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Leash Training Secrets

 Reviewed 31 January 2019 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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  25 Page Comments, ZERO SPAM: the spam spam-free oasis on the web grin Add one

  1. supportive

    Thank you, Tim for the Leash Training email. It was a good review for me. (I laughed when I got to your remark about wishing you had created the Doggy Dan video library)
    Binny has to be on a leash (laws) and I’m lucky he was raised under the instruction of my German from the beginning so we are good with leash walking. He’s such a good boy!

    • supportive

      Wow that is Binny now??
      Thank you so much for both the pic (every pic you share!) and your post.

      @leash laws: Everywhere Pippilotta, yes. However I wrote somewhere how I deal with that. And that's not by putting the dog on-leash, in my case.
      From experience I'd say again: As long as a dog is well-behaved (like yours and mine for example) no one is gonna complain.

      No one?
      Twice or three times in my ENTIRE life (no more for sure). And I am older than most anyone of you 😉
      And those times then I deal with that person myself. Confidently. Successfully 🙂
      Twice was the Police, indeed.

      In essence: In particular a GSD (but can apply to *almost* any dog) can only protect anyone who needs help(!) - maybe soon the complainant! - WHEN THE DOG IS FREE: Like in nature, where still today even dangerous animals are free! eek

      Now if the dog behaves well such that even the complainant is impressed (hasn't seen that before/rarely) then even the complainant will make a (quiet) mental compromise, and you won't pay a fine or such, no.

      I guess because subconsciously everyone knows very well:

      A well-trained dog is SAFER for the community than a LOT of

      • fathers
      • mothers
      • grandmothers
      • stepfathers
      • uncles
      • schoolkids(!)
      • and what not.

      The news show us daily what actions some of the above are capable of sometimes... - which NO well trained dog has ever done. bow


    Thank you for this Tim! I've been waiting for this one. Gracie is only 6 months and I'm anxious to also read the leash training for puppies but this helps very much. You're the best!


    I am really interested in reading rest of this article but can't get logged in. It doesn't recognise my email and don't have another user name.

    • supportive

      Brenda, I actually asked our staff (contractors) what possibly isn't clear in this:

      LIKE the above

      They have no idea either what makes you struggle. Any chance you could explain to us what your problem is?


    Thanks Tim


    Thanks again Tim for an excellent article. I found that using a halter/harness makes a huge difference. The first time I used one it made walking Matt a new experience, immediately
    I recommend using one to all. When I show it to Matt, he assumes the position to put it on as he knows what it means. He loves to walk calmly and I love the difference. No more pulling! By the way, Matt is 7 months old now, and is maturing daily. A fun time In his life and I'm lucky to be a part of it.

    • supportive

      Great Pat! I too find a harness much better than a collar. We actually have the DT one.
      Collar is great indoors, for the Collar Freeze. Outdoors we can still wear a collar too (for this purpose), but there's no need to tie the leash to it.


    Hi, Unrelated to this topic but related to the last one on you not being able to continue. I just had this idea that I've seen on info sites before. You could put a donate button via on each page you send out that we could use to pay via paypal. I know I got help on fixing my fridge on a free info site, and I was so happy I quickly donated. I think people might take advantage of that.


    Hi Tim,
    Max is somewhat a good walker. However, when we start the walk, he's pretty calm and then on the way back is when he starts to pull me. I do the SSCD alot, maybe I need to do it more. I am definately going to do the walk before the walk, I did not know to do that. Good advice!
    Thanks so much, Tim!! I really enjoy the periodicals!!


    thank you, this information is helping me tremendously, I sincerely apreciate


    Great article. I used your "Free" Puppy Training Essentials, (you suggested I read), and was very grateful! I now have a 9 month old that loves to take walks. We continue to train on some of his other "Puppy" actions. Thanks, Sherri


    I think I will try the walk-before-the-walk on Jerry Lee though he is still a puppy at 9 months. He gets way too excited about going out the door, getting on his prong collar and leash, and I also outfit him with a backpack which seems to make the difference between night and day while walking in public. Looking forward to your puppy-specific article.

