Training a Rescue Dog to Walk on a Leash

Rescue dogs are very special dogs who often come with a history that affects their behaviors and personality.

One of the issues most dog owners face with rescue dogs is their inability to walk nicely on the leash. They tend to pull and try to lead the way.

The good news is, proper leash behavior is a learned behavior, and with some training, your rescue dog will learn proper leash manners.

Having the right dog harness and introducing the leash are just some of the many ways you can help you and your dog to enjoy walks.

Read on as we discuss how you can train your rescue dog to walk on a leash.

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rescue dog on leash

Why Dogs Pull on the Leash

Dogs, whether puppy or adult, rescue or not, love to pull on the leash simply because it works.

It gets them where they want to go, knowing they are much faster and stronger than us. Here are some more reasons why dogs pull on the leash.

The Environment is More Reinforcing than You

Dogs gravitate towards leaves, bushes, people, and fellow canines who seem more interesting.

So owners are advised to find ways to become more interesting to their dogs. You can do this with the use of treats or toys.

You can also train them in places that aren’t “pull-worthy”. Choose spots where there aren’t many people, dogs, and other distractions that will lead them to pull and sniff.

Wrong Equipment

Collars and other equipment can also contribute to a dog’s pulling behavior. The truth is, the right tools won’t automatically fix the pulling issue.

Your furry friend can be trained to walk nicely on any collar or harness.

However, high-quality and specifically designed tools can help the pulling behavior become more manageable.

They Lack of Proper Training

This is probably the most common issue when talking about rescue dogs that pull.

Used to staying in a single compound, rescue dogs usually become too excited about the outdoors and it gets worse because they aren’t trained to behave.

Check out this great article on how to train rescue dogs.

Walking on the leash loosely is not natural, but it is a learned behavior in dogs. Training dogs takes time, effort, and consistency.

So if you cannot commit, a good reinforcement trainer will be able to help your dog develop loose-leash walking behavior.  

Why Leash Train Your Dog?

There are several reasons why leash training your dog is so important.

We don’t want our dogs to pull on the leash. Continual frustration often leads us to make the problem worse by losing our temper or walking our dogs less.

And when we’re stressed, our dogs get stressed too. They will have a harder time socializing with other humans and fellow dogs, and may even develop aggressive behavior.

Leash training, then, takes your dog one step closer to developing good behaviors, whether it’s about socialization or temperament.

Can You Train an Adult Rescue Dog?

Dogs adopted from a dog shelter or animal rescue can make wonderful pets.

No matter the reason they landed in the shelter, with a little time, patience, and training, shelter dogs can become happy, well-adjusted family members.

Whether your dog has a history of being shy, aggressive, troublesome when it comes to housebreaking, anxious, or destructive, there is always hope for them to change.

Something in their past might still trigger behavioral issues, but socializing them and introducing them to new environments is the trick.

And when you socialize them outside, leash etiquette becomes a necessity.

That said, training them to walk loosely can be followed by proper socialization and pleasing behavior overall.

Just plan on giving your dog some time to adjust to its new home and family first.

Dog Training Gear

As previously mentioned, the wrong equipment sometimes triggers the pulling behavior. To get you on the right track, here is what you need for leash-training your pooch.

Dog Harness

Collars are the usual tool for walking dogs, but they only work best for those who have great leash manners already.

Otherwise, your dog will only end up choking and gagging from too much pulling.

Harnesses, especially no-pull harnesses, restrict your dog’s pulling behavior more effectively and allow you to have more control.

This is because it covers their torso which distributes any pressure over a larger area and reduces the chance of hurting your pup. 

Harnesses also discourage pulling and allow you to stop your dog from jumping up on strangers without worrying about choking.

Dogs on harnesses are also less likely to be tangled up in the leash accidentally.

A harness is also the best choice if your rescue dog has breathing issues, as collars can cause respiratory issues and tracheal collapse.

They can also cause certain breeds’ eyeballs to protrude from their sockets if too much pressure is applied to the neck.

For an anti-pull dog harness, we recommend BarkBay’s No-Pull Harness. It’s made of a very lightweight material that doesn’t rip at all.

The padding won’t irritate your dog’s body and the leash attachment is sturdy enough to handle your dog’s pulling.

Short Leash

Of course, the length of the leash isn’t all that matters. The durability, comfortable grip, and design are already given, but leash training always requires shorter leads. 

Make sure to avoid getting tangled up around poles and lampposts when your dog tries to pull and walk around by using a shorter leash, about 4-6 feet.

Not only are they ideal for walking pets in highly trafficked areas, but they also give your pup a little room to explore without causing inconvenience to other people.

The Mighty Paw Short Leash Dog Lead with Padded Handle is our top pick for leash-training your dog.

It features a soft, padded handle with silky neoprene that prevents rubbing and chafing.

The entire length of the rope is woven with reflective stitching for extra visibility at night too.


As previously mentioned, one of the reasons why your dog pulls on the leash is because you’re less exciting than the environment around them.

Their favorite treats will always help them focus on you instead of their surroundings.

Make sure to bring treats that are meant for training, that is, easy to chew and swallow and remember to break them into bite-size pieces.

Purina’s Beggin Dog Training Treats come in four different flavors to choose from, with a soft texture for easy chewing. 

Training a Rescue Dog to Walk on a Leash

Now that you have the right tools, you can finally start training your dog to walk loosely on the leash. Here’s how.


First off, you need to calm your dog without exhausting them before the training session.

It’s a good idea to have an exercise session before going on a walk. This can be through a simple game, stretching, or running.

Also, you need to start small. Go for short training sessions to start with and then gradually increase the time as your dog learns the right behavior.

Introduce the Leash

Go slow with introducing the new activities to your rescue dog. Make a big deal out of their leash by letting them sniff it and talking it up with a calm voice. 


Take a short walk once your dog is familiar with the leash. Keep it short and encourage them with treats.

If they pull, take a step back and stop walking. When you stop, they should stop as well, and then you can give praise and a treat.

Grab hold of the leash when offering treats and then take a step forward with it in your hand. 

Watch this video and try to incorporate some of Cesar Millan’s tips in your training session.

It’s Not too Late to Train Your Pooch!

Training a rescue dog to walk on the leash without pulling is possible no matter how old they are or what their history is.

Make sure to have the right gear with you and to follow the right method we’ve shared with you. 

Keep practicing to get your dog used to the leash and take them for short walks as long as they’re comfortable.

For more comprehensive dog training tips check out these free dog training videos now.