Training a Rescue Dog to Walk on a Leash

Scruffy dog holding leash in mouth

Are you planning to adopt a rescue dog? Make sure that you have the patience and skills to reteach an adult canine. The history of these special dogs plays an important role in molding their personalities and behaviors. Therefore, it is NOT an easy task to train them, especially for new owners.

One of the most common issues with rescue dogs is their inability to walk on a leash. Most of these pups tend to exhibit pulling behavior because they like to be in control. It is not only frustrating but can also be dangerous if your canine is strong enough to run away.

Fortunately, you can teach the leash manners to your rescue dog because it is a learned behavior. However, it is critical to understand the underlying cause(s) of the problem before finding the solution.  

Why Do Dogs Pull on the Leash?

mid sized brown and white dog pulling against leash on walk

Many people believe that their dogs pull because they want to explore their surroundings. Although it can’t be denied, it is only one side of the story. In actuality, we are equally responsible for this negative behavior because we allow our pup to pull the lead. Once this continues for some time, the canine establishes a pattern in his/her mind that pulling means reward.

In addition to that, there are some other reasons as well that can urge your rescue dog to pull. A couple of them are discussed below.

Interesting Environment

Jack Russell Terrier on leash in fall leaves outdoors

Dogs can easily become distracted if they notice people or other canines in their surroundings. Similarly, they won’t need a second invitation to chase smaller animals. Consequently, you must make yourself interesting to grasp the attention of your pup, especially while training.

One way of doing that is to walk the pet in places where there are no distractions. Alternatively, you can use treats and toys to keep your dog’s focus on you.     

Inappropriate Gear

Beagle biting and pulling against leash in grass field

A collar that is too tight can also play a significant role in exaggerating the pulling behavior. It makes the dog uncomfortable and he/she tries to ease the discomfort by pulling. Similarly, an oversized collar decreases the effectiveness of your commands, substantially. Indeed, the training is still needed, but using the right equipment can make your job a lot easier.  

How Can We Leash Train a Rescue Dog?

Man kneeling with dog on leash in pet shelter yard.

It can be quite difficult to train a rescue dog because they require a special kind of attention and understanding. You don’t want to trigger any trauma or anxiety as it can make the job even harder. Therefore, you shouldn’t use any punishment while training these pups and try to stay as calm as possible.

It’s never easy to reteach an older dog that pulling is bad. His/her previous experience could be in complete contrast to your commands, and that’s why you need to show a lot of patience. You got to stay consistent with your training and give your pup some time to see the change. The following is one of the most popular techniques that are used to leash train rescue dogs.

Training Lead Method

White and black dog on short lead sitting at owners feet while owner talks to friend.

In this technique, we leash train our pup by using a shorter lead and lots of dog treats. Although it can be a little time-consuming, this method is generally very effective at getting the job done.

Use the Appropriate Tools

The selection of the right leash is crucial to ensure effective training. It is recommended to use training leads (for rescue dogs) because they enable you to correct inappropriate behavior more quickly. Similarly, you should buy a collar that is neither too loose nor too tight to get the best results.

In contrast to these products, NEVER use punishing equipment, like shock collars. They are quite likely to cause more harm than good by instigating negative memories of the dog.

Control the Excitement

Excited tan dog jumping in grass

It is extremely common for dogs to get excited when you attach a leash to their collar. They associate the lead with a walk and go crazy to visit their favorite place. In these circumstances, it is essential to calm down your pup before going for a walk.

One way of doing that is to untie the leash and back off if the canine seems over-excited. Keep repeating this until he/she realizes that excitement is not going to work. Alternatively, you can also try to train a rescue dog to walk on a leash after a rigorous exercise session. A tired dog is less likely to indulge in pulling behavior and you can reinforce new rules.

It is highly recommended to start the training with short sessions and stay within your neighborhood. It will help you keep the dog in control because there won’t be new sights to distract him/her.

Discourage the Pulling Behavior

Yellow labrador trying to pull leash from owner by biting and pulling.

Once you are finally outdoors and walking beside your dog, it’s time to correct his/her bad habit. The first thing that you need to do is to stop immediately as soon as the leash is pulled. After that, walk a few steps in the opposite direction to discourage the pulling behavior.

If your rescue dog still continues to pull, turn around and walk a few steps in the opposite direction. When the canine finally stops pulling, call him/her back to you and offer a delicious treat. After that, you can continue the journey in the original direction. You should also offer your pet a treat for every few steps that he walks without pulling.

Increase the walking distance gradually, and persist with the training for some time to see the change. Keep patience and your rescue dog will soon learn the manners to walk on a leash.

Recommended Dog Training Courses for Training a Rescue Dog to Walk on a Leash

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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Hi! My name is Heather Hallman. I’m the mother of two beautiful girls and a MAJOR passionate pet parent. I can hardly wait to bring you the BEST resources and information that I've found for our fur-babies.