Pets

Advice on teaching your dog to walk on a leash

Taking your puppy for a walk is a great way to provide exercise for your four-legged friend and yourself. Many people think that dogs just innately know how to walk on a leash, but this is a skill that needs to be taught. With time and training, you two will be going for pleasant daily strolls in no time.

Mary Burch, the American Kennel Club's canine good citizen director, offers the following tips for teaching your puppy to walk on a leash:

– Slowly introduce leash and collar. Figure out which leash and collar will work best for you and your dog, depending on her habits. When going to buy your leash and collar, it's best to take your dog with you to make sure you have the right fit.

– Stay consistent. Determine what side you want your puppy to walk on and stick with that side to avoid confusion. Identify a toy or treat that your puppy loves, and before you start walking, use the food or toy to gain your pup's attention and to motivate her.

– Maintain focus. Put on the leash and start with your puppy at your preferred side. Hold the toy or treat at the center of your waist to keep her attention on you.

– Give a command. Give your puppy a verbal command to walk, such as "Let's walk" or "Heel." As you walk forward and your puppy walks along with you, praise her by saying "Good girl, walk!" If your dog starts pulling the leash, stand still. By doing this, you are teaching your pup to leave some slack in the leash. When there is some slack in the leash, you may begin again. Use the phrase "with me" to start moving forward.

– Reward your pup. For every few feet your puppy appropriately walks beside you, stop and give her a little piece of the treat or let her play with the toy. Start with five steps, then build up to 10, then 15. Eventually you'll be able to reduce or eliminate the use of a treat or toy. In this way, you are teaching your dog that it is rewarding to pay attention to you. Once she is walking with you, make sure to offer your dog plenty of praise.

For more tips on dog ownership, visit the AKC at www.akc.org.

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