How To: Train Your Dog to Walk on a Leash

Elan Mansur

Do you walk your dog, or does your dog walk you?

Unfortunately, many dog parents struggle with what is supposed to be a fun activity with our furry friends. Many people think that dogs just innately know how to walk politely on a leash, but this skill is something that needs to be trained.

Here are some easy ways to train your dog to walk calmly on a leash:

Prevent Pulling

Any seasoned pet parent or dog walker has seen it, or maybe even suffered through it—dogs straining at the leash, pulling their human in all different directions. There may be a number of factors at play, but often pulling is due to a lack of focus and excitement on the walk. Keep the leash really short and make unpredictable movements—stop, start, and turn. Make the dog realise they have to pay attention to you because he doesn’t know what’s going to happen next. This way, he has to follow you to keep up. 

If you’re in the house or a safe, quiet off-leash area where you want to work with your dog, take a squeaky toy, ball, or cookies—anything that’ll keep your dog’s interest. Keep them by your side and as your dog follows, give them the treat and say, “Good heel!”

Stop Constant Sniffing

Does your dog want to stop every five feet on a walk to sniff, dig, or mark his territory? This might be due to the type of leash you’re using—a retractable leash where your dog can wander far away is not ideal. 

The two biggest problems with these types of leashes are leaving too much slack on the leash and a lack of control. You have to teach the dog to follow you, which goes back to the method of preventing pulling.

Pro Tip: Teach your dog that sniffing is okay, but there are times for it. Dedicate part of the walk to walking, and part of the walk to sniffing and exploring.


Move It Along!

Some dogs pause during the walk and refuse to continue. They are simply frozen in place and no amount of coaxing seems to work.

What not to do:

  • Don’t feed your dog when he stops. A lot of people think a cookie will lure their dog to get up and walk again. The problem is you’re rewarding them for stopping, so they’re going to keep stopping to get more cookies.
  • Don’t pull on the leash. Pulling on the leash doesn’t work because the dog’s mind is locked—they stubbornly think they don’t want to move. By pulling, all you’re doing is getting in a battle of line, and they are just going to stay locked in that mindset.

Try this instead:

  • Change the dog’s mind about wanting to move. Think of them as being stuck in a daze and you have to get them out of it. Do something strange that distracts them, like whistling or squeaking a toy, anything to get them to pay attention to the distraction and not the fact they don’t want to move anymore. Remember not to actually give the dog the toy, which would reward the stopping behaviour. 
  • Touch the dog somewhere he doesn’t expect you to, such as a tap on the back or tail. It’s not petting or being affectionate, which would also be rewarding the behaviour, it’s just a little poke to get them out of their locked state. You’re doing something that’s a little bit weird and because they’re wondering what it is, they get up and start moving again.

Teaching Puppies Leash Etiquette

Getting off on the right paw is crucial to teaching a puppy proper leash etiquette—and the sooner, the better. As soon as you get your puppy, put him on a leash in your house and play inside. If you wait several days or weeks to introduce the leash, they’re going to be confused as to what it is and fight to get it off.

Once your puppy is used to the leash in the house, walk them in the garden, eventually progressing to walks outside. If your puppy starts pulling, stop dead. He then learns that pulling makes you stop, which is the opposite of what he wants.

The Bottom Line

Our furry friends need the exercise and stimulation of a walk on a daily basis. If your schedule doesn’t allow it, book a great dog walker (luckily, that’s never been easier).

If your dog isn’t walked every day, that’s going to cause problems. They’re going to be so eager to be out that their energy level is too high, and they’ll walk erratically and pull. If they go out often, it’s not as big a deal and they’ll be much calmer.

And if you or your pup need some new outdoor gear to get you started, head over to to pick up your new kit!