How to Train a Dog to Walk on a Leash – 7 Steps
by Jessi Larson
Going on walks with your dog is a wonderful activity. But first things first, you need to figure out how to train a dog to walk on a leash.
Exercise is so important for pups. It helps them burn off energy, keeps them physically fit and results in a much more well-behaved animal afterward.
One of the best ways to fit in exercise for your furbaby is by going on regular walks!
Most cities require you to secure your dog on a leash when walking, and it’s the right thing to do regardless because it keeps your dog and everyone else safe.
But new pup parents first need to figure out how to train a dog to walk on a leash. We’ll show you how in these 7 easy steps!
Guide to How to Train a Dog to Walk on a Leash
Putting a leash on your dog and getting them to take a walk may seem like a simple thing to do.
We automatically think that dogs come an innate understanding of the leash and what they’re supposed to do when they are connected to one.
The truth is, that’s not the case.
Many of us have had the experience of walking dogs that run and pull, or bark at everything that passes, or simply sit and don’t want to move.
Walking on a leash really doesn’t come naturally to dogs without training.
As you’re trying to figure out how to train a dog to walk on a leash, the good news is that with patience and the right instruction, your dog will be ready in no time. Here’s how.
1. Get Ready
You’ll need to take some time to prepare before you begin following the steps for how to train your dog to walk on a leash.
First, you’ll need to buy a suitable collar or harness for your dog and make sure that it fits them well.
For the collar, it’s like Goldilocks and the three bears. You don’t want the collar to be too big and slip off of your pup but you also don’t want it to be too tight. It should be just right.
You’ll also need to find a good leash that will be comfortable for your hand and will hold up to your dog’s behavior during training.
Before going on a walk, introduce the collar to your dog by having them wear it around the house. You can clip the leash onto the collar so they get used to being connected.
You’ll also want to have some treats on hand to use when you begin training.
We love Zuke’s Mini Naturals as a training treat. They’re healthy and small in size, so you can give them to your dog over and over as you work on how to train a dog to walk on a leash.
2. Teach Cues
Before you actually begin the process of how to train your dog to walk on a leash, you’ll want to teach them a few essential cues. These cues are important because they are the signals you’ll send out to your dog so they know what is expected of them.
These can be simple cues such as a click of the tongue, a whistle or a snap. You can also use a short word.
When your dog is inside and free of distractions, put the collar and leash on them, then use the cue. As soon as your dog looks at you after you use the cue, give them the treat as a reward.
Do the cue/reward process a few times and they should begin to respond quickly.
3. Call Your Dog to You
Once your dog starts heading toward you for that treat, take a few steps away from them. When they finally make it to you, give them the treat as a reward.
Next, move back again, give the cue and then dole out the reward after they get to you, then have them walk a few steps along with you in preparation for walking on a leash together.
Keep in mind that at first you won’t want to spend too much time at once on training. Your dog has a fairly short attention span and can actually digress if you keep them working on this for too long. Take a break after they’ve done it a few times and then practice again later.
4. Start Inside
After your dog has mastered coming to you, walk around with them a bit indoors.
Don’t take them outside just yet. You need your dog to be focused and free of distractions in order to really learn how to walk on his leash.
When they have the collar and leash on, give the cue and have them come to you. Reward them with a treat.
Walk around the room with them on the leash and when they walk with you, reward them with a treat. Repeat this a few times and then remember to take a break.
5. Teach Your Dog Not to Pull
As you’re training your dog to walk on the leash indoors, you’ll want to teach them not to pull.
If they start to pull, stop in your tracks and don’t progress. As soon as the leash goes slack, give them a treat as a reward.
Be diligent about stopping and not progressing every time the dog pulls on the leash. That shows them that this behavior will not get them where they want to go.
Also, make sure you give your pup a treat when the leash finally goes slack. They’ll begin to understand that the way to move forward is to walk with you.
