How to get a puppy to walk on a lead

It’s a common problem for many dog owners, but with the right approach, you can have a pleasant and enjoyable walk with your pup.

Puppy cuddles in human's lap
As a new puppy owner, it can be difficult to imagine that your furry friend could potentially become a challenging dog on a lead. It’s not uncommon for many puppies to be hesitant to walk forward on a lead initially, and I receive numerous queries on this topic. My advice is to take a wait-and-see approach.

Lead training

It’s almost certain that a puppy will eventually learn to walk forward on a lead, so there’s usually no need to worry about that. However, if your puppy pulls on the lead, that can become a problem

A mistake that many puppy parents make is that they inadvertently teach their dogs to pull on the lead. By allowing your puppy to pull on the lead, your pet learns that it gains an advantage by pulling. Pet owners often follow their curious puppies as it pulls them towards places, people, objects and other pets it is interested in. It is not a significant issue as a puppy, however over time, as your pet gets bigger and stronger, it can become a major problem.

Do it right from the start

You should teach your puppy to walk nicely on a lead right from the start to avoid this problem. Start by initially training your puppy off lead. It may sound strange and contradictory, but it is not. Train your puppy by praising them and giving them treats when they stay by your side when walking off lead. Practice in a spacious room or in the garden, ideally somewhere quiet where there aren’t any distractions.

At first your puppy should just wear the collar to get used to it and eventually a lead as well. It is a good idea to allow your puppy to play a little before attaching the lead as it is likely to be excited and full of energy. Whenever your puppy is on the lead, you need to be consistent with training. As soon as the lead stretches, i.e., the puppy pulls, you stop. Do not move forwards until your pet stops pulling. If you do this consistently, your puppy learns that pulling on the lead does not pay off; your pet does not get to move forward. Do not jerk back the lead if your dog is pulling.

Reward and praise your dog when they are walking on a loose lead and nicely by your side.

Reward attention

Reward the puppy every time it pays attention to you while on the lead. It is important that you are able to gain your pet’s attention at any time when walking.

You must always keep in mind that the lead is not for controlling your dog. You should have control over your pet anyway. The function of the lead is just extra security, or to show consideration for other people in the environment.