If your puppy doesn't know about leashes yet, start slowly. Skip to step 3 with a more experienced dog.
Put the collar on, and let her get used to it. You can give her treats or play with her to take her mind off the collar. Once she gets used to the collar its time to move to the next step.
Attach a short lightweight leash to her collar and let her drag it around. Watch that the leash doesn't get caught on anything. Do what you did before, giving her treats or playing with her to take her mind off the leash.
Once she no longer paying attention to the leash, put a very light pressure on the leash. You don't want to scare her, so the pressure must be truly light. Then call her to you, using a toy or treats or smoochy noises, so that she chooses to come to you. Her natural response is to pull, so you are teaching her that she can remove collar pressure by moving toward you. Repeat this until you are sure she understands to move toward you when she feels collar pressure.
Walking With A Goal game
The purpose of Walking With A Goal is to teach your dog how to keep the leash loose, in the context of a fun game. You begin teaching this game in a familiar low distraction place, like your living room. There you can control all the variables, so your dog learns how easy it is to win, keeping it fun for her. When your dog is winning consistently, then you gradually increase the difficulty, in preparation for getting ready to train LLW in the "real world".
You want your dog to understand that pulling on the leash never works. If pulling on the leash is never rewarded AND keeping the leash loose is rewarded by letting the dog go forward... no sane dog would keep pulling. Dogs DO what WORKS for dogs. If it doesn't work, they won't keep doing it. Look at this as the first day of the rest of your dog's life. From this moment on a tight leash will never be rewarded. And remember, use management when you need to.
To begin the game you will need space enough to move about 25 feet in a straight line. At one end of that line will be something your dog wants to get to. The idea is to train in a place that is both familiar and not distracting, so your dog can focus on the goodies at the finish line. I usually use a dish with yummy and smelly treats. The starting place for the game is the other end of the line.
Prepare Your Leash
You'll decide for yourself where you want your dog to walk and you should have a picture in your mind of what loose leash walking looks and feels like. Most medium to large dogs do best walking beside and just a little in front of their owner - with the dog's side or hips even with the owner's hips, making it easy to see the dog with your peripheral vision. For smaller dogs, you may want them farther ahead of you, so they are easier to see and less likely to get stepped on if you misstep.
If you want your dog to clearly understand what a loose leash is, then it has to be distinctly different from "not loose". Some people aren't bothered by a little tension in the leash, but a distinction between a "little tension" and "too much tension" is harder to understand for the dog and an unclear criteria for the owner to train. To make training smoother and easier to understand, the distinction between loose and not loose needs to be clear. Therefore I recommend your loose leash definition include a snap that hangs down and a leash with a gentle curve to it.
Prepare your leash by tying a knot in the right place. Usually a six foot leash is the right size, but if you are very tall and your dog is very small, you could need a longer leash. With the dog standing where you want him to walk, attach the leash to his collar. Hold the handle of the leash with your right hand. With your left arm hanging comfortably at your side and the leash snap hanging down from the dog's collar and then curving up toward you, slip the leash between your middle and ring fingers and grasp it. That is where you want to tie the knot.
You will hold the loop of the leash in your right hand and the knot will be in your left hand, with the leash going between your middle and ring fingers. Your left hand should be gently curled around the knot. If the leash is loose, your left arm hangs comfortably at your side. If the leash is tight, your left arm/hand will be pulled away from your body. Depending on the length of your leash, the size of your dog, and where you want your dog to walk, you may have to take up a loop of extra leash in your right hand.
Place your hand in your dog's collar and walk toward the dish. When you get there, while holding the dog back with one hand, put yummy and smelly treats in the dish with the other hand. You want your dog to be able to a-l-m-o-s-t reach the treats and certainly able to smell them. The idea is for your dog to have a strong desire to get to those treats. Now, with your hand still in your dog's collar, walk to the other end of the line where the start is.
Get your hands situated on the leash and when you are ready walk slowly toward the dish. If/when your dog gets all the way to the dish with a loose leash, she can have all the goodies there - that's the goal - get to and gobble up all the goodies. That's how the dog wins.
If the leash is tight at any time, i.e. the leash is straight or your hand is pulled away from your body, you will back up all the way to the beginning. Yes, you must back up and all the way to the starting point. Then start again. Any time the leash is tightened - it should be like a switch turning on your back-up motor. Keep in mind the idea is not to give the dog a leash correction, you don't want to jerk on his neck. In the beginning of this training, you can let go of the knot and say your dog's name as you stop before starting to move backward, to keep from jerking on his neck and to help him understand you are changing direction. After a short while your dog will be paying close attention to you and won't need that extra help.
Repeat Steps 3 and 4 over and over again. When your dog is very good at getting all way to the treats, five times in a row, without any tight leash on the way, its time to up the ante.
Upping the ante is all about making the task harder in small increments, so your dog has a chance to win and yet is still learning. There are many ways to up the ante and the more of them you work through, the more solid your dog's understanding of the rules will be. Pick one and play Walking With a Goal until your dog is very good at getting all way to the treats, five times in a row, without any tight leash on the way. Some ways to increase the difficulty include:
- increasing the distance between the start and the treat dish
- use even more wonderful treats in the dish
- practice this game when your dog hasn't had a meal yet and is hungrier than usual
- use your dog's meal at the end of the line
- if your dog is toy motivated, place his ball or toy in the dish and when he wins by getting there on a loose leash, play with him before starting over
- walk normal speed
- walk at a faster speed
- rev your dog up at the start line so he's really jazzed to go
- practice this game when your dog is well rested and ready to go
- even use a person your dog loves as the goal
- get creative and have something special as the goal