I still remember the first time my dad took the training wheels off my bike… (this ties into long leash dog training tips, I promise)
There’s still a scar, actually.
Luckily, I had enough practice under my belt that I wasn’t too afraid to get back on the bike.
But, what would have happened if from day one of learning to ride a bike I didn’t have any training wheels? Would I have gotten back on at all, or just completely given up?
Odds are I would have felt defeated… like I wouldn’t ever be able to accomplish the end goal!
When we train our pups, we CANNOT expect them to “learn to ride” without any training wheels in the beginning. One of the fastest ways to frustrate and overwhelm our dogs is to ask too much of them.
Just like a kid without training wheels, constant failures and falls will leave our pups hating training time and more importantly, not learning anything.
One of the best set of training wheels you can give to your dog is a long lead leash. Here’s a picture of one so we are all on the same page.
They are a simple leash (clip on one end, handle on the other) that range in sizes anywhere from 8-100+ feet. For the long lead tips I’m gonna give, a 30-foot leash is typically the best and most versatile length.
Long lead leashes allow you to train your pup on more difficult behaviors while staying in control of the situation. And in the beginning, you need control. If you lose control, you risk setting your dog up for unsuccessful training sessions.
If you try and teach a dog recall or to stay with distance without a long lead, you’ll probably end up chasing a pup that’s running away from you. Not only that but using a long lead keeps your pup safe during training. Not just safe from danger, but from becoming lost or stolen!
Now that you know why you should use a long lead, let’s talk about how.
Here are three effective ways to use a long lead leash for dog training.
1. Teaching Distance, Outdoor, and Out-of-Sight Stays
Teaching your pup to stay with the help of a long leash will keep you in control, and keep your pup safe.
Let me explain why.
When you’re ready to step up to practicing the ‘stay’ behavior with your pup outdoors, you can’t just expect them to get it right away. Of course, you’ll start close (ie, less than 6 feet away from them). But, what happens when you need to practice a 15-foot stay?
Are you gonna just drop the leash and hope that your pup stays?
Or maybe you think you are really fast so you can just grab them if they start chasing the neighbor cat that strolled by. Good luck with that!
The power of a long leash for this behavior is that your pup is always “in your hands” so to speak. If you’re practicing stay at a park, and out of nowhere your pup decides to bolt after a passerby, they won’t get far! Because you’ve got them on a leash, even from 15 feet away, they stay safe and you avoid the impossible task of trying to chase down your dog.
This same concept can be applied for teaching out-of-sight stays. When you go around the corner and can’t see your pup, you’ll still have the confidence of knowing they’re on the end of your long lead.
Teaching stays outdoors, at a distance, and out of sight are best taught with a long leash. It will ensure your level of control, and just as important, your pup will stay safe.
2. Teaching Come When Called Outdoors and With Distance
Oh, the joys of teaching your dog to come when called.
For many pups, this may be the single most difficult behavior to fully understand and follow every single time. A huge reason this behavior is tough to teach is that, in many cases, our dogs have too much freedom as we try to teach them to come every time.
Using a Long Lead Leash to Control Environments
Tell me if this sounds familiar.
Your pup, let’s call him Buddy, is getting really good at coming to you when you ask inside the house. You’re starting to feel really confident in Buddy, so you decide to take this behavior outside.
You practice a few times in your yard and at a quiet park with great success. Hooray! You feel like Buddy can handle anything.
Then a few days later, you’re at a dog beach (off-leash is allowed), how fun! You’re playing some intense fetch when you see a group of young kids come walking towards you and Buddy. Hoping to avoid any problems, you call Buddy to come to you.
Two or three additional attempts later, Buddy is, unfortunately, jumping up on the kids. You finally make your way to Buddy after feeling a bit embarrassed and slightly upset at Buddy and apologize to the group of kids.
Each and every time this scenario plays out a bad behavior (not coming to you) is being reinforced by playing with the kids. Or chasing a cat. Or chasing a bike. Or running around at the speed of light.
The more and more this happens, the less likely Buddy is going to return when you call. What happens is that Buddy starts to recognize that not coming back to you sometimes creates just as positive as an experience (ie chasing an animal, jumping on kids, etc.)!
The only surefire way to not let those undesirable reinforcers overcome Buddy is to not let them happen!
And, that’s where a long lead leash comes in.
Replay the dog beach scenario, but this time Buddy is on a 30-foot leash.
If by chance he doesn’t want to respond to your request to come, he still can’t get to the kids. Why? Because he’s on a long leash, and you are in control of the situation.
Using a Long Lead Leash to Teach Come When Called
Of course, the real solution to our dog beach nightmare is to thoroughly teach come when called before that type of situation occurs.
Just like with stay, using a long leash to teach recall will help you stay in control and keep your dog safe. And even more so, you will set up plenty more instances of success than failure.
When your pup is starting to understand come when called inside the house, it’s time to practice outside.
Start practicing outside from small distances. Slowly build up distance as positive trials are completed.
When the time comes that your pup is handling recall from about 6 feet away, it’s time to step up to further distances. Again, are you just going to walk 10 feet away and hope your pup comes when you ask?
You’re gonna have them on a long leash. That way if they don’t come right away (or all the way), you have the ability to gently correct them towards the right decision.
(Disclaimer: I don’t recommend yanking or pulling your dog while teaching recall. For two reasons. First, it can hurt your dog if you are yanking on their neck or chest (if using a harness). And second, they don’t actually learn how to come to you… they just get forced into it. When dogs are forced into behaviors, very little (if any) real learning occurs. What a waste of time!)
As you keep practicing these steps with the long leash, you’ll set up hundreds of instances of successful recalls with your dog. And that my friend is the name of the dog training game, setting up success!
So, if your dog is struggling to come when called outside or from distance, start using a long lead! The long leash will allow you to stay in control, keep your pup safe, and increase the likelihood of successful recalls.
3. Transitioning to “Off Leash” Behavior
For many pup parents, training their pup to listen off leash is the holy grail of dog behavior. And just like most holy grails out there, it’s no easy task.
With the help of a long leash, you can start prepping for “off leash” behaviors. No matter the behaviors you want your pup to accomplish off leash, you can mimic those scenarios with a long leash.
If you want your pup to be able to hike off leash with you, take them out on a 50-foot leash. That way, you give your pup the feeling of freedom, without losing control.
If you want your pup to be able to explore on walks “off leash”, take them on a walk with a 30-foot leash. That way you can give them as much (or as little) freedom as you want, without losing control.
These types of tests are a great way to gauge your pup’s “off leash” abilities, without actually being off leash.
Of course, long leads aren’t a replacement for the necessary training to get to “off leash” status. Rather, it’s a set of “training wheels” to make sure your pup is set up for success and won’t come crashing down over and over and lose their confidence.
Recap of Long Leash Dog Training Tips
Using a long leash to train your dog can be one of the most effective tools to ensure success. It keeps you in control, keeps your pup safe, and helps you gauge your pup’s abilities.
You can use a long leash to help teach the following behaviors (of course, there’s probably more that can be added to this list).
- Come when called or recall
- Off-leash behaviors
- Hiking within a certain distance
- Leave it
- Sit, down, and up from a distance
- and more!
I hope you’re feeling excited, empowered, and ready to go train your pup with a long leash! Comment below how a long leash has helped you out.
If you need to buy a long lead, get one here as part of the Training Starter Pack. It’s the ultimate training tool kit.