Tricks of the Trade; Teaching Your Puppy to Walk Nicely on Leash

Ironically, pretty and animated on leash heeling is one of my favorite things about competition dog obedience.

I will admit, it isn’t “easy”.

But the best things in life aren’t “easy”, they take some effort.

So there are a couple “Tricks of the Trade” that I will share with you so you can get started.

#1  Make sure you are Marker Training

I am an avid clicker or marker trainer!

Without training with a “marker” how can you express to your dog that what he just did was what you wanted?

So often, we are busy to correct behavior but many people never ensure clear communication by marking good behaviors.

This is like going down a one lane highway with no exits and no way to turn around.

Good communication needs to be a 2 way street.  Sure, we often need to correct bad behavior, but it is even more important to give the dog the information about what we do like.

Imagine going to a foreign country where you don’t speak the language.

Every time you do something wrong people will hit you with a fly swatter.

There is little to no communication, except the fly swatter.

After a while, you would be a little timid and scared to show any behaviors, for fear that they would be wrong.

Wouldn’t you rather have people kindly show you, and help you and reward you for good choices?

Again, you are probably going to make mistakes but if communication is effective (even without speaking the same language) then your mistakes will be much less and you will learn what behaviors get you rewarded or paid.

If you haven’t jumped on the clicker/marker band wagon, please join us!  This is the best way to communicate with your dog!

#2  Always Use the Same Leash

I am a leash hoarder.  I will admit it.  I have more leashes than I know what to do with most days.

Personally, I prefer leather or fake leather leashes because they are soft on my hands.

And, although I have 6 ft leashes and 4 ft leashes and 10 ft leashes as well as tabs, I want to be consistent.

If one day I use a 4 ft leash and the next day I use a 6 ft leash to teach leash manners; it isn’t fair to my dog.

As I am changing my direction and trying to teach my dog about how long his leash is, and not to pull it is essential that the leash remains the same length.

Typically, I use a 6 foot leash for most training.  I want my dog to know that he has 5 and ½  feet before he pulls me.

#3  Use the hand Opposite the Dog to Hold the Leash

Being an obedience instructor, I have always taught “heel” on my left side with my dogs’ shoulders parallel to my leg.

If the dog is on my left, my right hand is on the leash.  The handle goes over my right thumb and I either let the leash slack across my thighs or I gather it up a bit in that right hand.


There is a little known phenomenon in dog training called opposition reflex.  If you pull, your dog pulls back harder!

It’s a vicious cycle.  The dog pulls, you ball up the leash shorter and wrap it around your wrist and pull back, to which, the dog pulls harder.

Stop pulling back!

Let that leash hang slack.  You will notice if the dog moves out past heel position and may begin to pull and this gives you time to lock in and brace for the pull or impact.

As you notice the dog move out past heel, you should change your direction to help him pay more attention to your body.  I think of it as a game of keep away… if you aren’t paying attention to me; I am going the other way.


#4  Use Your Body to Your Advantage

The older I get, the less I like to feel physically exhausted.

When I was younger, as a vet tech, I used to physically get down and bear hug all of the dogs that came into the clinic.

Now, at 43, I do things like use walls and my knees and thighs for restraint.  It is less physically draining.

I have learned some of these things about dog training too!  I want to do the most, with the least amount of effort.

Put your arm out in front of you.

Now ask someone to push or pull your arm down.

Because the arm is weak, it doesn’t take much to push or pull in around.

Now, lock your fist into your stomach, flexing your bicep and now ask someone to push or pull it.

Chances are it takes WAY more effort to move your arm and hand if it is locked  into your body.  Your core does the effort at taking impact.

Remember this!  If you want to be strong, use your core and lock in before the dog thinks about pulling.

Sling the Leash Behind Your Butt

When I have a dog that is an adamant puller, I sling the leash around behind me.

For instance, my right hand would be on the leash and the leash would go around behind me and hook to the dog on the left.

Then, if the dog pulls, he is pulling my core and my body.

Again, I want to refrain from opposition reflex and pulling back on my dog.

The difference here is that your backside can’t grab and pull the dog, it only pulls back when the dog pulls… effectively teaching him that he won’t get anywhere when he pulls.

Above all

Take the time that it takes to teach this very important skill!

Your dog, your friends and your family will thank you for it!

Don’t skip steps, invest in your dog’s leash manners!

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  1. Minette says:

    Hey Ty


  2. Simon says:

    I’m restricted to using a wheelchair!


