How to Leash Train Your Dog

How to Train Your Dog to Walk on a Leash

Training your dog to be comfortable with a leash will teach them good manners plus it allows you both to safely navigate the world. Collar and leash training can be a fun part of your dog’s day.

Puppies do not instinctively know how to respond to a collar and leash, never mind walking politely by your side. Teaching your dog these skills will set them up for a life full of opportunity.

In How to Leash Train Your Dog, you will know how to choose and fit a collar for your puppy.  Leash choices can seem overwhelming to a new puppy owner, we will look at four styles and their main purpose.

Next, with your puppy fitted for a collar and the best leash choice, you can quickly introduce your pup to walking with a leash.

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How to Leash Train Your Dog: Types of Collars

The type of collar you choose will depend on your dog’s size and your lifestyle.  The best way to assist you with making the right choice is listing several types of collars that work well for leash training.

Included is a description of the four collar types below and why people chose that style.

  • Flat buckle collar
  • Training head collar
  • Smart collar
  • Martingale style collar

A flat buckle dog collar is a standard collar that fit snuggly around the dog’s neck.  Check the fitting to be sure you can fit two of your fingers between the dog’s neck and collar. These collars allow for attaching any identification tags and for attaching a leash.

Pros:  Easy to adjust, come in a variety of colors and styles.

Cons:  The collar has the potential to get caught on items. When the dog strains on the leash it can choke the dog and put pressure on their trachea.

Training head collars are worn over the nose and around the neck.  They are intended as a training tool to discourage pulling. Some head collars come with a “safety line” that attaches to the traditional flat buckle collar.

Pros:  Great training tool for young dogs that like to pull while walking.

Cons: Can never be left alone on a dog and some dogs find them uncomfortable.

Smart collars are high-tech electronic collars that can track your dog’s health and activity, track their location, or give corrections during training.

Pros: Helpful for locating lost dogs and tracking specific health measures.

Cons: Substituted for quality dog training and can be used as a punishment.

Martingale style collars are considered no-slip collars. The collar is loose-fitting when a dog is not engaged in activity.  When the dog pulls on the leash, the collar constricts enough that the dog will not slip out of their collar.

Pros:  Designed for dogs with necks and heads that are a similar size.

Cons:  If it is not fitted and adjusted properly it can choke the dog.

When you are learning how to leash train your dog, choose a collar that works well for training such as a flat buckle collar worn with a training head collar.  Some dogs respond well to a martingale style collar for training purposes.

Once you have purchased the right collar you want to make sure your dog is comfortable with you putting its collar on and off.

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How to Leash Train Your Dog: Introducing the Collar

Your new puppy or dog more than likely will have started wearing a collar before they came into your life.  However, do not assume that because they have a collar on or have worn one before that they are collar trained.

Here are a few tips to help your dog become more comfortable with the process of having their collar put on every day. You will need kibble or treats for this exercise. 

Only use kibble if your dog LOVES his meals.  Otherwise, chose a treat that they would find pleasant.  If your dog is not food motivated at all, use praise.

Introduce the Collar. Hold the collar in one hand and treats in the other. Let your dog smell the collar. Treat. Repeat.

  • Once your dog has become comfortable with the idea of a collar, put it around their neck. Treat your dog.
  • Remove the collar.
  • Increase the duration your dog wears the collar. Treat. For some dogs, playtime with you is rewarding and distracting at the same time. Either way putting on their collar is a positive experience when learning how to leash train your dog.
  • Remove the collar when they are distracted or relaxed. Repeat several times a day.

Now that your dog has been introduced to the collar and is comfortable wearing one, we will move on to introducing the leash.

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How to Leash Train Your Dog
Photo by Robinson Greig on Unsplash

How to Leash Train Your Dog: Pick Your Leash

The selection of leashes available both in pet stores and online can be overwhelming. Generally, three types of leashes work well when learning how to leash train your dog.

  • Standard Leash – with handle & clip
  • Leashes with Special Features
  • Slip Leads

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A Standard Dog Leash is made with a handle at one end and a clip on the other.  Most training leashes are made of nylon, leather, cotton rope, or a biothane material.

Pros: Easy to hold training leash, comes in a standard 4ft & 6 ft. lengths

Cons:  Some clips can break or get sticky with use.

Leashes with Special Features could include an additional handle halfway down the leash.  Another special feature is an adjustable leash that usually allows for the leash to clip in half shortening the length. People that run or hike may use the leashes with a bungee has part of the leash.

Pros: An additional handle and a short leash can allow better control.

Cons: The leash can be bulky and get in the way of training.

