1. Start ASAP. Whether your dog is two months or two years when he arrives in your home you should start teaching him to walk nicely on leash from day one. It is easiest to start with a young pup because they are programmed to be great at playing follow the leader. But, even an older dog in a new home is likely to want to stick close to you as he may feel a bit insecure in his new environment. Use this to your benefit and teach your pup to speed up, slow down and turn when you do.
2. Practice indoors; hallways and lobbies can be great training spaces! Teaching a dog to pay attention outdoors can be a daunting task. But, if you build a foundation of good attention indoors it will be much easier. Once your dog excels at this game indoors she will be ready to practice outdoors as well.
3. Teach Your Dog to Dance! Walking nicely on leash is similar to learning to dance. You are partners on your walk, with you being the leader. Teach your dog what it means to walk nicely with you by starting with a simple Step, Stop, Sit routine. Start with one step and as you stop, use a treat in your hand to guide your pup to sit at your side by lifting it a couple of inches over your dog’s head and slightly back towards her rear. Say “Yes” when she sits and follow up with a tasty treat. After about 10-20 repetitions, most pups start to figure out that stopping and sitting is what earns them a tiny treat and calm praise. When your pup is sitting automatically when you stop, try increasing to two steps in between stops, then 3, 4 and so on. Pretty soon your pup will be a great dance partner!
4. Don’t be stingy! Reward generously with tiny food treats and lots of praise and play because walking on leash outdoors is one of the most difficult things to teach a dog. Consider that you are competing for your dog’s attention with an endless list of sights, sounds, and smells. So, make it easier for your dog to choose to pay attention to you by making a source of great treats, toys and praise.
5. Provide plenty of appropriate mental and physical exercise for your dog. A dog who gets adequate exercise is far more likely to walk nicely on leash once you have taught him or her to do so.