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Leash Training Secrets

 Reviewed 16 April 2020 share-a-picture Or go to discussion?join-the-discussion dogphoto

==> Your dog pulling you down the road?

Making your dog heel isn't actually difficult at all.

A topic that's not really difficult if we just know HOW. - Hollywood actor Ben Affleck doesn't know (yet).

Ben dog walking

Note that this MYGERMANSHEPHERD PERIODICAL is about Adult GSD Leash Training. Although the content here generally also applies to GSD Puppy Leash Training, there are some significant differences in the Leash Training approach you use if you have a puppy, and we will feature GSD Puppy Leash Training in a separate Periodical.

I remember one of our earlier neighbors who had three large Akitas. They kept all three dogs in an outside kennel(!) in the front garden (they didn't know that's a bad thing to do because, unlike you, they had no access to our Periodical Building a Den for your Dog). ALL DAY LONG, while they both were at work, the dogs were left to themselves in the outdoor shed. When HE came home in the evening, he had to walk the dogs, because they were too strong for her (she said).

It was a terrible sight seeing the man (a strong builder!) being literally dragged down the road by three large dogs on leashes! With the joint pulling power almost of a horse he struggled the entire way of the walk!

Leash walking and impact on health

But I guess, that's what he wanted: to suffer. Because he didn't make a change. Neither to the housing of his dogs, nor to his dog walking approach.

Walking the dog on a tight leash in front of you is the worst one can do: Apart from all the behavioral consequences such leash pulling has, it also strains your lower spine discs (giving you backpain sooner or later), and it strains your dog's elbow and hip joints, shoulder and knee joints - the first two of which are a particular trouble area for German Shepherds: with their tendency to Elbow Dysplasia, Hip Dysplasia, and Arthritis in early years of life, this is a significant concern.

What actually is the purpose of the leash or lead?

Purpose of the dog leash or dog lead

The purpose of the leash (both short leash and long line) is to have a physical restraint for your dog when the trained restraint, the Recall, doesn't work - or when you aren't sure if it will work. - The Recall will be featured in a future Periodical.

There we see already: It's a second-best, a workaround. Using a leash is not ideal, but in certain situations it's necessary nonetheless: When your dog is in danger because of something or someone else, or when something or someone else is in danger because of your dog. wink

Back to our prior neighbor: What did he do wrong? Why was he being dragged down the road by his dogs?

  • He didn't start the walk before the walk
  • He had his dogs decide when to go for the walk, where to go, and how fast to go
  • His dogs were neither trained for leash walking nor for the Recall

And: He wasn't the accepted Pack Leader, the Alpha in his dog's pack!

When to put on the leash

If you need your dog to walk close to you on a leash, you need to start the walk before the walk. This expression means, long before you go outside with your dog, you already prepare yourself and your dog for the walk.

short leashIf your dog is a typical 'leash puller', put on the short leash at least 15 min before you plan to start the walk (unless of course, you are still facing housebreaking issues, but then you need the COMPLETE House Training Guide). See below how to put on the leash without causing dog behavior problems). Yes, put on the lead inside the house, and let your dog walk around with the short leash attached to its collar.


Then, about 5 min before you plan to go, do some SSCD (Start - Stop - Change Direction) inside the house: Pick up the end of the short leash, START in one direction, and after a few steps, STOP and CHANGE DIRECTION. Without force, just give a gentle tug for your dog to realize that you want to change direction.

As there is nothing new or exciting going on in that room where you do SSCD, your GSD is far more likely to learn quickly from you that you determine the walk: When to walk, where to walk, and how fast to walk. If done right, SSCD is calming to a dog. Your dog will quickly realize that you won't leave the house before (s)he isn't entirely calm. And (s)he learns to follow your lead long before you even leave the house!

Doggy DanIf you want to see how to do it right, there is no better way than to learn from the live dog training videos of the Master trainer Dan Abdelnoor ('Doggy Dan'), who has built a hugely helpful professional dog training video library - that I wish I had built, oh dear!

