German Shepherd leash training is one of the most important obedience training skills you need to teach to your dog early. Walking on a leash with your dog without proper training can be quite a pain. Dogs are not born knowing about proper leash manner. Some dogs will pull ahead and others will lag behind or stop altogether. When trained properly, you will be able to start walking with your dog comfortably with a slack leash.
Find the Right Collar and Leash First
Before we start the training, you need to find the appropriate collar and leash first. Sounds obvious right? However, this step is so important, if not done right, you will have a hard time train your dog.
So what kind of collar that you should get? Today, there are literally hundreds of different types of collars being sold. Some collars come with a hefty price tag that gives nothing other than just for their stunning appearance.
When you are shopping for your dog’s collar, you should avoid the following:
- pinch or prong collar
- choke collar
- electronic collar
- metal chain collar
- plastic collar
This type of collar usually used for temporary correction in a dog’s behavior and during the training period. Also known as Correction collar, the collar gets tightened when the lead is pulled drawing the dog’s attention.
This type of collar should only be used under the supervision of the trainer as it can be dangerous. The length is usually no longer than 6 feet and the width depends on the leash material and the size of your dog. This type of collar is touch sensitive and it is generally advised to slip off the collar when not being used.
Also known by the name ‘Head Halters’, this type of collar is generally attached to the head and behind the ears. It is based on the same principle that allows people to control big horses. You simply need to control the head and the body is automatically controlled.
It is generally recommended for the ones who are bolder and aggressive towards people. It gives you a more effective control over your dog as it has a direct impact on the muzzle, the weakest point of your dog. This collar is slightly uncomfortable for your dog at the beginning, but as the time passes by he is used to it and you get a better control over your pet.
Specially designed for the dogs with respiratory or throat problems, this collar gives your dog more pulling power. The comfort level is usually high but you do have less control over your dog while taking him out for a walk.
A harness is specially designed for dogs that find the conventional collars uncomfortable. The harness can further be divided into two categories: General and Job-Specific.
A Job-Specific (also known as No Pull Harness), unlike general harness, gives you more control on your dog. It discourages pulling and jumping by putting gentle pressure across the chest. Check out this review for the best German Shepherd harness that I would recommend for your GSD.
Introduce The Collar
The next step is to introduce and get your dog accustomed to the collar. You need to associate the collar with a positive reward. Once you get the appropriate collar, put the collar immediately on your dog and give him a treat right away. This way, your dog will learn that collar is a good stuff.
You should put the collar often. Put it whenever and wherever you have a chance: during a mealtime, playtime, in a backyard, inside a house and so on.
Do everything you can to make him keeps wearing the collar. Get him to play with a toy or interact with him when he scratches at the collar. The goal here is to make your dog gets comfortable with the collar for long periods of time.
Time to Getting The Leash
Now it’s the time to get the leash. You may want to read my article here to find out the three dog leashes that I personally recommend for German Shepherds. Although you’re eventually deciding to scour pet stores and online retailers to buy your own dog leash, the buying guide section in that article is still beneficial to point out what to look for before buying a leash for your dog. Check out the best German Shepherd leash that I recommend here.
Time to Put The Leash On
Once your puppy is happy wearing the collar, it is time to attach the leash. Attach the leash to your puppy and let him run inside the house. Attach the leash for at least 3 times a day, each session should last for around 20 minutes or so. While he is running around, you should watch your puppy in order to keep him from getting tangled.
After a few days inside the house, bring your puppy to play outside in an enclosed safe area such as a garden and yard and let him roam around freely. You can play with him during this time, my favorite routine is to let him retrieve a toy. Once he looks comfortable and enjoys the routine, picks up the leash and encourage him to come to you. Give him a small treat and praise him by saying something such as “good dog”.
The goal here is to make him getting used to walking around with the leash hanging loosely off its neck.
Leash Training Methods Guidelines
There are various German Shepherd leash training methods that you can use to teach your dog. Honestly speaking, I can’t tell you which ones work best for your dog.
