Puppy Refuses to Walk on a Leash [How to Leash Train Your Puppy]

Walking your puppy is a good exercise for both you and your pup. You walk straight ahead, leisurely pace, pet right by your side, and not once does he pull towards a tree…in a perfect world maybe!

Most of the time you don’t see this experience. I usually see a puppy walking their person, not the other way around. I’ve had a couple dogs in my life, and I’ve experienced both. My bull-terrier was a very well-behaved walker. My akita on the other hand, not so much. He had his own agenda for a long time.

The difference between the two was training. The bull-terrier was trained from the moment he was able to walk. The akita was a little older when I got him and had bad habits. It wasn’t his fault, no one had taught him any better. Boy did I have my work cut out for me. We worked through all his issues and he got right in the groove of things.

Puppies can start to wear a collar as soon as 8-9 weeks old. Leash training a puppy is a fun activity and can be started at 10 weeks old. It all really depends on your pup and how comfortable he is.

If your puppy refuses to walk on a leash, it probably means they are uncertain about what’s going on. The best way to teach a puppy to walk on a leash is to start in an area they are comfortable with. When you put the leash on y our puppy, don’t take them outside right away. Walk them on the leash inside where they are comfortable. Once they learn the leash “isn’t that bad”, you can take them outside. 

Before you begin leash training your puppy, you need to make sure you have the right collar or harness.


Collar vs. Harness

If your puppy refuses to walk on a leash, then switching to a harness might be the best solution

You want a collar that is a good fit. You need to make sure it isn’t too big or too small. If it’s too big, it will slip over your puppy’s head. Too small and it could restrict his breathing or cause muscle strain. The general rule is two fingers should fit between your puppy and the collar.

Harnesses are easier to fit and don’t go around the neck in a way that could potentially cause harm. If your puppy pulls, it won’t restrict airflow. It also eliminates neck strain from pulling. It’s a better option for puppies. Especially puppies of smaller breeds like chihuahuas or pugs.

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The first step to leash training a puppy is to select the proper leash! When choosing the length, you want to consider your surroundings. If you live in the country with nothing around you, then longer lengths are fine. If you live in the city though, you need one shorter. Between 3-5 ft is a good length for sidewalks and places with heavy traffic.

Once you determine the size, you need to figure out which type you should get. Here are the four most common types of leashes.

Nylon leashes

These are very common and come in a variety of colors and lengths. Some may even have embellishments on them such as rhinestones or studs. They are sturdy, but if pulled quickly and hard enough, they can give you nylon burn. I always tie a strop knot in these to hold in my hand. If the leash is pulled, it can only go so far. It can also help keep your pup at a specific distance.

Leather Leashes

This is another sturdy choice, and the material is smooth. These can be stiff at first but will stretch and soften with use. Just like any other leather product will. They come in a wide variety of colors and sizes

Chain Leashes

These are sturdy, chain links with a loop made of leather or similar material. Don’t wrap them around your hand or fingers. This could lead to injury. A good variety of lengths but not colors.

Retractable Leashes

These have a hard plastic handle and remind me of a tape measure. You can lock them at a certain length, and they come in quite a few colors. I wouldn’t personally use one for training a puppy because they give you less control. If something were to happen, it would not retract quick enough for you to pull back your puppy. Made of thin nylon, these can also give you nylon burn if pulled through your hand and knotting them will defeat their purpose.

If you’re brand new to leash training a puppy, your best option would be a nylon or leather leash.

Leash Training a Puppy That Refuses to Walk On The Leash

It can take some time for a puppy to get used to walking on a leash

Once you have a collar/harness and leash, then what? Now it’s time to begin the official training! Before we get started, it’s important that you remember patience is key when it comes to training dogs. This is especially true when it comes to training puppies. Don’t get mad if your pup doesn’t understand things the first time around. The key is to be persistent. The more persistent you are, the quicker your pup will learn.

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Get The Collar or Harness On Your Pup

Wearing a collar or harness will be a completely new experience for your puppy. When you first put it on, most pups will be uncertain about it. Your job is to make your puppy comfortable when putting the collar or harness on. You can do this by playing or giving belly rubs and then slip the collar over your pup’s head. If he resists, stop, and calm him. Then offer a treat to smooth things over and try again. Don’t get frustrated if it takes a few attempts. Think happy thoughts and keep it positive.

Start Walking…Inside

This is one of the most important steps to leash training a puppy, so make sure you don’t look past it. Once you have the collar and leash on its time for a trial run indoors. This way he is in a familiar environment and feels safe. Start by leading him around, being careful not to pull. Once he seems okay with this try taking him outside in your yard. Let your puppy get comfortable. If you don’t have a yard, puppy classes can be a safe place to train. There can be a lot of distractions there though. It will require an extra amount of patience. Make sure you walk them on the leash inside about 4 or 5 times per day for the next 2-3 days.

Follow The Leader (Still Inside)

Focus on getting your puppy to follow you. You want to keep any slack in your hand but allow him to have some distance. Having some treats in your pockets is crucial. You want to reward him when he does what you want.

Start by walking slowly once you have your puppy’s attention. Use cue words like “come on” or “walk” when trying to get him to follow along. If your puppy starts pulling at the leash, turn around. Start walking in that direction. Each time he pulls, turn and walk in the other direction. Eventually, he’ll catch on that he is supposed to be following you.

Rewards go a long way

Rewards don’t always have to be snacks. A reward can be a timeout from training by a quick game of tug-o-war or throwing a ball.

You want this experience to be as positive as possible so your puppy will be eager to go on the leash. He will learn from you that leash time equals quality time and fun. A reward effort approach will help you bond with your puppy and make him more comfortable. Some puppies don’t care for treats, but playtime is always welcome.

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Take It Outside

The final step is to take it outside. Once you feel your puppy is comfortable on the leash inside and they’re following your commands, you can take it outside. Again, it’s important to be patient with your puppy when you take things outdoors because there will be a lot more distractions.

That’s really all there is to it when leash training a puppy. It just takes time and practice, there’s no need to make it more complicated than it actually is. Taking the time to do proper leash training with your puppy is essential. How many times do you see adult dogs pulling on a leash and not listening to their owner? That’s because they weren’t properly leash trained as a puppy.

If your puppy refuses to walk on a leash right now, they’re likely just scared. Take the time to talk them around inside until they learn that the leash is not dangerous.

Good luck with your puppy adventures and happy training.

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