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Ask the Trainer: Making a Dog More Comfortable on a Leash

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Dear Kevin,
Hannah won’t take a walk. I soon as the leash goes on she refuses to move. I’ve had someone run thinking she’d follow but nothing. Any ideas? Hannah is a Yorkie so gets plenty of exercise running around the backyard but I’d love to walk with her!

Hey Paula,

I recommend finding what kind of high value reward motivates her. I would take that and practice luring her around the house by your side without a leash. This is to kind of get the routine going. I also recommend using a cue to start this process. I say, “lets go.” The goal is for you to say your cue, she then gets next to you and starts following you around as you reward her. In the beginning reward often so she knows where she has to be to get the rewards. When that is going smoothly start to increase the amount time in between rewards. When she is successfully walking by your side with limited rewards, add in the leash. You may have to reward early and often again since the leash now is in the equation. But she should pick up on it rather quickly because of all the previous repetition without the leash.

Another option is to clip on a leash (4-6ft and only while she is supervised) and allow her to drag it around the house. I recommend tossing treats on the ground that she can go and get. This will give her a bit more confidence with a leash on if she is nervous about it.

One thing I do not recommend doing is just pulling her along. There is a very good chance that pulling her along would be traumatic and just make things worse.

Thank you for the question!
Kevin Duggan CPDT-KA

Kevin is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer through the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT.org)  and is a Canine Good Citizen Evaluator through the American Kennel Club. He currently resides in Ohio with his dog, V, a six-year-old Shepherd/Lab mix, where he operates All Dogs Go To Kevin, LLC, specializing in helping build positive relationships between humans and their canine companions using clear communication, not pain and fear. For more training tips and tricks, and to meet his amazing dog, V,  follow him on Facebook by clicking here.

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