Going through the door

Then, when your dog is totally calm, go towards the main door and open it. Now two things can happen:

  • Either your dog continues to follow your lead (like just done during SSCD, see above)
  • Or your dog tries to get past you to go out first

In the first situation, fine, leave the house and go for the walk. In the second situation however, gently block your dog with your legs, close the door, and go back to do some more SSCD.

Then, when you feel your dog is calm, try again: Go to the main door and open it. But only leave the house once your dog stays behind you when going through the door.

Never leave the house for a dog walk before your dog isn't totally calm and follows your lead!

(Exception of course: urgent potty going)

Now your dog will be so much calmer on the walk! (S)he will not storm away from you and pull you down the road, but stay by your side, slightly behind you. If after a while your dog starts to pull on the leash, say or indicate STOP and stop walking, and then do some more SSCD. Now outside.

If you start the walk this way, then your German Shepherd will follow your lead outside too. (S)he will not pull on the lead, (s)he will start walking when you start, stop when you stop, and change direction when you change direction - and in the same direction. Your dog will quickly learn that you are going nowhere unless (s)he calmly stays slightly behind you. smile

So: Before you walk your dog, start the 'walk' inside the house. Start the walk before the walk.

Stubborn GSD?

But what if you have a leash-aggressive dog who doesn't want to stop pulling, who doesn't follow your lead? Do you pull stronger on the lead?

NO! Most dog owners do, yes, but then you give an entirely wrong stimulus. Instead, stand still and with one hand hold the lower outside of the collar (ie not at the neck) firmly but gently, ie you use the Collar Freeze. If you need to see it done, again attend to Doggy Dan's excellent video library, which of course also has great videos on using the Collar Freeze right)

Having read probably a hundred books, seen maybe 500 videos, and participated in 30 or so professional dog trainings, I have compared a lot, and Dan's videos are among the very best - without having to pay a local dog trainer for unsure success, using methods you can't observe (but which you have to bear out thereafter, doh!).

dog collarAnyway, in words: Hold your dog still, and don't move yourself. For a minute, or until your dog is totally relaxed, don't look at your dog, don't speak to your dog, and don't touch your dog - just freeze while you hold on to the collar.

The goal is to calm down your dog by being calm yourself (because dogs are energy recipients, fully explained in the Dog Training Toolkit). Put your dog's mind at ease. Make your dog feel relaxed. Dogs actually prefer to be relaxed over being hyper, because being hyper uses up their energy.

The Collar Freeze will work in (almost) all cases, it will be sufficient! Just be totally ignorant when you do it.

In the very rare case where SSCD and even a second or third Collar Freeze don't calm down your dog enough, you would use Isolation: Again, without speaking or looking or touching, calmly lead your dog on the collar into a separate small and safe room, close/lock the door and leave your dog there for say 10 minutes, or until calm.

Contrary to the Collar Freeze, dogs don't like Isolation because our domesticated dogs have an inbred desire to be close to their human Pack members (whether you are the accepted Pack leader yet or not). This is why all dogs fully understand that they did something wrong when we isolate them.

What leash to put on

Most dog owners think: "A leash is a leash, it doesn't much matter which leash I use".

In my experience, this couldn't be further from the truth. It matters so much that we could say: "The leash I use will determine my leash training success" - or at least significantly impact it.

The Long Line

Long LineThe Long Line, Long Leash or Long Lead is useful:

  • for as long as your Recall is not working reliably
  • in a new environment, where you can't know if the Recall will work
  • when your dog is playing with other dogs, but you feel you need to keep control
  • for your puppy's first off-leash experience
  • and in any other situation where you want to give freedom but nonetheless keep control

The Long Line allows both you and your dog semi-independency - independence while retaining control.

