puppy to walk without pulling on the lead, take a look at the amount of opportunity he has to exercise and play. Is it the right amount for his age and breed? If your puppy is boisterous and lively when at home, the answer is probably no, and you will need to address this before you can expect him to walk with you at a slower pace than he would want.
Teach your puppy to play with toys and use them at home to tire him a little before going out for a walk. Teach your puppy a recall so that he can get off lead in safe open areas to use up his physical energy with free running.
Walking at your pace
- How to hold your leadHold the handle of your lead and make sure it is long enough for your puppy to be able to move about two body lengths away. Holding the lead too tight can actually encourage your puppy to pull.
- Practice away from distractionsWalking on lead can be a tricky skill to master so initial training should take place somewhere quiet e.g. at home or in the garden.
- Teach your puppy to be by your sideMany puppies learn that sitting in front of you and looking at you often leads to nice rewards during training. However, puppies do not always realise that being by your side is a good place to be too. To begin this training, spend time rewarding your puppy for remaining close by your side whilst on lead.
- Small stepsOnce your puppy has learned to be by your side, take a step forward and reward your puppy the moment they move with you. To begin, just reward once step at a time until they start to get the hang of the training. As they start to progress, increase the number of steps you take before rewarding them.
- Stop when the lead goes tightHold the handle of the lead into the centre of your body and start walking. AS SOON as the lead goes tight (watch it carefully and begin to stop as it is tightening), stop immediately and stand still. This will bring your puppy to a complete stand still. Once he has stopped, call him back to your side and start walking again.
- Practice, practice, practiceContinue until he is beginning to anticipate stopping and is returning to your side each time for the treat. With enough repetitions, he should learn to step back a pace once the lead goes tight so he can move forward, and, eventually, he will learn to try to keep the lead loose so that he doesn’t have to stop.
- Be consistentBe prepared to use this method for at least two weeks consistently, never walking a step unless the lead is loose. It helps if you walk fairly fast once you’ve started so that the lead stays loose for a good period of time before you need to stop. If you are consistent and your technique is good, your puppy will soon be walking nicely on a loose lead.
Need more help?
Walking with a loose lead can be tricky skill for young puppies to master. it is often much better if you can get the support of a competent instructor to show you what to do and then coach you into doing it correctly.
Our network of Puppy School tutors run puppy training classes across the UK and many also offer home visits to provide additional 121 support and guidance for puppy owners and their puppies. You can find and get in touch with your local Puppy School tutor here.
Puppies may also pull on lead for other reasons. For example, they may become excited by moving cars and attempt to chase them down the road, they may become worried by a loud noise and attempt to pull back home or, in some older puppies, they may become worried by other dogs and bark or lunge at them out of fear.
In these cases it is best to seek professional help fast from an Animal Behaviour and Training Council (ABTC) registered Clinical Animal Behaviourist when further advice and support is needed.