Walking Puppies on a Leash

There is nothing more frustrating and tiring than trying to control a Dane who pulls, drags, and shoves you around when on a leash. It is frustrating for me to see it, because it is so easy to prevent and correct. Like all other behaviors, walking nicely on a leash is easiest to teach as a puppy. I highly recommend you leash train your Dane right away, don’t wait for puppy class because they will be 40 or so pounds by 12 weeks.

Step One: as soon as your puppy is home, about 8-9 weeks old, put a collar on him or her. This gets them accustomed to the sensation of something on their neck. They may scratch at it, or try to get it off, but as long as it is not too loose, they can’t remove it themselves. They will get used to it, so resist the urge to remove the collar when they are fussing about it. If you wish, you can remove it once they are not disturbed by it, but mine never leave the house without it on! The little ones can be hard to get ahold of if you need to without a collar.

Step 2: When a puppy is quiety chewing a bone, or resting, introduce them to their leash. Let your puppy smell the leash and touch it (click/treat if you are clicker training), but don’t let them mouth it yet–it is not a toy, and they need to learn that.

To a puppy, everything is a toy until you teach them what is and what isn’t. A simple correction like “ahhg” or “tssh” with a frown or little a nose tap will usually be enough for them to return to the bone. If they leave it, click and treat. Later on, you may wish to teach them to find and bring it, but for an 8 wk old, it doesn’t go in their mouths.

introducing-leash.jpgI leave the leash on while they are relatively quiet, not moving around much. If they are getting up to play, I take it off because leash doesn’t equal playtime.

introducing the leash to 9 wk old Kenai

Step 3: When you take them outside to relieve themselves, put the leash on them and simply go where they go with it. This is just letting them get used to being attached to you.

If there is somewhere they are going you don’t want them to go, like your flowerbeds, the neighbors yard, etc, simply  get their attention and lure them back to you with a treat. Since I’m rewarding a service dog candidate for every bit of attention they give me and every time they come to me, they not only get a click, they get lots of treats.

“Old school” training would suggest a leash pop and “no”, but really I want the puppy to be following me, leash or no leash, so the less I have to use the leash the better. I’d rather reward attentiveness, not correct unless I must.

Do this everytime you go out until you think the puppy understands coming back to you. I play a “name game” alot, where every time a puppy hears their name and looks, they get a click and reward. But I don’t use it if there is a possibility they will ignore  it. ready-to-practice-walk.jpg

Step 4: When the puppy listens to his name and understands, then you start teaching them to walk with you instead of you walking with them. This is still the first week or so, before they start wandering the neighborhood.

Begin when the puppy is calm, and the house is quiet. I always start in the house because there are fewer new things to distract their little noses, and when coming back inside after play or potty.

Put the leash on them, and use a treat in front of their nose to get them to walk beside you. You can say “heel” or “walk” if you like, but the less talking you do the better: it teaches the pup that when you do speak they need to listen. I let them nibble the treat or just follow it for a few feet, then click and give them the treat. We do it again a few more feet.

You don’t have to always have a treat in front of them once they are following you, just when they seem to want to do something else, and the treat will return their attention to you. If they move ahead, use the treat to move them back. Then click and give the treat when the are in the right position.

Anytime the leash is not loose and hanging, stop. Eventually the pup will realize they aren’t able to go anywhere, and look at you. You can either 1)click and make them come for a treat or affection, or 2) wait until the tension on the leash is released, then click and treat. You want them to learn that no tension is treat, tension is going nowhere!

Left or right side doesn’t really matter unless you intend to train for obedience trials, showing, etc. Personally, I train to the left side because I want to have my right hand free. Just pick the side you like and stick with it. Do this for 2-5 minutes several times a day, and always praise when they are walking without a treat, and session is done.

Step 5: The outdoor walk. Usually after 1-2 weeks of walking beside you around the house and yard, and the pup has had their 8 or 9 week vaccinations, they are ready to give the sidewalk a try.

Again, choose a time when they are calm or just almost sleepy, put the leash on, and take them outside. Also choose a time when the street is quiet so there are fewer distractions. Remember you always go first or together, be it through the door or out the gate!

Puppies have a short attention span, and are very curious little things, so don’t expect to walk the whole block right away. Just walk a little, then go home.

Don’t let them off leash outside your own yard–it is much too dangerous. If you want them to smell and explore, then kneel down with them. That way they learn that there are times they can sniff, but when you stand up, it means to walk nicely on the leash. Do this for 15 minutes or so at a time, several times a day.