    • supportive

      Susan, the dog walk preparation you need to do *particularly* with the younger dogs. At 9 month starting with this is very LATE, not early.
      And since "he gets very excited about going out the door" you need to do the dog walk preparation all the more diligent.
      Further, I would get rid of the prong collar! Why? Because I would leash train my dog in the way described in the Leash Training guide.

      Further: 5 weeks ago you received the Puppy Training Essentials. Maybe my mistake is that I gift them, I give them for free. For all of us "free" seems like not valuable, but in my case this is a HUGE mistake. I dare say if you had given these Essentials the attention they deserve, you would, at this very moment, not be facing the problems with Jerry Lee (amazing dog name by the way!).

      Assuming you don't want to buy a book (Leash Training guide), please make sure that you give my gifts all the more attention. They do help enormously if you just apply them. Okay?


    My GSD just turned 1 and is still rushing toward things that interest her, no matter how many direction changes I make. Is this leading toward a bad habit or just part of adolescence?

    • supportive

      Sharon, that is part of adolescence yes, however you need to correct this now while a puppy.
      What do you mean with "direction changes"?

      • newbie

        Thanks Tim for your reply; directions changes are your SSCD. If it's another dog I'm trying to keep her focus off she is crazy. She gets that high pitch bark and whine and really won't stop until it's out of sight. I'm hoping she will grow out of it; but until then I don't let her get what she wants unless I say it's okay.

      • supportive

        Sharon "I’m hoping she will grow out of it;" - she won't anytime soon. Address it. She's on leash anyway, so why don't you use SSCD as described?

        "directions changes are your SSCD." - I don't understand?


    This has been great for Chief...& us! He's really trying hard to focus on us and hold back on the pulling. Human patience is a must, we can take a good 5-10 minutes at the door, opening & closing it but it reaps rewards leaving in a calmer state.
    Thanks Tim

  13. newbie

    This periodical is invaluable to us right now. Trooper's aggression continued to get worse and more frequent with the path we were on so decided to go back to basics. Leash training / walking is the place we decided to start since we never followed through when he was a puppy but even that we weren't doing properly. This is exactly what we needed to re-establish our foundation the correct way - thank you so much.

    • supportive

      Thank you!
      Re/ the aggression, pl don't forget that it ALL feeds into each other. While for a few dogs the (correct) Feeding Routine may be sufficient, for Trooper certainly not. With such a difficult case you need to apply:
      - complete Feeding Routine
      - No food treats
      - No scavenging, no table scraps
      - Ignoring Attention Seeking
      - complete Leash Walk Routine
      - No repetition of a command (in such case ignore)
      - more visual cues than commands
      - be totally calm, even upon disobedience (in such case ignore)
      - No punishments - only Isolation, Collar Freeze, or SSCD (else ignore)
      - AND: Both of you need to treat Trooper the SAME, so that the aggression towards one (you) stops

      I hope you can soon report that Trooper is now entirely tamed...

  14. newbie

    Thank you for all the advice. I will begin to implement this right away. Hopefully Bobby will get the message that he is not the boss!

  15. newbie

    Hi Tim,

    I have a problem in implementing the above because I have to take Bucho to a nearby park by car to walk him. When do I do the walk before the walk? If I do them before putting him in the car, then he would forget about them when he get off the car at the park. Can I do them at the park after he get off the car? How should I do the walk before the walk then? Please advise..
    Thank you so much..

    • supportive

      Okay, I see Decima. But still: Do you park the car inside the house? No, right? So: Consider the (short) walk to the car as "the walk". And "the walk before the walk" you do inside the house. Before you leave to the car. Then, once you reach the park, again, first do some minutes SSCD, before you even start the dog walk (and certainly before he goes off-leash). Clear now?
      And thanks, I'll add that case to the book!

  16. newbie

    My adult GSD needs leash training and indeed, he pulls me on our walks. I am going to use these methods immediately. Since I did not raise him as a puppy and he has been with me for only 3 months, (rescued him) I know we are still greeting to know one another. However, he is INCREDIBLY smart and I am sure I will have a leash success story to report!
    Thank you.

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