How to Train a Strong Dog to Walk on a Leash

Leash training a dog can be a headache if you have a large breed. Starting training as a puppy is a great idea, but what happens when that puppy grows into an adult dog that is a little too much to handle? Let’s look at some common ways you can train your strong dog to walk on a leash successfully.

What to Expect

The best way we can train a strong dog not to pull when on leash is to teach them to walk with a loose leash. Some dogs are even able to be walked without a leash at all, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Loose-leash walking is when your dog is able to walk with you at a pace where the lead you are using is not taught. On your way to loose-leash walking, you should consider what kind of leash you’ll use. There are so many different leashes on the market that it might be difficult for you to figure out what would work best for your needs. Let’s take a closer look at leashes.

What Leashes Do Not Work Well?

One of the more popular leashes on the market are retractable leashes. These are usually made of a plastic handle. The handle contains a spring loaded mechanism that connects to a button. When the button is held, the leash remains one size. When the button is not held, the spring mechanism takes up any slack in the lead. This allows your dog to freely move toward or away from you and the leash will not drag on the ground.

The problem with this kind of leash is that if your dog is trying to run away from you, the spring mechanism doesn’t usually take up enough slack fast enough for you to get your dog close to you. These leashes also allow your dog to walk far ahead of you and into possible dangers like cars or other pedestrians. Lastly, the leash is usually made of a thin nylon rope that can get wrapped around fingers or that can cause rope burn if grabbed with a freehand. Definitely a ‘no’ if you have a big dog.

Another kind of leash we don’t recommend are simple nylon leads. These are the most common kinds of leashes and usually the cheapest. This makes them very popular as they’re an affordable option. However, the one problem with these leashes is that they have absolutely no give to them. There is zero elastic quality to the nylon material. This means that a rough dog who pulls can easily give their owner rope burn or chafe their hand. These kinds of leashes have even been known to cut skin if the dog being walked is aggressive enough.

What Leashes Work Best for Strong Dogs?

We’ve looked at leashes you should consider avoiding, but what works best? Retractable leashes work best for smaller dogs who like the freedom to move around. Nylon leashes are known for their strength but can be bothersome to use.

The best leash we’ve used for any dog who pulls is simply a leather leash. A new leather leash might seem like it’s too stiff to use comfortably, but the same goes for any new leather product. Anyone who’s ever bought a new baseball mitt knows that the best way to break it in is to use it. A little elbow grease softens the mitt up and allows its use for years.

The same goes for a leather leash. It starts off very stiff, but over time it loosens up. Eventually, it becomes very soft and comfortable to use. And while leather is about as stiff as a nylon lead, nylon will never soften up in the same way as leather.

Now that we know what kind of leashes you’ll be more successful with, let’s continue by looking at how to train your dog to walk with a loose leash.

How to Loose-Leash Train your Strong Dog

Training your dog to walk on a loose leash is not too difficult. Just like any other form of training, your consistency will make or break if it sticks. With this in mind, let’s look at the steps for loose-leash training your dog.

  • The first step is to pick a simple sound you can make with your mouth that will be specific to this training. It can be a whistle, clicking your tongue or a verbal command.
  • Next, you need to have your dog associate the sound with a treat. Keep making the noise and treating them. Eventually, when they hear the noise they will come straight to you.
  • Once your dog comes to you for their treat, bring the treat eye level and add in a “good boy” or some other reward when they meet your gaze.
  • Once they are giving you eye contact, keep the treat there for longer periods of time.
  • Now, you put it all together. Tell your dog “let’s go” and start walking with your left leg. Make the noise and see if your dog is making eye contact. If they are then treat them by your left knee.

While this all might not seem to do much, you are slowly training your dog to keep an eye on your knee. They will learn that they get treated in that area, so they won’t take their eyes off it. While they’re fixated on your knee, they won’t be able to look at other stimuli. They’re not going to be running after squirrels or other dogs because they’ll be distracted by waiting for their treat. Just make sure you only treat your dog when they are in a heel position.

Training your dog to walk with a loose-leash will be time-consuming, but it is very rewarding. Not only does training make them more confident, but they learn to trust you more.

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