You are likely to encounter dogs when walking outside. Some will be inside a fenced yard and some will be on a leash. A fenced dog will probably be at the fence when you get there, and if your puppy is interested, kneel down with them to greet the dog. If they are frightened, don’t run away!

Simply turn your back to the dog, and let your puppy sit in front of you. Hold him if you have to, and he will calm down if you are calm. Eventually the barking or excited dog will quiet down, and then you can either greet or walk on. Of course, a really aggressive dog should be avoided.

Leashed dogs, if calm and friendly are a great exposure for your pup. They will sniff bottoms and such, which is how dogs get to know each other. The smell is the dog’s name, and in the scent is his personality and level of dominance. Let them be friends awhile, then move on, using the treat if you must to redirect the pup’s attention.

If an excitable dog approaches, and you know the person, you can gently ask them to calm their dog a little bit before they meet so the excitement doesn’t make your puppy misbehave. If you don’t know them, or the dog seems out of control, you can always say “I’m sorry, but my puppy is training to walk without greeting dogs for obedience class”. Most people will respect that.

Step 6: Gradually increase the time you walk, and shorten the times you stop and kneel down for them to sniff. Be sure to praise them quietly when they are walking with you instead of the treat. As they improve, chose times that have more activity outside to walk, and use the treat to return their attention to walking with you. By the time they are in puppy class, they will much easier to control, and will be ready to learn what you want them too, because they won’t be as distracted by the noise and presence of other puppies.

At about 12-16 weeks old, your pup will go through a phase of stubbornness and independence, so don’t be surprised if that sweet dear who went anywhere with you and never once pulled on the leash starts pulling like a sled dog! It’s normal.

The easiest and least frustrating way to stop this is a gentle leader. They will likely fight it at first, but it is self-correcting: anytime the puppy pulls on the leash, the strap around their muzzle tightens. It mimics the disciplining muzzle bite of an alpha dog, who will hold a dog’s muzzle if they don’t behave.

The gentle leader is not a muzzle, they can eat and drink and everything else. But it requires very little strength or effort on your part while being very effective at putting an end to the leash pulling. A child can walk a huge unruly beast with it!

It is an excellent and painless tool (unlike prong collars) to break all sorts of unpleasant habits in dogs of any age or size. Jumping, pulling, lunging, charging the door, crawling all over small children, refusing to move when told, that zig zag walk between your legs and around the shrubbery…

So enjoy your walks, and do it often!

Leave a comment


  1. I found your blog via Chelsea/Abbey’s blog. What a great blog you have! I’ve enjoyed reading through everything. My dane pup will be 10 weeks old tomorrow and will be getting her second set of shots next week. Do you think it’s safe to go on walks around the neighborhood since she’s not fully vaccinated yet? Thanks!

  2. Brian Lindstrom

     /  June 29, 2008

    Fantastic stuff. You’re philosophies are in line with Ceasar Milan’s (The Dog Whisperer) but are geared for a puppy. I have a 11 week old Great Dane and have been trying to adapt “Be The Pack Leader” for my puppy.

  3. Jenny

     /  July 23, 2008

    Very useful! I’ll be getting an 11 week old lab puppy from Guiding Eyes for the Blind (my third one) on Sunday. The leash walking was always something I’d had trouble with early on (until they were around 4 months old and Ceasor’s walking method clicked easier in their brains). But your blog was very informative, so I’ll give it a try with the little one! It will be a lot easier to exercise her if she picks up on it more quickly! Thanks!

  4. Hi, what a great blog you have! thank you for it! I have used many of your techniques with my 9 week old dane…

    question though – both my fiancee and I work – I get up at 6am and take him for a walk for about 20 to 30 minutes depends on the temperature (cold) then give him some food – my fiancee comes home for lunch to let him out (not crate but blocked off hallway) and gives him half cup of food – then I get home around 530 6pm to give him a walk – then feed him…

    my question is – when I take him out at 6am or 6pm should I walk him – or should I just take him out to eliminate? sometimes he does not want to walk out the yard and just stis there shiverring – what I do is just ignore him with my back turned to him until he comes – takes prolly 2 minutes… sometimes he eliminates right away – I want to konw is taking him out for an exercise walk and or eliminating time will that confuse him and not want to walk after he eliminates or not want to eliminate after he walks?

    • Florence

       /  July 8, 2009

      Hi, thanks a lot for this website, it is full of good advises!!
      I have got a question. I adopted a 7 months old Labrador. The walk seems to get better and better when it comes to not pulling, but as soon as she sees another dog, she gets all excited. She wants to play with them and have a sniff. I know that if I let her play with another dog, she will quickly calm down, but some owners don’t like having a big excited dog coming close to them!!!! What the best attitude! Carrying on with no look for the other dog, or…? Thanks a lot.

