Skip to content

Healthy Pets

Font Size

How to Leash Train Your Dog

Teaching your pooch to walk on lead can be tough, but it's good for both of you.
By
WebMD Magazine - Feature

Just try walking an excitable, untrained dog on the bustling sidewalks of Manhattan. When Andrew Kudysch first took Lexus, the golden retriever he rescued from a shelter, on city walks, "she was a puller and a jumper; she did not walk well on a leash," he says. "I didn't know what to do."

Of course, Lexus was just being a dog -- most will pull naturally. But with proper training, head halters, or no-pull harnesses, most dogs can trot along without turning their owners into a frazzled mess.

Recommended Related to Pets

The Dog Whisperer Cesar Millan Talks Canines, Kids, and Finding Balance

Cesar Millan, the self-taught dog trainer whose television series The Dog Whisperer has made him famous around the world, is now juggling his TV show with writing best-selling books, creating DVDs, publishing a magazine, founding non-profit organizations, even appearing in movies. And he has a wife and two children. WebMD the Magazine caught up with the busy dog trainer and asked him about his health habits, his family, and what he's learned about humans by working with dogs.

Read the The Dog Whisperer Cesar Millan Talks Canines, Kids, and Finding Balance article > >

Beginning Leash Training

In the beginning, that requires lots of hard work, patience, and consistency, says Kristen Collins, MS, CPDT, an animal behaviorist with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Collins favors a training method called "penalty yards." "If the dog pulls, the second the leash is taut, I'm going to back up three feet and stop," she says. Don't permit the dog to walk forward again until the leash becomes loose, she says.

Head halters can help with training, too, says Bonnie V. Beaver, DVM, professor of veterinary medicine at Texas A&M University and an animal behavior expert. They're gentler than choke or prong collars. The halter, which differs from a muzzle, slips over a dog's snout and works much like a harness on a horse. If the dog pulls, the halter will turn its head down and sideways. "If the head can't go, the body can't go," Beaver says.

Treats for Training

When a dog isn't pulling, reinforce that good behavior with treats, Collins says. The dog learns that "not only do I get to go forward, I get the occasional food reward, too."

However, dole out goodies at random intervals only after your dog has been walking at your side for at least 15 to 30 seconds, she says. Whipping out a treat as soon as the leash slackens might give your pooch the wrong idea, Collins says.

And "don't forget the praise," Beaver says. "[You should] 'happy talk' to your dog so that he knows he's doing the right thing."

As Kudysch devoted more time to training, he found Lexus became even more companionable, he says. "I could let her off-leash, and she would stay right at my side and never let me out of her sight. She was very obedient."

After Lexus died, Kudysch brought home two new Cavalier King Charles Spaniel puppies. Now 6 months old, the duo are already getting used to being on leash. "A well-trained dog is going to make the owner happy, which is going to make everybody happy," he says.

Reviewed on February 01, 2012

Today on WebMD

Puppy digging hole
Are you putting your pet at risk?
Cat looking at fish
Things we can learn from our pets.
 
dog and kitten
27 ways pets help your health.
tick
Get the facts about prevention.
 
Woman holding puppy
Article
Sad dog and guacamole
Slideshow
 
Siamese cat eating from bowl
Slideshow
cat on couch
Evaluator
 

Love your pets, hate your allergies?

Get tips for relief.

Loading ...

Sending your email...

This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.

Thanks!

Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

Cat People vs Dog People Slideshow
Slideshow
Kitten playing
Quiz
 
Orange cat nuzzling woman
Slideshow
German shephard reading a book
Quiz