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Training a Fearful Dog to Walk on a Leash

German shepherd mix on a leash leaning against a brick wall and backing away

Training a fearful dog to walk on a leash can be a daunting task. This is because walking on a leash is not a natural behavior for your dog. Therefore, it can scare your pup. Read on to learn a few reasons why your dog may get scared and how you can resolve this problem.

Why Does My Dog Fear to Walk on a Leash?

A dog is often called the man’s best friend because they share a strong bond. Having a nervous or fearful dog can be puzzling, especially if you don’t find a relevant reason. Fear of leashes can be caused by many reasons, such as lack of socialization, bad experiences with the previous owner, or growing up in a harsh environment. However, giving proper training to your fearful dog can help him/her to walk on a leash.

Lack of trust

Your dog probably does not want to walk out with a leash due to a lack of trust between it and you. When you buy or adopt a dog, the first thing you should do is build a trustworthy relationship with your pet. If you do not create that bond of trust, your dog will be hesitant to be around you. 

Non-friendly environment

Man and woman with hands raised screaming at each other

Another possible reason for the fear might be the lack of a friendly environment. Some dog owners are harsh towards their dog when it does something bad, such as breaking things. A dog that is punished frequently and is subject to abuse will never want to be leashed.

Fear of Outdoors

According to Holidays 4 Dogs, some dogs can develop a fear of going outdoors for a multitude of reasons. For example, he/she may had a bad experience outside that ingrained this fear in his/her mind.

For some dogs, traffic is a big reason for being scared to go outside. Has your dog ever been in an accident that happened outdoors? If yes, this can be the reason why your dog becomes skittish when you take him/her outside (with or without a leash).

How to Train a Fearful Dog to Walk on a Leash?

Chihuahua mix on a leash pulling away from a persons hand

 The difficulty of training a fearful dog to walk on a leash depends on where that fear originates. If your dog is simply not trained to wear a leash, you’re in luck! Just start the training process and your dog will quickly get used to wearing a leash. Let’s look at a few methods you can use to make your dog walk with a leash comfortably.

Build Trust

The first and foremost step to train your dog is to build a trusting relationship with it. A dog that trusts you will remain comfortable around you, even if you put a leash on it. Building a trusty bond with your dog might be time-consuming, but it is worth it. Now you must be wondering how to build trust with your dog. All you need to do is show it affection, provide it with personal space and be gentle and encouraging with it. 

Reward Your Dog with Treats

Brown and white puppy jumping up on persons leg to reach a treat

Another step in making a fearful dog walk on a leash is encouragement. Give your dog treats as a reward whenever it does something good. You can also try putting on a leash on your dog and giving it treats simultaneously. Over time, your dog may start associating wearing a leash as a way of getting treats. However, start reducing the number of treats as your dog gets comfortable with its leash. Ensure these treats are nutritious, healthy and do not contain preservatives that may harm your dog.

Socialize Your Dog

Socialization is a great way to take your dog’s mind away from its fears. Involving your dog in a fun-filled environment is very helpful in helping your dog overcome its fears. Play with your dog regularly and give it dog puzzles to play with. Over time, your dog will; gradually start trusting you and it will become more comfortable around you. Eventually, you may be able to put a leash on your dog without making it panic.

Introduce the Leash

Yellow Labrador retriever with a blue leash in its mouth standing in an open doorway.

Now, if you followed the three steps carefully, introduce the leash to your dog. After putting a leash on your dog, let it walk around freely. Let your dog become used to the leash. Once your dog is comfortable with a leash, take it outside and play with it.


A proper rehabilitation procedure can also help your dog to overcome his/her fear or anxiety. This process can also help your dog to eradicate all unnecessary nervousness and doubts. Pet Lover Pro explains that the rehabilitation process, basically, helps in identifying the root of the fear. Once it is done, professionals can help your dog to overcome these fears. After proper behavioral training, you can conveniently encourage your fearful dog to walk on a leash.

Patience is what you need the most while going through all these steps. By discovering the root cause of your dog’s fear, you can make your fearful dog walk on a leash. Discovering the source of your dog’s fear is important so you can know how to help it overcome the fear of leashes.

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