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Leash Training 101: Master Puppies with This Complete Guide

by Kimberley Lehman

Mastering the art of leash training for puppies is like revealing a new level in a game. It’s thrilling, a bit challenging, but oh-so rewarding once you get the hang of it. I’ve been there, standing in the middle of the park, leash in hand, wondering why it feels like I’m the one being taken for a walk.

But let me tell you, with a bit of patience and the right techniques, you’ll soon have your pup walking by your side like a pro. It’s not just about teaching them to follow your lead; it’s about building a bond of trust and understanding between you two. And I’m here to share some insights that’ll help make this journey smoother and more enjoyable for both of you.

Understanding the Basics of Leash Training

I’ve always viewed leash training as both a science and an art. It’s about blending patience, understanding, and consistency into every walk. Let me share some basics that I’ve found invaluable.

Start Young, but Not Too Young

Starting leash training early is crucial. Puppies can be introduced to a collar and leash as early as a few weeks old. But, their first experiences shouldn’t be about strict training. It’s more about getting them comfortable. I usually begin with short, positive sessions inside where distractions are minimal.

The Right Gear Makes a Difference

Picking the right collar and leash can make or break your training sessions. Here’s what I recommend:

  • Lightweight, adjustable collars that fit well without causing discomfort.
  • Non-retractable leashes for better control and safety during training sessions.

Positive Reinforcement Wins

Positive reinforcement has been a game-changer for me. Rewarding good behavior with treats and praise encourages puppies to repeat those actions. Here’s what works:

  • Treats: High-value and irresistible.
  • Praise: Genuine and enthusiastic.

Patience, Patience, and More Patience

If there’s one thing leash training has taught me, it’s patience. Puppies learn at their own pace, and getting frustrated doesn’t help either of us. I’ve learned to celebrate the small victories and understand that setbacks are just part of the journey.

Consistency is Key

Being consistent with commands and expectations simplifies the learning process for my puppy. Here are my go-to strategies:

  • Same commands for the same actions every time.
  • Regular training sessions to reinforce learning.

I’ve found that mastering leash training is much like playing a complex game—one that requires understanding, strategy, and a bit of humor. By focusing on these basics, I’ve been able to make each step of the journey enjoyable and rewarding.

Choosing the Right Leash and Collar

When I first started exploring the sea of pet supplies for my puppy, I realized quickly that not all gear is created equal. My adventure into selecting the perfect leash and collar was both overwhelming and enlightening. 

Understanding Leash Types

Leashes come in a variety of materials and designs, but for young pups, simplicity rules. Here’s a quick breakdown:

  • Standard Leashes: Ideal for training, offering control and durability. They’re typically made of nylon or leather.
  • Retractable Leashes: Not recommended for training. They can encourage pulling and make consistent correction challenging.
  • Adjustable Leashes: A good middle ground, offering flexibility with fixed lengths.

For puppies, a lightweight, non-retractable leash about 4-6 feet in length hits the sweet spot. It’s long enough for some freedom but short enough for control.

Picking the Perfect Collar

The collar is your pup’s constant accessory, so choosing the right one is key. Here’s what to keep in mind:

  • Size and Fit: It should be snug, with enough room for two fingers between the collar and your pup’s neck.
  • Material: Nylon or soft leather are comfortable, durable choices.
  • Breakaway Features: Particularly for very young pups, a collar with a quick release can prevent accidents during play.

Remember, the collar is more than a fashion statement. I opted for a collar that was adjustable, to accommodate my fast-growing furball, and chose a bright color for visibility.

The Power of Positive Reinforcement

With the right leash and collar, the foundation of training is set. But remember, the magic ingredient in leash training isn’t just about the gear. It’s about the bond between you and your pup, strengthened through patience, consistency, and the liberal use of treats and praise. I’ve learned that every little victory on the leash is a step closer to a well-behaved adult dog, and that’s something worth investing in.

Introducing Your Puppy to the Leash

Taking the first step in leash training involves a gentle and patient introduction. I’ve found that pups often view a leash and collar like a chew toy or a puzzle – something to be either destroyed or solved. So, ensuring this process is positive and stress-free is crucial.

The very first thing I do is let my puppy wear the collar around the house without the leash attached. This way, they get used to the feeling of having something around their neck. It sounds simple, but patience is key here. Some pups take to it like ducks to water, while others need more time to adjust.

Next, I introduce the leash, but not in the way you might think. Instead of clipping it on and heading straight out the door, I start by attaching the leash during playtime inside. This method has a dual purpose:

  • It normalizes the leash for the puppy, making it a part of their regular interaction.
  • It allows me to observe their reaction in a safe, controlled environment.

Through this indoor exploration, I gently guide them around, ensuring the leash remains slack, so establishing a sense of freedom and safety. I’ve noticed that treats and their favorite toys are excellent companions during this phase, serving as positive reinforcements for their brave venture into the world of leash training.

