Teaching Your German Shepherd to Walk on a Leash

Categorized as Training and Behavior
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If you’re like most German Shepherd owners, you love going on walks but get frustrated when your pup pulls on the leash. Don’t worry – with some patience and persistence, you can teach your German Shepherd good leash manners. Having a well-trained dog who doesn’t drag you down the street makes walks much more pleasant for both of you.

In this article, I’ll go over the steps for leash training your German Shepherd using positive reinforcement techniques.

Here’s a quick step-by-step guide:

1. Start training early with your puppy using 5-minute sessions
2. Use a front-clip harness and strong 4-6 foot leash
3. Practice first in low distraction areas like your backyard
4. Reward slack leash walking with treats and praise
5. Stop immediately when they pull then wait for leash slack
6. Change direction randomly to maintain engagement
7. Allow occasional sniff breaks on the walk
8. Gradually build up distractions as leash skills improve

Start Training Early

It’s ideal to introduce leash training as soon as you bring home your German Shepherd puppy. Pups who learn not to pull from early on will be much easier to handle when they mature into stronger adult dogs. If you’ve adopted an adult German Shepherd who already pulls, don’t worry – you can still train them using the same techniques. It just might take a little longer depending on their age.

Gather the Right Supplies

Before you start leash training, make sure you have the right gear:

  • Properly fitted harness or collar: This gives you control without choking your dog when they pull. A front-clip harness that attaches at your dog’s chest is a good option.
  • Strong leash: Choose a thick leash that’s about 4-6 feet long. Retractable leashes should be avoided.
  • Tasty treats: Chopped up hot dogs, cheese, chicken or favorite snacks to motivate your pup.
  • Patience and a positive attitude! Leash training takes time and consistency.

Now you’re ready to begin teaching your German Shepherd to walk politely on a leash without pulling.

Train in Low Distraction Areas First

When you first start leash training, choose low distraction areas with minimal sights, sounds and smells. This allows your dog to focus on you rather than being overwhelmed by their environment. Good locations include:

  • Backyard
  • Enclosed dog park
  • Quiet street
  • Vacant parking lot
  • Around the house

Once your German Shepherd masters loose leash walking in these areas with few distractions, you can gradually move to more stimulating locations like busy parks and sidewalks. Go slowly to set them up for success.

Use Positive Reinforcement

The key to effective leash training is rewarding desired behaviors like slack leash walking and ignoring unwanted behaviors like pulling. When your German Shepherd chooses to walk next to you without tugging on the leash, be sure to praise them enthusiastically and offer a high value treat. This reinforces the behavior you want.

You’ll get the best results with positive reinforcement leash training techniques. Never punish your German Shepherd for pulling on the leash – that will only teach them to fear walks and damage your bond. Correct pulling by stopping movement and rewarding slack leashes instead.

Stop When Your Dog Pulls

Start walking with your German Shepherd on a loose leash next to you. The instant they start to pull ahead, immediately stop walking. Stand still and wait calmly until your dog backs up or looks at you. The moment they put slack in the leash, praise them and start moving again while giving treats periodically.

By stopping every time the leash gets tight, you’re teaching your German Shepherd that pulling makes forward progress stop. They’ll quickly learn that sticking close by your side keeps the walk going. Be patient and consistent with this method – it may take a few sessions before your pup gets it.

Change Direction When Needed

If your rambunctious German Shepherd gets extremely excited on a walk and starts bounding in front of you, use unplanned turns to regain their attention. Randomly pivot left or right while keeping a loose leash. Praise your pup when they follow your change of direction. Varying your walking route keeps your dog focused on you. It also avoids letting them build anticipation about going to specific locations.

Watch for Sniff Breaks

All that sensory input on walks can be extremely enticing for inquisitive German Shepherds who want to stop and smell everything. Allow occasional sniff breaks for your dog to explore interesting spots without pulling their leash tight. Simply pause and give them several seconds to sniff before motivating them to continue walking politely next to you.

Up the Challenge Gradually

Once your German Shepherd reliably walks without pulling in low distraction environments, take them to slightly more stimulating locations. Bring super delicious treats to keep them engaged with you. If you move too quickly into extremely distracting settings before they’re ready, your dog can revert back to pulling habits. Go back to easier areas if needed and build up very gradually.

With ample patience, motivation and rewards, you’ll have your German Shepherd walking calmly on a loose leash even on lively neighborhood streets. Keep up the outstanding work — both you and your well-trained companion will love your daily bonding time strolling together!

The key things to remember when leash training your German Shepherd are:

✓ Use a properly fitted harness/collar and strong leash
✓ Start training early and be patient
✓ Practice first in low distraction areas
✓ Reward slack leash walking with praise/treats
✓ Stop moving when they pull and wait for slack
✓ Add changes in direction when needed
✓ Allow occasional sniff breaks
✓ Gradually increase distractions as skills improve

Follow these positive reinforcement techniques consistently, and soon you’ll have a German Shepherd who happily walks beside you without pulling! Now go enjoy those wonderful walks together!


1. How old should my German Shepherd puppy be before starting leash training?

Start leash training as soon as you bring home your 8-12 week old German Shepherd puppy. Beginning leash manners early gets them used to walking politely on-leash. Go for short, 5-minute sessions to start.

2. What type of collar or harness works best for leash training?

Use a front-clip harness that attaches at your German Shepherd’s chest rather than their back. Unlike collars, harnesses reduce choking risks and give you better control when they pull.

3. My German Shepherd keeps biting or chewing on the leash – how do I stop this?

Carry tasty treats on your walks. When your pup tries grabbing the leash, say “ah ah!” then redirect their attention back to you with a treat. Also try different leash materials like leather that doesn’t attract chewing.

4. How do I train my German Shepherd to walk without pulling when distractions are around?

Start in low distraction areas first. With patience and consistency, gradually increase difficulty by adding more exciting distractions like other dogs, smells, and activities. The key is to keep your pup engaged with you using praise, treats and changing direction.

5. Why does my German Shepherd walk well on-leash at home but pulls on walks around the neighborhood?

Your German Shepherd is overexcited and distracted outside your home turf. Bring high-value treats on neighborhood walks to incentivize focus on you. If they start pulling, immediately stop moving until the leash slackens then praise and reward polite leash walking.

By Andrew Garf

Andrew Garf has loved dogs, especially German Shepherds, since he was 10 years old. Though he also loves burgers, training dogs is his real passion. That's why he created the website TrainYourGSD.com - to help dog owners learn how to properly train, care for, and bond with their German Shepherd dogs.