6. Teach Your Dog to Walk Next to You
It’s important to teach your dog to walk by your side to prevent them from running all over the place (That includes running circles around you!)
To train your dog to walk next to you, keep the leash short, but not too short. You want to be able to keep your pup by your side, but without dragging them.
To get started, use a cue to call your dog into the right spot and then give them a treat when they get there. As they get used to coming to your side when called, you’ll be able to stop using the cue. Your dog will just know to come to your side and walk with you.
As you continue, you can keep rewarding them with little treats along the way for staying by your side. Once they get the hang of things, you can gradually wean away from the treats.
7. Talk it Outside
Once your dog is walking like a champ inside the house, it’s time to take them out for their big debut!
Even if your pup’s been doing great inside, they might have a little trouble outdoors at first with all the new sights and sounds. Just be patient and persistent.
Remember to use your cues and rewards to keep your canine walking by your side without pulling. If they get distracted and start to run after something, stop, use your cue, and reward them when the line goes slack.
When you get started with outdoor walks, keep them short at first. Don’t overwhelm your dog with too much at once. Just take a short walk and use your cues and rewards.
Over time, you’ll progress to longer and longer walks, and before you know it, you’ll have taught your dog how to walk on a leash!
Conclusion: How to Train a Dog to Walk on a Leash
If you follow the steps above for how to train a dog to walk on a leash, you’ll soon have a great walking companion in no time!
The process takes patience and intention, and it could be days or weeks until your dog fully grasps the concept.
But don’t give up. If you put the effort into training your dog in the beginning, it will make life so much easier down the road. Going for walks is a great activity for both you and your dog, and you don’t want to miss out on this quintessential experience.
Watch a Training Video
As you learn how to train a dog to walk on a leash, sometimes it helps to see the process enacted, especially if you’re a more visual learner.
We are big fans of dog trainer Zak George, and he’s put together a video that shows you how to leash train your puppy.
It’s a must watch as you work on how to teach a dog to walk on a leash!
Bonus Training Tip
Training a dog requires patience and persistence. As you work on how to train a dog to walk, we guarantee you’ll get frustrated at times.
If you feel like your patience is wearing thin, take a deep breath and count to 10. You’ll feel refreshed and ready to start again.
When you continually and clearly communicate your expectations, this sends a strong message to your dog about what you want them to do and how they need to act.
Top Dog Training Books
Figuring out how to train a dog to walk on a leash is just one small part of the overall training process.
When you train a new dog, it provides a solid foundation on how they should behave for the rest of their life. Hard work in the beginning pays dividends down the road.
The more education, the better, from our experience. That’s why we also recommend the books below if you’re looking for additional support.
1. Zak George’s Dog Training Revolution
We shared Zak George’s video on how to train a dog to walk on a leash. If you liked this dog trainer’s style, he’s got even more great advice in his book Dog Training Revolution.
This complete guide to raising your dog brings an inventive approach to the subject matter that will keep you engaged.
The book The Art of Raising a Puppy includes invaluable information and advice every dog owner should know.
We read this book when we first got Toby and highly recommend it! It’s a classic for a reason.
House training a dog is exhausting And frustrating. And messy.
The book How to Housebreak Your Dog in 7 Days teaches you infallible methods that will help housebreak your pup and make life so much easier for you.
We purchased 101 Dog Tricks for our dog Toby a number of years ago. He had learned basic commands and we were looking for other ways to keep him mentally stimulated.
Dogs are super smart creatures, and teaching them new tricks is great for their mental and physical health. Plus, you can bond with your pup in the process.
If you have children in your home, Puppy Training for Kids serves as a great introduction to caring for a dog.
They’ll understand all the responsibilities involved with owning a dog and help you in the training process.
We hope you enjoyed our guide to how to train a dog to walk on a leash and other training tips and tricks. If you have a new pup and are looking for additional resources, don’t forget to check out our puppy guide.