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Slip Leads are a combination collar and leash all in one.  They slip over the dog’s head with a small leather or silicone tube that keeps the collar portion in place.

Pros: Work well for focused training with obstacle courses and teaching done in a structured setting.

Cons: Dogs that are not trained properly can have their airway cut off when they pull on the leash. Some dogs find a way to slip out of the collar/leash combination.

When making the decision of what kind of leash is appropriate for your dog, consider the size of dog, the dog’s strength, and your lifestyle.  Even little dogs can be quite strong at the end of the leash.

Every dog is different, some dogs are natural pleasers and are easy to train.  On the flip side, some dogs need more structured training time.  Now let the fun begin; how to leash train your dog by introducing the new leash to your dog. 

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How to Leash Train Your Dog: Introducing the Leash

In order for you and your dog to go places, your dog needs to be comfortable with the leash attached to their collar. 

Begin with the following four steps.

How to leash Train your Dog – 4 simple steps

  1. Show your dog the leash & when they approach, treat them. (Repeat)
  2. Attach the leash and praise your dog.
  3. Unclip it right away.  Repeat attaching, praise, and unclipping.
  4. Attach leash and begin walking (only a few steps at a time)

Walk Backwards. The first time you attach the leash to the collar, walk backward allowing your puppy to follow you. Praise your dog.

Less Distractions. It can be easier if you begin in a location with fewer distractions. Often starting in your home first and then moving outside works well.

Not a Toy. It is important to remember the leash is not a toy.  Once your dog thinks it is okay to chew or play around with the leash, your job will become more difficult. After you are done working with your dog, remove the leash.

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FAQs on How to Leash Train Your Dog: Commonly asked Questions

How long does it take to leash train a dog?

The amount of time it takes to leash train a dog can vary depending on a variety of factors, such as the age of the dog, the dog’s personality, previous training experiences, the consistency and patience of the owner and the dog’s intellect.

Surprisingly, very intelligent dog may be the hardest to train and be the most stubborn.

In general, it’s best to start leash training a dog as early as possible. Puppies can begin learning to walk on a leash as young as 8 weeks old, and older dogs can also be trained, although it may take more time and patience.

Consistency is key when it comes to leash training a dog. It’s important to use positive reinforcement techniques and to be patient and persistent. Start by getting the dog used to wearing a collar or harness, and then gradually introduce the leash.

Begin by allowing the dog to wear the leash while walking around the house or yard, and then progress to short walks outside.

It’s important to keep training sessions short and to end on a positive note.

Some dogs may learn to walk on a leash in just a few days, while others may take several weeks or even months to become comfortable with the process. The key is to be patient, consistent, and to celebrate the dog’s progress along the way.

What if my dog instinctively pulls back when I take the first step?

Stand still and wait for your dog to relieve the pressure. Be patient and quiet. When your puppy stops pulling back or sideways, praise.

How do I handle my puppy when they begin biting on the leash?

The most common reason for biting on the leash is immaturity and excitement. When puppies get excited anything can be a play toy.  Re-direct your dog by asking for a “sit” or “down”.  Once your dog drops the leash take a step and praise. Do not engage in play by pulling back on the leash. 


When you see a behavior in your puppy you want them to repeat, reward them (often with a treat). Over time your dog will associate their collar and the leash with enriching activity.

How do I train my dog to walk beside me off leash?

Training a dog to walk beside you off-leash requires time, patience, and consistency. It’s important to remember that off-leash walking should only be attempted in a safe and secure area.

Before attempting off-leash walking, start by teaching your dog basic obedience commands such as “come,” “sit,” “stay,” and “heel” on a leash.

Next, practice recall training in a familiar and quiet area, gradually increasing distance and distractions. Once your dog becomes reliable, start practicing off-leash walking in an enclosed area, such as a fenced-in yard or dog park, starting with a short distance and gradually increasing it.

Use positive reinforcement techniques, such as treats, praise, and playtime to reward your dog for staying close to you.

Keep your dog safe from potential hazards and avoid using punishment or negative reinforcement.

With patience, consistency, and positive reinforcement, your dog can learn to walk beside you off-leash.

The Bottom Line on How to Leash Train Your Dog

Keep these three tips in mind and your dog will know good times are associated with that leash.

  1. Hold the leash in one hand and allow your dog to come to you.  Praise and treat your dog.
  2. Practice attaching the leash to the dog’s collar and taking a few steps.
  3. One frequent way to practice getting your puppy comfortable with the leash is to use it for potty breaks.

After the dog wakes from a nap is a good time to take them out with the leash on. The dog will be focused on eliminating and not on fussing with the leash.

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