Once we’ve conquered the indoors, I gradually move this experience outside, initially to a quiet, familiar place. Remember, the world is a big, new place through a puppy’s eyes. Traffic noises, new scents, and even a breeze can be overwhelming. Hence, maintaining a routine for these outings enhances their comfort level significantly.

During these initial outdoor excursions, I focus not on distance or duration but on positive experiences. The goal here is not to tire them out but to build up their curiosity and confidence while on a leash. Short, enjoyable walks, packed with praises and treats, set the foundation for more adventurous outings in the future.

Transitioning to Longer Walks

As my puppy grows more accustomed to the leash and begins to explore with confidence, I start extending our adventures. For every increase in duration or distance, I pay close attention to their body language and energy levels. Maintaining a gradual increase ensures they don’t get overwhelmed or overly tired.

  • Timing is crucial. The best times for longer walks are usually after a nap or a meal when their energy levels are more predictable.
  • Variety adds spice. Changing up

Teaching Loose Leash Walking

Mastering loose leash walking is akin to the fine art of teaching a dance where both partners move in harmony. Trust me, it’s not just beneficial; it’s a game-changer for your daily walks. This journey from tangled leashes and frustration to smooth strolls requires patience, consistency, and a sprinkle of fun.

Starting this process involves a few simple, yet impactful steps that gradually introduce your puppy to the concept of walking by your side without pulling. Here’s how I’ve made this happen:

  • Start with the Right Gear: Before anything else, ensure your puppy is equipped with a comfortable collar or harness and a suitable leash. Comfort is key, as it sets the foundation for a positive training environment.
  • Introduce the Leash Indoors: Begin indoors where distractions are minimal. Attach the leash and let your puppy roam freely, dragging the leash behind. This helps them get used to the feel of the leash without any pressure.
  • Guide, Don’t Pull: Holding the leash loosely in your hand, encourage your puppy to follow you as you move around. Use treats or their favorite toy as a lure. The goal here is to make following you the best option available.
  • Carry out the ‘Stop and Go’ Method: This technique is straightforward but effective. When your puppy starts to pull, stop in your tracks. Only proceed when the leash is slack again. This teaches your puppy that pulling gets them nowhere, while loose leash walking makes you move.
  • Positive Reinforcement is Key: Always have a stash of treats ready to reward your puppy for staying by your side. Verbal praise and petting also go a long way in reinforcing good behavior.
  • Short and Sweet: Keep initial training sessions short to maintain your puppy’s attention and interest. Gradually increase the duration as they become more accustomed to walking without pulling.

One crucial aspect I’ve learned is to always observe your puppy’s body language and energy levels. Adjust your training accordingly. Some days they might be bursting with energy, requiring a bit more patience and a few extra treats. Other days, they might catch on quickly. Remember, every puppy is unique, and what works for one may not work for another.

Troubleshooting Common Leash Training Issues

When it comes to leash training, think of it as embarking on a trek where unexpected twists and turns are part of the adventure. I’ve faced my share of hurdles along the way, from puppies that act like anchors to those that fancy themselves as sled dogs. Let’s jump into some common challenges and how to steer them toward leash training success.

Pulling on the Leash

This one’s as common as it gets. Your furry friend catches a scent or sees a squirrel, and suddenly you’re in a tug-of-war. Here’s how I tackle it:

  • Stop in your tracks: The moment your pup starts pulling, become the most uninteresting statue. Movement resumes once the leash slackens.
  • Change direction: If stopping gets old, turn around and walk the other way. It keeps them guessing and focuses their attention back on you.

Leash Biting

Ah, the pups that confuse leashes for chew toys. This habit can fray more than just your leash; it can test your patience, too. My go-to strategies include:

  • Distract and swap: Offer a toy or treat to swap out for the leash. It’s all about making the trade-up appealing.
  • Bitter spray: If they’re persistent, a safe, bitter-tasting spray on the leash can work wonders.

Fear of the Leash

Gradual introductions are key here:

  • Start inside: Begin with short sessions indoors, where they feel safe.
  • Associate with positives: Meals and treats become leash time rewards, building positive connections.

Jumping or Biting

Excitement or overstimulation often manifests in ways we’d rather avoid. Here’s how I minimise the mayhem:

  • Redirect their energy: Before the walk, play a game to burn off some initial excitement.
  • Firm, calm no: If jumping or nipping happens, a firm “no” and turning away to withhold attention can be effective.
  • Entice with treats: Holding a treat just out of reach can get them moving.
  • Use excitement: A high-pitched, enthusiastic voice can make moving forward seem like


Mastering leash training with your puppy might seem daunting at first. But with patience, understanding, and the right strategies, it’s an achievable goal. Remember, every pup is unique, and what works for one may not work for another. It’s all about finding that sweet spot where your puppy feels comfortable and eager to learn. So next time you’re out for a walk and facing those familiar challenges, take a deep breath and apply what you’ve learned. You’ll be amazed at how quickly your furry friend adapts. And before you know it, those peaceful, enjoyable walks you’ve been dreaming of will become a reality. Happy training!


Kimberley Lehman

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