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How to Train an Older Dog to Walk on a Leash?

rear view of a man walking his dog on a cobblestone street

Have you adopted an adult dog who lacks leash training? Fortunately, it is NOT that difficult to leash train an older dog, provided you give him/her the right training. Ideally, canines should learn this basic skill at an early age to avoid uncomfortable (and potentially dangerous) walks. Having said that, an older dog can also develop into a confident walker if you follow a consistent approach.

Taking the dog for a walk is one of the best methods to make a strong bond with your pup. However, it can prove to be an extremely tiring experience if your pet keeps pulling on his/her lead. Therefore, it is vital to leash train your dog properly to ensure a healthy relationship. The following methods can be helpful for training an older dog to walk on a leash.

Training Lead Method

This technique is extremely effective for over-excited dogs who go crazy as soon as the leash is attached. It involves the use of a short lead that is quite beneficial for leash training a dog. The training lead provides a lot more control and allows you to correct the bad behavior correctly.

Some owners may look for punishment-based devices (shock collar, choke chain, etc.) to leash train their dogs. It is NOT recommended to use these negative techniques because they can do more harm than good. In addition to pain, these devices can also inflict psychological strain on your canine.

Calm Your Dog’s Excitement

Woman kneeling to pet dog on a leash

It is quite a common problem for dogs to lose control of themselves as soon as they see a leash. This is because they associate the lead with a walk and become very excited. Consequently, it is crucial to train your pooch to remain calm after seeing the leash.

For this purpose, you could clip the lead on and off the dog in the house without going outside. One way of doing that is to clip the leash on and continue with your normal activity. After a few minutes, remove the lead and carry on as usual. Repeat this regularly to desensitize your pet about the leash.

The next hurdle is to calm your dog when you are actually going to take him/her outside. No matter how composed a dog is, the thought of going for a walk will always bring excitement.

Once again, we will use the same strategy to tame the eagerness to go out. Step outside with your pup, take a short pause, and re-enter the house. Keep repeating it until the dog is too bored to pull on the leash.

Teach the Dog to Stop Pulling Behavior

Close up of a brown and white setter on a leash

Leash pulling is one of the biggest challenges that you have to face during this training. The instinct of a canine to explore its surroundings will urge your companion to pull you. It’s critical not to give in to your dog’s wish because it can exaggerate this negative habit.

On the contrary, you need to stop dead in your tracks whenever he/she tries to pull. Keep a firm hold on the leash, but don’t tug at it. Wait for the dog to stop pulling before you could continue the journey. It’s quite likely that you will need to repeat this step multiple times to teach your canine companion.

Try Walking in the Opposite Direction

Shaggy dog pulling against leash on a dirt trail

If the stopping method doesn’t work, you can start walking in the opposite direction to teach your pet. If the dog still keeps pulling, stop again, and begin moving in a different direction. You can also use a cue (in an excited tone) to get the attention of your excited pup. Don’t jerk the leash because it can have a negative effect on the training.

The message behind this method is to teach your dog that you are in the one who is in control. Once the pooch has established this, it will put an end to his/her pulling behavior. This technique can also be used to train those canines who want their owners to walk faster.

NOTE: You can also encourage the dog to walk close to you by offering treats when he/she exhibits this behavior.

Be Consistent with the Training

Rear view of woman walking a dog on a leash on a brick sidewalk

You must acknowledge that it’s not easy to change ingrained habits. For this reason, it is necessary to have patience and keep persisting with your efforts. Set realistic expectations and treat your pup positively to ensure the best possible results. For instance, it is unfair to expect your older dog to walk on a leash after a week’s training.

A single day of frustration or leniency can waste all the hard work that you have done. Therefore, NEVER compromise on the training guidelines and always stay focused when you are outdoors with your canine.

NOTE: Don’t use this training technique for extended sessions because it can be tiring and boring. Instead, schedule a short session daily for more days to get the desired results.

Encouraging Forward Method

Corgi being walked on a leash on asphalt  by owner

In contrast to the first method, this technique is suitable for those older dogs who resist the leash.

Familiarize the Dog to the Leash

We start the training by acclimatizing them to a dog lead. For this purpose, you will need to attach the leash to your pup and leave him/her alone in an enclosed area. This will allow the canine to get used to it.

Teach a Command

Once you are confident that your older dog is comfortable with the leash, train him/her to respond to a command. For example, you can teach your pet to come to you whenever you say the word “come”. Use dog treats to reward good behavior and your pup will learn this trick pretty quickly.

Use the Command with the Leash On

Dog on leash sitting at woman's feet on a brick sidewalk

After that, call your dog by using the same command and give a treat when he/she comes near you. If this happens smoothly for a few times, grab the handle end of the leash. Now, say “come” and give a little tug on the lead to see how the canine reacts. When your older dog comes forward to oblige your command, feed him/her a treat to encourage positive behavior.    

Keep repeating this process until the pup is walking comfortably on the leash. Although you will start with a few steps, continue increasing the distance (gradual process) to train your dog.

There are two online video based training courses that I recommend.

  1. Doggy Dan – The Online Dog Trainer
  2. Brain Training for Dogs

These two courses serve two very different purposes. The Doggy Dan course is the best behavioral training course that I’ve ever used. It tackles problem behaviors like barking in ways that are innovative and kind and most of all WORK.

The Brain Training for Dogs course is a course that will help give curious and bored dogs something to do so that they don’t get destructive. Bored dogs often behave badly. The games in this course are fun to play with your dog and they go from easy to very advanced. If you think your dog is barking out of boredom this video course is a good choice.

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