  5. Hey dude, what theme is your site using? It’s incredible

  6. We just wanted to leave a comment to let you know that we appreciate your site. We were working on a research project for school and your site has helped us find the information that we needed. Any type of advice that you can give anyone who plans on spending more time on their site would definitely help us.

  7. This trend has reached a complete new level with the help of on-line blogging services that you can bring on the road. Since most users spend more time online, blogs like help them kick their research into overdrive, Moises Jaffe

    • Lisamarie

       /  March 3, 2010

      Thank you so much, your methods have been so helpful. i have a 12 week old dane by the name of Rodeo. she would not walk on the leash with me at all. following your methods really did the trick. good stuff!

  8. Nichole Snyder

     /  October 2, 2010

    Great blog. My husband and I have a 3 month old great dane. I am struggling with walking her, she will just sit and not move. I have tried gentle tugs on the leash, gently picking her chest up to give her a push, we have tried a harness and now are back to a regular collar. She is a bit more walkable when both my husband and I are together. She does well when following behind other dogs who are walking in front of us. We have been taking her around a quieter neighborhood, she is making progress with meeting people and other dogs etc.
    Is this normal for a puppy? What would you suggest to do when she just stops and wont move…… If I keep walking she starts dragging her paws and wrestling her neck with the collar.

    Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
    Nichole Snyder

    • Kersten

       /  December 15, 2011

      I’m having the same problem as Nichole. My Dane puppy is 15 weeks old and taking him on walks is quite a task since he lays down multiple times in various grassy places, and it often takes many attempts just to get him back on his feet and moving again (have to pick him up and sometimes carry him back over on to the street). Suggestions???

  9. Thanks for a very interesting article. Friends of ours have a Great Dane puppy. He is well behaved at the moment, but I am going to pass your article on to them. I am sure they will find it very useful.

  10. Lori

     /  February 11, 2012

    I find miniature horse halters work best for danes. The halti-leads for dogs are over priced and too thin/cheaply made. Buy a double nylon density miniature horse halter in size small(and I use that size on wide nosed Euro danes) and make sure you buy one that adjusts both at the nose and behind the neck. Just like horses, when adjusted properly it puts pressure on both areas. Makes them a cinch to handle. You can actually train them to tie like a horse and remain quiet and make sure they stay where you want them. I have a bad shoulder injury and without the use of these it would be hard for me to walk my danes. If you have a male over 180 lbs and a very thick muzzle you may want to jump to a size M(medium)…..also you are not damaging the trachea or making them choke or cough when you need to pull or redirect…..JMO

    • renee

       /  March 31, 2012

      Will this work on any great dane?And do you think I could use it as as a “training” tool?

  11. renee

     /  March 31, 2012

    I have a great dane that is one years old, we havent’ had him for long and are struggling to train him. He drags me everywhere on the leash, and only listens to my husband. But I am the one who walks him and is home to feed him most of the time. What can I do to correct the behaviour?

    • you have several options: for immediate help, I’d suggest a head halti which will give you much more control over him while walking. That or perhaps a no pull harness if you’d rather. Second, I’d start a clicker training class with him: this will build a habitual obedience relationship with you in particular. The head halti will give you more physical control, but he clicker training will give you more “heart” control, where he realizes that he only gets to have fun with you if he responds to your wishes. Good luck and looking forward to hearing how it goes!

  12. Marty

     /  October 8, 2013

    I haven’t read your post based on the fact you did that to your poor Danes ears.. How dare you! It’s disgusting

  13. Dwight

     /  January 2, 2014

    This is a wonderful site; I have learned a lot here, keep up the good work. Another place I learned from is a book that I purchased on Amazon. “I wana know what love is.” is the title. It is a Kindle book that teaches you everything anyone would want to know about how to train their pet from puppyhood on to adulthood. After reading this book, I was able to get control of my Yorkies and stop all their bad behavior. For example, to break your pet from jumping on you with his front feet, it’s best not to be a “No” person, which is negative. Teach your pet how to “sit”, this will give you control of your pet in a positive way. Once you teach your pet basic commands of sit, stay, lay down, come when called, and release, the rest is easy. Here is the link: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00HKK22EA
    Best book I have ever read on the subject

  14. It’s perfect time to make some plans for the future and it is time to be happy.

  1. Painless & Positive Puppy Training. | 7Wins.eu

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