Does your rescue dog pull the leash when you take him for a walk? Has this turned into a problem for you? Then you have found the right place to learn how to leash train a dog properly.
I used to have the same problem with my collie/ mixed breed dog. He grew up big and powerful, and he used to carry me around the neighborhood as if I was a potato sack. I was reminded of these episodes from my childhood when I stumbled on the question “How do we leash train a 2-year-old rescued dog properly?”
As you can imagine, it’s no fun to fight with your dog for control every time you go for a walk. Not to mention that leash pulling might be dangerous if the dog is too strong and manages to run away. Fortunately, even an older dog could be retrained to behave properly and walk calmly next to you.
Before we dive into the question of how to leash train our older dog, we should look at the core of the issue.
Why does the dog pull the leash?
It’s not hard science when you think about it. Dogs pull because they want to get somewhere/ explore something/chase something and they are frustrated because we humans don’t move as fast as they would like to.
But a more accurate answer would be that we teach the dog that it’s ok to pull. Every time we allow the dog to pull the lead, we are establishing and reestablishing a pattern. “I pull, I get what I want” – that’s what your dog has learned and in his mind pulling means rewards.
That’s where training has to come in place and teach the dog that pulling won’t get him near his target more quickly and that a loose leash is what will get him the reward.
How to leash train a 2-year rescue dog (or any adult dog, for that matter)?
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As you can imagine, it’s not easy to reteach an older dog that pulling is bad after he has some experience that points to the opposite. You’ll need a lot of time to teach him the new rules, and it’s important that you don’t use any punishment. It will only make thing worse, especially when it comes to rescue dogs.
1- Pick the right equipment
Before you start your leash training lessons, you have to make sure that you have everything you need. In this case:
- a proper collar, which is not too tight or too loose (see bonus tips below)
- a suitable leash for your dog’s size
- a lot of treats
When dealing with older dogs, it might be a good idea to get a training lead. This is a shorter leash, which keeps the dog close to you and allows you to correct inappropriate behavior more quickly.
Another option is to get a head halter, which is a specially designed collar to stop your dog from pulling. It looks a lot like a muzzle, but it’s not because your dog can still bark and bite. Although the head halter doesn’t cause pain, most dogs will hate it at first. As a result, you’ll have to spend some extra time getting your dog used to wearing one.
For some dog owners using a head halter is cruel. So it’s up to you to judge its pros and cons. But never use shock or prong collars. Unlike halters, they cause pain and physical damage.
2- Deal with the excitement
What does your dog do when you pick his leash and prepare for a walk? He probably runs happily around in anticipation of going outside because he knows what is happening. And an overly excited dog is more likely to start pulling to get to his favorite spot in the park.
The solution is to calm your dog before going for a walk. If he gets excited while you’re putting on the leash, stop and back off. Repeat this until your dog understands that excitement won’t get him out of the door.
It’s also a good idea to burn off some of your dog’s excess energy by having an exercise session before going for a walk. A tired dog is less likely to start pulling on a leash than one who has been sitting all day at home with nothing to do.
Also, my advice is to start small. By this, I mean short training sessions around the neighborhood. The familiar landscape won’t be as interesting to your dog as new sights, and you’ll be able to start reinforcing the new rules.
3- Stop the dog from pulling
When your dog starts pulling on the leash you have several options:
- stop dead in your tracks and don’t move
- start walking in the opposite direction (don’t attempt this if the dog is wearing a head halter)
- take a few steps backwards
- keep treats in your hand and offer them to the dog from time to time to keep him from wondering off
When the dog stops pulling his leash, call him back to you. Then offer him a treat and praise him. Repeat as often as need.
Eventually, Lucky will learn that walking on a loose leash next to you means tasty food and will stop trying to pull you around.
Remember that retraining a rescue dog to walk on a leash properly takes time. Don’t expect a quick change in the behavior and be patient above all.
Bonus Tips: Using a Dog Training Leash Effectively
Here are some extra tips to using a dog training leash effectively that will help you with the tips above.
Choose the Right Collar for Your Dog
The right dog collar is absolutely vital. You don’t want a dog collar that will choke your dog but one that is too loose is not good either. Spend some time picking out the right collar and your leash will be much more effective. The leash and collar must both be of good quality and fit the neck of your dog. Some folks use a harness, but a collar is generally just fine.
Use Walking-Exclusive Dog Treats
One way to keep your dog excited about leash training is to use walk exclusive dog treats. If you use the same dog treats that you use for other training exercises, your dog will not associate them with leash training. Having them associate the treats with the exercise will allow them to look forward to it and respond in a positive manner.
Make Sure the Dog is Calm Before Walking
Keeping your dog calm is a very important part of getting them used to the leash. A dog that is overly excitable is almost always going to be a challenge on the end of a leash. Taking the time to relax your pooch and get them into a calm state of mind before you leave is generally a good idea. While it is good for your dog to be excited about the training, you do not want to take him out when he is hyped up.
Practice Makes Perfect
Like every other type of dog training, leash training with your puppy is all about perseverance. If you are willing to put in the time and effort, pretty much any dog is capable of learning to walk on a leash. Some dogs are more difficult than others, but they all are capable of learning. Your patience and determination is the only ingredient necessary to ensure leash training success.
Try Different Training Methods Until You Find the One that Work
Much like their human counterparts, dogs do not all learn the same way. Some people learn better by hearing directions, while others might learn more effectively by doing things. Still others might learn better by watching others. Dogs also have various ways of learning and you may need to explore several different methods of leash training before you find the one that sticks. Give them a try and you will eventually find one that works for you and your pup.
What about your older dog? Does he pull the leash? How did you leash train him? Give us your advice in the comments.