Different dogs respond differently to different methods. The only way to find out which methods work well for your dog is by trying them yourself. Even though, there are various leash training methods, every leash training method that I know out there follow these basic principles:
TIRE HIM OUT FIRST
I remember when I trained my neighbor’s German Shepherd. I quickly jumped into a walk training session, and it was an hour of hell! He kept pulling the leash, running around and jumping like a mad dog. After that, I learn my lesson. Your dog is pulling because he is full of excess energy, it’s as simple as that. So before you start every walk training session, you should find a way to tire your dog. You can play different games with him or bring him to play with other dogs. When he is tired, you will have a lot easier time to do walk training with him.
KEEP THE TRAINING FREQUENT AND SHORT
Just like every other dog training method, walk training requires dedication, patience, and commitment. To train your dog, you need to teach him over and over again. Therefore, every training session should be short and frequent.
PREPARE THE TREATS
Every training session requires plenty of rewards. You should prepare your dog most favorite treats in every training session. The treats should be light and easily chewed. Your dog should be able to eat those treats quickly and continue the training right away. I usually give my dog small peanut-sized cooked chicken or freeze-dried liver.
DON’T FORGET TO PRAISE HIM
Just like treats, praise should be given in every training session. When your dog does something pleasant, you should praise him. When you praise your dog for certain behavior, he will most likely repeat that behavior again.
LEARN TO ATTACH HIS LEASH THE RIGHT WAY
Attaching your dog leash the right way at the beginning of walk training session can make a huge difference between fail and success of each training session. When you attach the leash to your dog during each training session, he should be calm and relax. Remember the cause of your dog pulling is because he is full of excess energy.
If your dog gets overly excited, you should stay and do absolutely nothing until he calms down a bit. As soon as he becomes calm, slowly attach the leash. If he starts to bark, run around or jump around, take your hands back and do absolutely nothing. Repeat the sequence until your dog can stand still while you attach his leash.
START FROM A SAFE ENVIRONMENT
When you bring your dog for walk training, you should begin from a safe route first. Start the route from your backyard then gradually move to a nearby residential street, park and so on. Don’t bring him to the busy road right away or else he will become frightened.
Along the road, as you walk with him, you need to help him to gain confidence. Do various activities such as shake a paw, talk to him, ask him to sit, praise him, give him treats and so on. As your dog gains more confidence, he will more likely to walk nicely with you.
Three of My Most Favorite Leash Training Methods
Just like what I said previously, each leash training method works differently for a different dog. To find out which methods that will work, you need to try them yourself. I won’t discuss all leash training methods out there, but I will share with you some that work for me.
METHOD NO.1 – LURE AND REWARD
Lure and reward are my favorite method. Before you train your dog, you need to prepare a lot of treats.
- First, make your dog standing at your left side. You might ask why left side? Well, ideally, dogs are taught to walk on the left side. But if you prefer to train your dog to walk on the right side, you are free to choose.
- Then grab the treats that you have prepared, and hold your left hand right in front of his nose.
- For every 5 steps, if he walks at your pace, feed him a small treat and praise him “good dog”. If he begins to pull ahead you need to stop walking immediately.
- Call his name, ask him to sit at your left side and resume walking again.
- After he calms a bit, do the same thing again from point 1 to 3. Gradually increase the number of steps you go in between treats.
- After quite a while, you should be able to walk comfortably with your dog by your side.
- Reward and praise him every minute or so.
METHOD NO.2 – STOP AND BE STILL
The stop and be still method is one of the easiest leash training methods to control your dog. When you walk with your dog and he begins to pull you need to stop immediately. Just stand still and do nothing, eventually, your dog will take a step back or turn around. Tell him to sit. Give him a reward if he listens to you. When he calms a bit and the leash is relaxed you can resume your walk again. Repeat the method again whenever he pulls.
METHOD NO.3 – REVERSE DIRECTION
Walk together with your dog. When your dog pulls, turn away from him and change your direction. Change your direction slowly without jerking on the leash. Your dog might be reluctant in the beginning to follow up. Call his name to get his attention and when he follows you praise him and give him a reward then continue your walk again.
When he pulls again, repeat the same steps. The main idea of this method is to teach your dog that pulling won’t be rewarded while walking by your side will be rewarded. Give him a reward when he finally understands to walk calmly by your side.
Now you have learned three of my most favorite leash training methods. It is a time for you to practice them. Remember it takes time, patience and dedication to training your dog. Therefore, you shouldn’t expect an instant result. Just enjoy the process and do it with fun.