The Short Leash

The Short Leash or Short Lead is useful:

  • for as long as your Recall is not working reliably
  • when you need to tie your dog to something for a moment in an unsafe environment
  • and in any other situation and environment where you need close control

The Short Leash makes both you and your dog fully dependent - it requires uniform movements.

Note that the leash length is not the only difference, the features of both types of dog leashes or dog leads make the difference. Above I linked the top remedies in both categories: They are designed by dog behavior expert Sarah Hodgson and they are so popular because they are really the best (at least the best I know of, and obviously we get direct and indirect feedback from thousands of dog owners).

Included with the Short Leash comes Sarah Hodgson's 20-page ebook on leash training. This is specific to her own leash training approach and to the physical features of her 'teaching leash' (the short leash).

How to use the leash

When you walk your dog, you will either not need a lead at all once your dog is fully leash-trained (in all relevant environments), or you will use a Short Leash or Long Line as shown above.

Crucial is how you use the leashes (if you use them):

  • Be proactive - Put on the leash before you need it, ie observe the environment, don't chat on your phone wink
  • Slowly walk to your dog to put on the lead - never call your dog to put on the lead!
  • Calling your dog to you and giving the dog a negative consequence (putting on the leash) will RUIN all chances for a reliable Recall
  • Remember that ultimately the Recall shall replace the leash wherever possible
  • Put on the lead with calm movements, without speaking to or looking at your dog
  • When walking, or doing SSCD, only ever gently tighten the lead if your dog is not moving in your direction
  • Once your dog is moving in your direction, immediately loosen the leash
  • Moving in your direction must have an immediate positive consequence for your dog
  • When your dog is stubborn/non-compliant, re-apply SSCD
  • Again, use calm movements when you take off the lead, without speaking to or looking at your dog

These are the GSD Leash Training Secrets - well the basics of course. Just in case you seek step-by-step details how to master every situation (no more pulling, perfect heeling, safely walking off-leash, reliable Recall etc), then this is your best guide - I think, that's why I published it. grin I bet you won't find anything better, but if you do, simply give it back for a full refund (and ideally tell me where you struggle).



  • Above are the secrets of Adult GSD Leash Training
  • Purpose of the leash: Physical restraint where the trained restraint (the Recall) is unreliable
  • So, a leash is a second-best, a workaround, for safety reasons
  • Start the walk before the walk - Use the leash already inside the house
  • When your German Shepherd is stubborn/non-compliant, use SSCD, Collar-Freeze, and potentially Isolation (in this order!)
  • Never leave the house for a walk before your dog isn't totally calm and follows your lead!
  • The Long Leash or Long Line is for training your GSD to feel independent while you retain loose control
  • The best Long Line is Sarah Hodgon's feather-light but ultra-strong and well over the ground gliding(!) 50 feet long outdoor line for large dogs
  • The Short Leash or Short Lead is for training your GSD to feel dependent while you keep close control
  • The best Short Lead is Sarah Hodgon's multi-purpose 6 feet long genuine leather teaching lead for large dogs
  • Crucial is how you use the leash or lead: see the concise bullet point list above
  • But if you seek step-by-step details how to master every situation, to safely UNLEASH YOUR DOG, and to have a reliable Recall, then try out my very own comprehensive Leash Training Guide. Try out because you can give my books back if you are not entirely happy with one.
  • If you are not much into reading, and you prefer looking a professional top dog trainer over the shoulder, then without doubt the best one to learn from is the Master trainer Doggy Dan with his comprehensive online dog training videos from live client sessions! All of us here including myself have learned so much from Dan's videos, it can't be put into words or dollars!
  • Well, actually I can now: For example, Brenda Aloff charges $897 for her Foundation Skills online course. Ian Dunbar's contracted trainers at a Sirius Training Center charge for the first basic puppy training course of 11.5 hours $475, and for all puppy courses $3,115. - Doggy Dan Abdelnoor charges just $37 for an entire month - and for the whole life-time-training of the dog! Unbelievable, but true.

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