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    Puppy lead training

    Puppy lead training

    Laura Laura
    6 minute read

    Puppy lead training

    Puppy lead training takes time and patience. Here our Natural Canine Behaviourist, Caroline Spencer, guides you through the steps you can take to educate your puppy to walk with you on a lead. It all begins off the lead and in relaxed environments with a relaxed you.

    Table of contents

    Puppy lead training - Key takeaways

    Puppy lead training – The 5 step approach

    Puppy lead training FAQ's


    Puppy lead training - Key takeaways

    Puppies will naturally follow you, both at home and outside

    Start your lead training off-lead, by playing 'follow-me'

    Get your puppy used to their harness gradually, and when they are calm

    Focus on your puppy and not on the lead


    Your puppy naturally follows you until you put a lead on too soon and give it too much exposure to distractions before you’ve got a solid bond. Time, place, patience, understanding, and calm are what it takes to educate.

    A puppy will naturally follow you at home and in your outside space. Embrace this and use it to your advantage. The first time you put a puppy on a lead and “train to heel” is the second it learns to pull. So take it step by step.

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    Puppy lead training – The 5 step approach

    So what age should you start training your puppy to walk on a lead/leash? Let it happen naturally. You call your puppy to you for all interactions, then extend this to follow you for a few steps and praise.

    Increase distance day by day. The important thing is for you initially is walking backwards and gaining eye contact.

    Step 1 – Start off-lead – Play Follow Me

    Puppy leash training needs to be in a quiet, safe environment and it all starts off the lead. The home and garden are perfect. Fit it into your day naturally.

    Ask your pup to come to you. When it does, give a slow gentle massage and vocals for great recall.

    Back away. Keep eye contact and encourage your pup to follow using your hands.

    Stop and again give gentle praise.

    Repeat each time you call your pup to you.

    When you move about your home, doing things that don’t include your puppy, try to avoid eye contact. A natural recall is to look and walk away. This also prevents separation anxiety.

    Step 2 – Dog harness acclimatization

    Have the harness with you when you engage with your puppy.

    Pop the harness on when your pup is calm.

    Let them wander about in it for a short time under supervision.

    Practice recall and the backway (you walk backwards so eye contact with your puppy following you) “follow me” game.

    Low key with exuberant pups and more exciting with the slower ones.

    Harness on, make it fun and games rather than a stressy lesson.


    Step 3 – Puppy lead acclimatization

    Remain focused on your puppy, not the lead.

    It’s about you connecting with your puppy.

    The pup will respond because of what you do with your body language.

    You will need to acclimatise your pup to the harness over a few days as above.

    Step 4 – Puppy lead and harness together

    In the home, attach a lead to your pup’s harness and let it trail behind. Repeat the above steps in stage 1.

    Intermittently pick up the lead and drop lead as you play follow me, whilst backing away.

    If there is no reaction to the pick and drop, loop the handle onto your wrist. Lead length 2- 4 meters.

    Always keep lead loose.

    If pup takes hold of the lead. Make nothing of it. Slacken lead (tension causes tension and pull back) even, drop the lead and walk or run away. Your pup will drop the lead and follow you.

    Short sessions of a couple of minutes. It’s hard concentrating for too long as a puppy as it is for anyone in the process of learning new things.

    Getting good in the house and back garden? work on the front and move out slowly from home. Back away and always give your puppy eye contact and praise

    If you struggle, you’re doing too much, or the pup wasn’t calm, to begin with, or you’re moving to new places too quickly.

    Step 5 – Play follow me away from home

    It’s not the distance you physically travel, it’s about the time spent playing follow me / chase me in a small space. be fun and your pup will have fun and learn being with you is the best. If you introduce to things and animals too close or for too long and you’ll have the issues you were trying to prevent.

    For a puppy to be socially acceptable, they need to learn to ignore. Pressure to perform results in reactionary dogs.

    Choose low stimulus areas where your puppy is less distracted

    Play the same game as before

    If your puppy gets sidetracked, gently touch them to get their attention. Become more exciting than the distraction, encouraging your puppy to follow you, away from the distraction.

    Your time in communal areas is all about you and your puppy. It is not necessary for them to meet and greet the world.

    Walk away from direct eye contact with other humans and dogs. Choose interactions with gentle adult dogs and polite puppies.

    Walk away at right angles before a vehicle passes. You are giving distance and the opportunity for your pup to trust you yet again to keep them safe. In time you will be able to simply carry on walking to your destination with few diverts.

    Keeping your puppy engaged with you and walk on a loose lead, with visual distractions, helps you gain the best connection. You become your puppy’s be-all and end-all. The one they look to when unsure, as opposed to hiding or lunging outwards.

    Sniffing is an important activity for all dogs, do be mindful of getting your little ones to take a break and take in the environment. 


    You will not make your puppy fearful of dogs, people or other things by walking away. You will make them fearful if the interaction is with the wrong person, dog or any stimulus that is too close for comfort.

    Humans have friends, some have more than others, some have one special friend. Your puppy doesn’t need to have many to make his life complete. Some are just happy for their friend to be you.

    It is good to start with same-age puppy friends or a gentle mentor in an adult dog friend. Choose them wisely for your little one.

    Check out the Puppy Essentials post below:



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