How to Teach Your Dog to Walk on a Leash

Two Parts:Getting StartedTraining a Dog to Stay Nearby

Your dog might look adorable when it jumps around and barks in excitement for the walk, but that feeling quickly turns to frustration as it tries to pull you down the street step by step. Training your dog to stay nearby and to come when you call takes patience and persistence more than anything else. If you get impatient and give in to the dog, it will learn that it can get what it wants through bad behavior. Be serious about sticking to the training regimen, and your dog's behavior should gradually improve.

Part 1
Getting Started

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    Use a suitable collar and leash. While the dog is still learning good walk behavior, use a non-extendable leash between 4 and 6 feet long (1.2–1.8 meters), and avoid chokes, prong collars, and other collars that cause pain to the dog.[1] You can use a head halter or "no-pull" front attachment harness to minimize the amount a large, energetic dog can pull, but be aware that you should not strain on the leash either, due to the risk of serious damage to the dog's neck.
    • An extendable leash makes the dog pull on the leash even when it's supposed to move, making training difficult. Long, extendable leashes are better suited for playing at the dog park.
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    Plan on short walks. Until your dog follows you on the leash without pulling or constant stopping, consider your walks training sessions. Like all training sessions, they work best when they're short, frequent, and fun for the dog. Try taking a five minute walk twice a day, and increase that up to ten minutes only if your dog stays focused on the training exercises described below.
    • Since this is less exercise than a dog needs, supplement walks with a drive to a dog park, or energetic games of fetch or tug-of-war in a backyard or hallway. If convenient, get this exercise done before the walk, so the dog is less rambunctious.[2]
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    Choose a treat to use only while walking. Almost all of the training methods below involve giving your dog treats, an excellent motivation for dogs that will help it learn good behavior. Pick something the dog gets excited about, preferably something with a strong smell and soft enough to eat quickly during a walk. Give this treat only during a walk, and only as described in the instructions below.
    • Try pieces of hot dog, cooked chicken or ham, cheese, jerky treats, or freeze-dried liver. Many dogs even like fruits and vegetables, but avoid grapes, raisins, onions, garlic, chives, avocados, unripe tomatoes, and inedible seeds.[3]
    • Cut the treats into pea-sized pieces. You'll be feeding the dog a lot of these, so they need to be small to avoid overfeeding.[4]
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    Start indoors if the dog is completely untrained. If the dog strains at the leash the entire walk, barks or runs at passersby, or if you've tried the training methods below and the dog won't pay attention to them, start out indoors or in your backyard, where there are fewer distractions. You can use the ordinary training techniques described below, walking around the yard or apartment, or get a training clicker and use these training lessons that you can do in a small area:[5][6]
    • Put the leash on and stand at the end of it, so it is taut. When the leash goes slack, click the clicker and show the dog a treat in your hand. Put the treat on the ground next to your left foot. Move to the end of the leash, and repeat several times.
    • Once the dog learns to stay near you (which may take several 5-minute sessions), toss a treat pass the dog's nose, within range of the leash. If the dog comes back to you after eating the treat, click again and put a second treat down next to your foot. Repeat this training exercise until the dog returns to you consistently.
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    Teach the dog to stay calm before a walk. If your dog starts jumping or barking when it sees you pick up the leash, stand there patiently until the dog stops. Once it is standing still and quietly, slowly move to clip the leash onto the collar. If the dog gets excited again, pull back and wait. Don't put the leash on until the dog stays still for the whole process. Stand still again if the dog tries to bolt out the door, until the leash goes slack. Praise the dog when this happens, then walk it for a couple minutes indoors or in the yard, so it calms down before you begin on the real walk.[7]

Part 2
Training a Dog to Stay Nearby

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    Keep treats in a pouch or pocket. Being able to reach treats immediately is important for training, so the dog learns which behavior is being rewarded. Traditionally, dogs are taught to walk on the left side, so keep the treats in a left pocket or waist pouch.
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    Feed the dog treats as you walk. Put a few small treats in your closed fist and walk along with your hand in front of the dog's nose. Every few seconds, pop a treat into your dog's mouth as you continue walking.
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    Stop and call the dog if it moves away. If the dog runs forward or hangs back, stop and call the dog to you. Continue to call the dog back patiently, until it returns. When it does, tell it to sit, feed it a treat, and praise it. Continue your walk as before, feeding it treats as you do.
    • If the dog starts walking ahead but hasn't lunged to the end of the leash yet, say "Easy." Say "Yes" and give a treat if it responds by turning around and coming back to you.
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    Grant permission to investigate objects. If the dog pulls at the leash to eliminate or to sniff an object, stop and call it back. When it comes, praise it, say "Yes," and let it go where it wants to go. Follow it so the leash stays slack.
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    Gradually increase the duration of the walks. When you start out, you might just walk up and down the block, so the dog doesn't stop paying attention. Each day, walk a little further.
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    Reduce the number of treats. After at least a week of this, straighten up and keep your hand near your pocket of treats, around waist level. Every other step or so, take a treat from your pocket and lower it to the dog. If the dog can walk for several minutes without pulling on the leash, you can slowly increase the number of steps between treats. Try to reach one treat per minute within a couple weeks.
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    Use punishment sparingly. Dogs have trouble understanding the purpose of punishment, which makes it an ineffective motivation technique. You should only use these techniques sparingly to discourage unusually bad behavior, not on every walk:
    • Never use these techniques with a choke, pinch, or prong collar, or a head halter.
    • If the dog ignores your commands to slow down and return to you, stop talking and turn back the way you came, tugging at the leash gently. Praise the dog when it catches up to you, then turn around and resume the walk.
    • If the dog strains at the leash and ignores you, give the leash a short jerk back and upward, not a prolonged pull. Match the force of the tug to the size of the dog; it shouldn't be lifted up off its feet. Praise and give a treat when the dog returns.


  • Walk quickly. No matter what level of training your dog has, it will most likely be better behaved if you are walking at a brisk pace. This makes the dog pay more attention to your movements, and reduces the number of distractions that derail the walk.
  • This will be much easier if you also teach your dog to sit and to come when called.
  • Try walking on quieter streets with fewer distractions during early training.
  • If your dog is frightened during walks and training isn't going well, try just sitting at a park bench and teaching it to follow commands and do tricks. Give it exercise with indoor activities instead.[8]


  • If the dog lunges forward rapidly, let your arm extend and absorb some of the force of the lunge. If you hold the leash rigid, the dog could hurt itself slamming against the end of the leash.

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Categories: Working with Dogs | Dog Accessories