    Minette Reply:

    I have trained many service dogs… the same rules apply


  3. Nelson Taylor says:

    I have just recently adopted two dogs that have bee together for 4 yrs, where they ran the back yard with very little supervision,from things they do when I turn my back on them for five minutes, the two dogs are a 4yr old golden ret. ( not neutered, but will be soon), the other a 5 yr old border collie (fixed), they both get energized when I come home from work, I would like to slow that down , but my problem is the door and when someone comes in the house, it’s like they become deaf, they are jumping, and sniffing, and 9 times out of 10, the male starts mounting the female , play it off due to excitement which is what I need to control in these twov….I know its multiple deceplinary actions to resolve this issue , but if you could give me some help thank you



    Minette Reply:

    They need more exercise and they need to go on a leash when people come over and work on obedience


  4. Zing4 says:

    Excellent article. It might be helpful for people really just starting with dogs or training to know just how they mark good behavior. They need to use their clicker when the dog is at heel position walking along nicely. It tells the dog, “Yes, that’s right.” When you click you have to give a little treat but you won’t have to do that for the rest of your life. Once the dog understands what it is supposed to do, which might take hours, days or more,( that’s up to the dog and its own learning curve), then you can begin slowly phasing out the clicks and treats. You need to work on this only a few minutes at a time but practice some time every day. It’s really time well spent. You’ll have a much more enjoyable dog to walk for many years.


  5. Maureen McCoy says:

    Thank you! I like the idea of putting the leash behind me. My husky really pulls and I’ve had a broken right side of body and right shoulder, so it’s difficult to walk train him.

    I will try this! Wish me luck!!!


  6. Joe says:

    Hi Chet, great pointers for lease training pups. For all those who adopt a grown dog or get stuck with one that doesn’t know how to walk on a leash. Some tips might help.
    Please thank Minette for her lovely resume.


    Minette Reply:

    Search my articles for leash manners and read the highlighted articles within


  7. Sharon says:

    Very helpful article – learned several new tips. Thanks!


  8. Ruby mann says:

    Thanks for the tips. I think Im pulling back…that must be part of the problem


  9. Cheryl says:

    I do the leash behind the butt technique. My left leg does a gentle nudge every time she gets a bit more ahead. She doesn’t like it so tends to stay more beside me not pulling ahead. I didn’t realize that was an actual real thing! I thought I discovered a secret all in my own! Lol


  10. Janet L says:

    Thank You Chet. My Service Dog Has Regressed Some In Impulse Training. I’m A Former Domestic Violence Survivor as Well As Miss Daisy May. What Do We Do When Other Dogs In The High – Rise Apartment To Where I Live Now Are Worse Than The Former Aggressive, Undisciplined Dogs From Former Apartment Complex ? The Management Due To Other Tenant’s Putting Untrue Complaints About Miss Daisy May Into Management Stating She’s Violent, Aggressive Attacks Other Tenant’s And Their Dog’s vWhen It’s The Other Way Around. They Use Their dogs To Intimadate, cororce, Threaten, Hit My Dog In Front of Cameras Throughout The Building. Now, Miss Daisy May Has Become More On Guard Fearful, Anxious, Impulsively Reacting etc. That’s The Original Issue Impulse Control And somewhat Anxious.
    We’ve just Moved Into This Place 4 Months Ago. It Started The Bogus Accusations One Month After Moving In? Now Management Has Set – Up An Eviction Formal Hearing With No Neutral Arbertrater and the Attorney I Have Is Not Very Up To Date About Landlord Tenant Law If She Knows The Westmoreland County Housing Authorities Attorney Isn’t That A Conflict Of Interest? Also I Feel Singled – Out Because They Are Not Having An Outside Attorney Run The Proceedings? I Have Faith, Bit Feel Like It’s Already Been Decided To Put My Service Dog Miss Daisy May And I On The Streets?
    What Would You Do Chet?
    Janet L Keith


    Minette Reply:

    I would contact the organization you got her from and do some follow up training. Any good Service Dog organization will do so


  11. LINDA REED says:

    Thanks. My husband and I are both on mobility scooters, so that does limit interaction. The motor control is on the right, so we trained our dog to the right, but he is adventuresome and doesn’t pay attention, so I ball up the leash (this also helps to make sure that if he decides to run I still have control physically. Had tried the behind the butt when using two canes, and it is helpful, so will now try it with the scooter and also loosen the leash. Keeping the same length lease makes sense now that you’ve mentioned it. We’re “training” a 3 y/o cattle dog mix with probably some terrier, so he’s really alert to everything about him. Such a lover until he’s outside, and then he’s a rover! Again, thank you.


  12. Gloria says:

    My 7 mo. Maltese is scare of the leach. Every time I put the leach on her she just stays still and wouldn’ t move at all If I pull her I would have to drag her but wouldn’t do anything will stay there with the leach doesn’t matter how long. At the end I would have to take it off so she can start moving again.
    What can I do to teach her is just to give her a walk.
    Any advise will help.


  13. Rose Benroth says:

    It is very hard to read your directions in training because of all the business in the scenery. It camouflages the writing. I get frustrated and just do not finish reading, and I know I am missing important information.


    Minette Reply:

    Sorry I will look into that


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