Question: Our puppy is about 3 months old now, but he’s having a hard time learning to walk on a leash. What’s the best way to teach him to do this?
Answer: At his age, your pup doesn’t fully understand the leash. He’s a baby, so take things easy and start with baby steps. There is a very powerful message communicated with the hands free dog leash and here’s why: Our dogs are direct descendants of the gray wolf, and wolves spend most of their time patrolling their territory. And when they’re on “patrol” the pack leader’s responsibility is the safety and togetherness of the pack. Everybody stays together.
When your dog is little, we don’t want to do anything to create what I call a “bad leash experience.” You don’t want your inadvertent heavy-handedness to make him think “I hate the leash.” It’s far more natural for him to love the leash, and he will learn what you want by being gently insistent.
Use a hands free dog leash your puppy. Retractable leashes are not the ticket to leash train your dog for a variety of reasons. You don’t want to use a correction collar, or any other gimmick at this juncture, either. And although many people use harnesses, I only use a harness in the car. As long as you’re not cranking on the hands free dog leash, a simple flat collar will be fine.
Use the hand free dog leash when you take him outside to do his business, but follow him around and keep the tension off. If possible, coax him with light tension and a happy voice, rather than yanking on him to get him to go a certain direction.
If he wants to put the leash in his mouth, discourage this by simply pulling it out, but be quick about it. You must be more tenacious than him.
As far as walking on the leash goes, all you really should concern yourself with until he gets to be about 5 or 6 months old is that he moves along with you, keeps his nose off the ground, and doesn’t get ahead of you. That’s it. Encourage him to be on the left if you can, but at this point we don’t really care too much about which side he’s on. He’s going to be back and forth, and you can let him, but we won’t let him pass in front of us.
If he tries to creep ahead of you, gently draw him sideways (not backward) laterally toward your knee. If he balks or “digs in,” coax him. Use your sweetest, happiest voice and pat your leg to get him to come along with you. Praise him for coming along, and keep moving.
The message is: “The pack is moving, lets go”. Disallow sniffing. Every time he puts his nose on the ground to sniff, hold tension on the leash to keep him from it as you say “no” but keep moving. The pack stops when you — the leader — release him with an “OK!” to sniff around and so on.