How to Train a Dog to Walk on Leash

Ideally, your dog should be with you when you’re home. But perhaps that concept has some of you shaking in your shoes. With all that unsupervised running around and destruction, your house will be trashed, your dog will be wild, and you’ll be really sorry. Obviously, there’s a better way: Keep your dog on a lead. Don’t worry about keeping your dog on a lead in the house; it’s only temporary.

You’ll need to keep your dog secured for other reasons, too. The car comes to mind quickly. Keep your dog secured for his safety as well as your own peace of mind while you’re driving. Romps too. If you’re not in a confined area, it’s unwise to let your dog run free. Let’s take a look at leads, which are another training essential.

The Teaching Lead®:

The Teaching Lead® is a leash, but not just your garden variety. It’s a sturdy leather leash with lots of holes that are designed to teach your dog good manners passively. You’ll use it to limit household freedom and structure situations so you can train your dog through positive reinforcement. Sound like a dream? Too good to be true? It’s not. But before you take off, you need to learn and understand its three applications, which are explained more in the next chapter. For now, let me whet your appetite:

  • Leading: You’ll secure your dog to your waist and lead him around using specific commands. Eventually, you’ll be able to use these commands off lead. Leading also helps you control your dog in stressful situations and allows you to make quick corrections when necessary.
  • Anchoring: Anchoring is the process of sliding the leash around to your backside so you’ll be able to calm your dog when talking on the phone or to company or waiting for your turn at the veterinarian’s.
  • Stationing: Select special areas in each room for your dog that you frequent. Decorate each area with a bed and toy. Initially, you’ll need to secure your dog on a lead in a special area, but eventually you’ll be able to send your dog there with a command like “Settle down.”

The Seat Belt Safety Lead (SBSL):

The Seat Belt Safety Lead (SBSL)
The Seat Belt Safety Lead (SBSL)

Driving is a job in itself! Avoid being preoccupied with your dog while driving because it’s a safety hazard for both of you, not to mention other motorists. Letting your dog ride in your lap or hang his body halfway out the window may seem like a good idea, but it’s really not. Maybe I’ve witnessed too many accidents, but to me, cars aren’t toys and your dog is too precious to lose in a fender bender. Here’s my safety rule: confine your dog while driving. There are car gates, crates, harness belts, and my invention, the Seat Belt Safety Lead (SBSL).

Car gates confine dogs to a back area in a vehicle. I find them bothersome in my station wagon because it limits what I can transport. But if you buy one, buy the best quality gate you can find. When I was in college at Michigan State University, I bought a cheap gate to confine my husky-mix, Kyia, in my station wagon. We were on our way home to New York when the gate collapsed. Poor Kyia. Being a sweet pea, he was sure he had caused the crash and was remorseful the rest of the trip home. Moral of the story? If you’re going to buy a gate, buy the best!

Crates are cumbersome, but can also be used to secure your dog. Another alternative is a harness-type seat belt. This is a great concept but is difficult to use. Dogs aren’t thrilled about sitting still as you clip them in and, let’s face it, who has the time?

There is, however, a great alternative that I invented. It’s called the Seat Belt Safety Lead (SBSL)’”. Here’s what it looks like and here’s how it works:

  1. The handle of the SBSL” fastens onto a seat belt. It can be left in the car permanently.
  2. Now your dog has a car station. Decorate it with a blanket and a toy!
  3. Bring him to the car and say “Go to your spot” as you point to the area. Offer a treat for cooperation.
  4. Hook him up on a buckle collar (not a training collar). Ignore all initial protests. Praise him when he’s calm.

The SBSL” protects dogs like a seat belt protects people. It’s quick, easy, and your dog will feel more secure and calm knowing his place. You’re both ensured a safe arrival. My SBSL’” can be purchased by sending in the order form found in the back of this book.


The Short Lead:

The Short Lead
The Short Lead

Short is relative to the size of your dog. A short lead should not be more than eight inches; for small dogs, one inch will do. My SBSL” doubles nicely for bigger dogs. If you have a half-pint, buy a key chain and use that. Use this handy little device for two things: encouraging manners and off-leash training. Here’s the theory behind both:

  • Encouraging Good Manners: A lot of clients complain that their dogs behave like a saint on the Teaching Lead®, but when they take it off, the old derelict emerges. A short leash can serve as a nice transition from being on the Teaching Lead® to full-fledged freedom. Wearing it reminds the dog that you’re still watching him and having it on gives you something to grasp for correction purposes if things get out of hand.
  • Off-Lead Training: When we progress into off-leash work (yes, we are going to get there), the short lead again serves as a reminder. In addition, it gives you something to grab graciously if your dog slips up.

The Flexi-Leash®:

The Flexi-Leash®
The Flexi-Leash®

Flexi-Leashes® are fun, period. The longer, the better. Initially, they’re great for exercising. Your dog can run like mad while you stand there reading the morning newspaper. If you feel like exercising too, all the better. You can quadruple your dog’s workout. When we progress to off-leash work, the Flexi is a staple. Its tidy design works like a fishing reel, letting length in and out. Although it takes some coordination, once you’ve mastered it, you won’t be able to live without it.

Initially, do not use it near roads or heavily populated areas. Its high-tech design takes some getting used to. Practice in isolated areas until you have the system down pat! If you’re out with other people, watch their legs. Most dogs get a little nutty when finally given some freedom to run. If a person gets sandwiched between you and your dashing dog, he’s in for a wicked rope burn! It’s best to keep playtimes private.

Some dogs love to chew their Flexi. After all, the exercise and freedom are so exciting! Soaking the cord in Bitter Apple® liquid (purchased from the pet store) overnight can be a good deterrent. If this is ineffective, try snapping the cord into your dog’s mouth. If the worst happens and the cord is severed, get a Phillips head screwdriver, open up the box, and sew the cord back together. It takes ten minutes and is cheaper than buying a new one.

Sarah Says

Are you a good knots-person If so, you can create your lines. If not, it’s better to buy canvas leads to prevent catastrophe.


Long Lines:

I’ll explain how to use long lines in later sections of the book. I don’t want to overwhelm you now with the details, but if you’re really organized and optimistic, you can create your own long lines out of a durable dog clip and rope (all of which you can purchase at a local hardware store) and put them aside for later. There are three:

  1. The Tree Line. You’ll tie this line onto a tree to work on long-distance focus. Buy, or create a 30-foot line.
  2. The Drag Line. Create or buy a 25-foot line.
  3. The House Line. Create or buy a 10-foot line.

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