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Use treats when leash training, teaching dog

Original Publication Date: October 5, 2015
By C. Sue Furman, Ph.D.

Dogs do not instinctively know how to calmly walk next to you on a leash. Puppies have to learn to go for a walk but so do many rescue dogs who were never taught the art of walking with a person.

Keep in mind that collars and leashes are foreign objects to them and being attached to a person is a whole new experience. Be patient, consistent and positive throughout the training process. The following guidelines should help you get started.

Be thoughtful when selecting a pup's first collar. Buy a lightweight collar that they will hardly feel. Do not start them with a large heavy collar just because they will grow into it. A collar that clips makes fastening it much easier and quicker than one that buckles.

Treats are a necessary tool for any type of training and learning to wear a collar and walk on a leash are no exception. Most dogs like bits of wiener, cheese, cooked chicken, or freeze-dried liver. Chop treats into peanut sized morsels. Now you are equipped and ready to start.

Immediately give a treat when you clip the collar on the first time so the dog associates the collar with good things.

Quickly divert their attention from the collar by playing a game like fetch or tug or amuse them with a favorite toy.

Keep each training period short. Repeat the routine several times a day until the pup is comfortable wearing his collar.

Build the time of training sessions until they're totally relaxed having the collar put on and wearing it.

Now it is time to introduce the leash. Attach a short piece of lightweight cord or rope to the collar and let the dog wear it around the house under supervision.

The cord should not be so long that it tangles in his legs or around furniture. Again supervision and treats should be used while the pup is adapting to the idea of a leash.

Use treats when leash training, teaching dog Use treats when leash training, teaching dog
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When he is comfortable with something attached to his collar, clip on the leash and immediately give a treat.

Don't try to pull them to you with the leash. Instead, lure them to you with a treat or a toy.

Continue to use treats to entice him to stay beside you. They should learn to walk by your left side. Keep treats in your left hand and give one every several steps to hold his interest. This approach builds a positive connection to walking with a collar and leash.

Patience, consistency, and lots of small treats are the key to training a pup or older dog to accept a collar and leash and go for a walk. Make the experience fun for both of you. Training may take some time, but it is worth the effort and can be quite enjoyable.

Sue Furman, Ph.D, has published two books and a DVD on canine massage and teaches classes in pet massage, acupressure, first aid and CPR. See her schedule and submit questions at