Training a Dog to Walk on a Leash

GSP Leash Walking GTNP

When starting any new training – learning process with your dog the #1 goal is to make pup think and better yet KNOW that you’re the center of the universe and the one in control. Especially a smart breed like a German Shorthair Pointer. Dog leash walking takes patience to start, it’s something that will go along way in building a new bond between you and your best friend. This may be challenging at first as your new dog will be excited by all the sights and smells around them, especially a working dog breed.

Keep in mind – a dog that pulls on the leash or pulls on lead should be trained to follow your lead.

Here are some leash walking tips we have learned over the years in our dog leash training guide below:

How to Train a German Shorthaired Pointer to Walk on Leash

I recommend starting out by using soft delicious treats for positive re-enforcement training. I prefer to use white string cheese for training.

Your German Shorthaired Pointer may wonder about eating cheese at first but as with my dog Char after one bite she was hooked, most likely yours will be too. String cheese makes for an easy to digest soft treat that works wonders for training.

I did eventually switch to healthier organic dog treats, just make sure they are soft and easy to digest. Avoid hard stuff like milk bones. Keep an eye out for Foods that Are Toxic to your pets when offering up snack food, especially if it’s designed for humans.

Get Your Dogs Attention

Start by having your dog sit in front of you, ideally you have already mastered this part of the training. With a loose leash and a treat in your hand slowly take a few steps backward, as the dog follows stop and if they sit or stop, reward them with a treat. Simply loose leash walking games like this are fun, yet challenging for the dog and owner alike.

I like to train with the Ruffwear Roamer Dog Leash ($39.95) this the best leash for training a GSP to walk available that I have found. It comes in a variety of lengths and works just about every outdoor pursuit you can imagine. Just remember to not allow your dog to pull!

Dog Leash Walking Training Timing

At first leash walking training can be INCREDIBLY frustrating, my advice is to take lots of deep breaths if your dog doesn’t want to sit, or something else distracts their attention while training, pause and then start over.  The German Shorthaired Pointer temperament can be intense, actually, it always is.

We started our attention walking right out the front door and continued at a different location out on the ranch. After about 5-10 minutes of repetition, I was able to see great results and for the most part, Char would stay closer to me then she had the past few days. I think it’s important to mix the training locations up as dogs are smart and need stimulation, especially working breeds.

One thing that really helped was to alternate between stopping and walking, stopping, and walking. Start small, if you can make it to the end of your driveway, congratulate yourself. Then tomorrow, the neighbor’s house and so on and so on. Don’t go trying this around the block unless you and your dog enjoy being frustrated. Sort of like when someone is starting out learning to go for runs, only run as far as you can comfortably run home!

By the time you know it you will be loose leash walking without treats. Leash training an older dog will work the same, although it may take even more patience as by now the dog understands it can think and act as it pleases.  An old dog can learn new tricks, it just requires patience and lots of tasty dog treats.

What I noticed most about this training is I now have the dog’s attention while we go for walks. This took some time but the more you invest now into your dogs the happier the next 10+ years of your lives will be (plural) as this is your dog is a family member, don’t ever forget that.

Its also important to get your dogs to gaze and eyes to focus on you while walking on a leash, not a million miles ahead of you. Char would pull, I would stop she would turn around look at me and start walking back towards me. At that point I would continue walking, sure it may look silly and take a good deal of time to travel any distance but the dog and I are getting it.

Patience is your friend.

Take it a step farther and try this training outdoors without your sunglasses on. This lets your dog learn, see, and understand the different looks and facial expressions you give them as soon they will do the same to you. Remember we haven’t learned how to speak dog, and dogs, for the most part, don’t speak English.

For anyone interested in hunting with their GSP.  The book, Bond of Passion: Living with and Training Your Hunting Dog, lays out some great foundations on where to start. Although it’s old, the information has not changed when it comes to building a bond with your hunting dog / best friend.

The Human Factor

Training seems to be 50% about the dog and 50% about the human. It’s extremely important to control your emotions and energy around German Shorthaired Pointers or any dog for that matter. At times I will get frustrated when I’m being pulled and yanked in different directions or when the dog just simply chooses to ignore my “come” command.

Learning what to do when your dog does not react to a command takes time. Our instinct is to raise our voice, just like our parents would do.

Speak calmly and firmly when giving your dog commands and before you know it you will have a best friend and pal that respects your voice.

Leash Walking

German shorthair pointers are incredibly strong muscular dogs. Getting pulled on the leash is not uncommon with this breed. However, this can, and should be changed!!! I have started to come to a complete stop anytime the dog try’s to pull. I simply call her to me and reward her with a treat. I have found the Loose Leash Positive reinforcement is the best way to train a German Shorthaired Pointer or any working dog breed. If she pulls we don’t walk, if it becomes too much, simply turn around and go back.  Don’t get frustrated or angry. The dog will pick up on your emotions and once you let go and head home they will know something is up.

Socializing With Other Dogs

My dog Char grew up with her mom and aunt on a ranch and had some interactions with other dogs but only GSP’s with high energy. I felt it was best for her to meet other dogs in the area as soon as possible. While at the same time I was a bit hesitant as my last pointer didn’t interact well with other dogs. She was great with humans but just had some sort of complex where she thought she was the alpha at all times. Stealing toys, causing fights and such. (Turns out a majority of pointers, even females are Alphas)

How to train your german shorthaired pointer

It’s never a bad time to go back to basic commands, start with “Sit”. Even for a dog that knows the command this is a fun game and has the two of you interacting. Sit, stay, come.  Reward. These 3-basic commands are important for German Shorthaired Pointers as they are one of the dog breeds that can walk off-leash especially for recreating and hunting.

Walking a dog on a leash is something every dog owner should master.  You owe it to your dog if nobody else.  An added bonus of having a dog that can walk on a leash especially a working breed is if you need someone to watch your dog they will feel much more comfortable, and perhaps you as well to have them walk your dog on a leash vs letting them run as some hunters and recreational do with working dogs.

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About the Author

Mike Hardaker
Mike Hardaker grew up surfing and snowboarding in Orange County and followed his love of surfing to Hawaii before eventually moving to the mountains to concentrate on snowboarding. He went on to found Mountain Weekly News where he is still CEO and Editor in Chief.

2 Comments on "Training a Dog to Walk on a Leash"

  1. Fransisca Langille | March 8, 2020 at 9:41 PM | Reply

    Hi, I have a quick question if you got a second. I’m planning a hunting trip in the Olympic rainforest. About 20 miles with likely rain. Do you have a favorite boot that you would use in that situation? Thanks big time for the help. I really appreciate it.

    • Mike Hardaker | March 23, 2020 at 10:25 AM | Reply


      Have you looked into Danner boots? They are made in the PNW, built to handle rain and are super comfortable. I have 3-4 pairs now I used for different needs, hiking, hunting, around town. etc

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