Teaching a puppy to walk at” heel” is not the first step. Teaching a puppy to “walk with a leash on” is the first step. What does that mean?

You bring home a new puppy and your first concern is housetraining. You take your puppy outside and onto the grass close to your house or in your back yard, preferably a fenced-in backyard, and your puppy starts learning to urinate and defecate outside. Then your puppy follows you back into the house. That’s all good. Then the day comes when it’s time to put on a collar and leash. Even though I believe it’s best to start with a leash within the first few days of bringing your puppy home, that is not the way the story always goes as told to me by pet parents.

Let’s put aside, for now, the probability of your puppy biting on the leash. Not every puppy will happily cooperate with being walked on a leash. This isn’t even about collar vs harness. We’re only talking about using a leash

Here are some examples of what might happen. You attach a leash and…

  1. The puppy won’t move.
  2. The puppy sits down
  3. The puppy goes the other way
  4. The puppy rolls over.

So, you pick the puppy up and go to the door. Now the puppy…

  1. Won’t go through the door to go outside.
  2. Backs away from the door to run further into the house.

So, you pick the puppy up and put him outside. Now the puppy…

  1. Lies down in the grass.
  2. Refuses to walk at all, not even on the sidewalk or driveway in front of your home.

So, what should you do?  

  1. Start by putting a leash on your puppy indoors and letting him drag it around while playing fetch or ball or anything else that interests him.
  2. If he likes a particular toy, hold it in your hand in front of him and let him follow you around.
  3. Pick up the leash handle and repeat step 2.
  4. Guide your puppy by following him a short distance the way he wants to go, and then let him follow you.
  5. When your puppy is in a secure area away from the door, open the door and leave it open.
  6. Making sure your puppy is secure on his leash, repeat step 3 then step 2, through the door.
  7. Once outside, play for a few minutes and come back inside.
  8. Repeat several times until your puppy is comfortable with this process of going through the open door.
  9. With the door closed, keep your puppy’s attention with a toy, and open the door. The quicker you open the door, the more successful. Opening the door slowly will only bring more attention to it. With toy in hand, lead your puppy out through the door.

Reverse and repeat until the puppy is comfortable with going in and out of the door.

It’s always easier to teach a puppy to walk on a leash if you’re on the driveway or area away from grass. The grass is a huge distraction and at the beginning of training, it works better to avoid it.

Many puppies will not walk away from the house. Carry your puppy a short distance away from your house and try letting him walk home. Use a toy or even bending down and calling him or waving your fingers to encourage him to come to you as you begin to back up. Once your puppy is easily able to walk home a few times, begin passing your home and continue down the street. When he stops, and won’t go further, or within a reasonable distance, turn and have him walk home again.

Not all of these steps need to be done in a series at the same training session. Practice parts of the walking on leash process individually until the puppy is comfortable with that part of it. Then move on to the next step.

If your puppy is biting the leash, take the leash off your puppy and try a Bitter Spray biting/chewing deterrent on the leash. Never spray it at your puppy.



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