If you’re new to working with Great Danes, or training in general, the thought of walking one of these wonderful giants might seem like a bit of a daunting task.
Rest assured, though, Great Dane leash training is a rewarding activity that is very important for your dog. Of course, every dog needs to be walked.
While walking a small or medium-sized dog may seem basic, there are special aspects regarding size that should be considered in Great Dane leash training.
If you have a puppy, this is the best time to train your Great Dane, as untrained adults will be more difficult to handle.
Regardless of your dog’s age, though, this guide will help you understand the ins and outs of training so that you can make the most of the experience.
How Poor Leash Behavior Can Hurt Your Dog
The first and most obvious concern will be your dog getting loose.
Nearly every other concern comes from this first incident. Whether it’s getting lost, wandering into traffic or other dangerous areas, or fighting with other dogs, a dog who’s absconded faces a lot of danger.
Your Great Dane could get loose because of an improperly fitted collar, a defective or unserviceable leash.
Another reality – because, let’s face it, they’re huge – is that adult Great Danes or even adolescents more than few months old can easily slip out of the control of most adults if provoked.
Some dogs will naturally want to stay by your side, but others may have personalities that seek adventure and cause them to want to wander away. Regardless, a properly trained dog will be much less likely to escape or cause harm than an improperly trained dog.
How Poor Leash Behavior Can Hurt You
Along with consequences to your pooch, you may face some serious problems if your dog behaves poorly on a leash, too.
From grief to serious financial repercussions, improper training can hurt you in many different ways. Even if you manage to keep your dog on the leash, pulling behavior in Great Danes can lead to serious injury to handlers.
Adult or adolescent Great Danes are capable of pulling with enough force to cause dislocations, or other injuries resulting from trip and fall incidents.
What Proper Leash Etiquette Looks Like
A well-behaved Great Dane will be focused on her owner, rather than the surroundings. That said, a close relationship between you and your dog is crucial to the training process.
You want your dog to walk at your side, not in front of you, and of course, not being pulled behind you. Your dog should respond to your commands at all times, especially the sit command.
When coming to a stop, the dog should know to automatically sit. This sets them up for success in avoiding distractions.
Most of the undesired behaviors – pulling, lunging, barking, etc. – happen due to excitement on the dog’s part. New smells, other dogs, new surroundings and other stimuli can easily distract your dog.
The more you work with her, the more the proper behavior will become routine, so don’t be disappointed if your dog doesn’t get everything right away. She will need patience and persistence from you, as well as consistency.
Great Dane Leash Training Instructions
Proper Gear For Training
Let’s start with the leash itself, shall we? You can go nuts with a fancy retractable leash, or a ridiculous log chain, but the simple truth is, a 6-foot nylon lead (either braided or a 1-inch wide strap) is your best option.
Again, you don’t want your Great Dane walking out in front of you, so a retractable lead is less-than-ideal.
The next thing to consider is the collar, harness, or other leading apparatus. Right away, you can eliminate the possibility of collar slip by using a harness when walking your Great Dane.
If for some reason, your dog can’t use a harness, it’s absolutely crucial that the collar is properly fitted if you intend to attach your leash to it.
There are also E-collars available in a number of price ranges; however, you want to avoid cut-price models. One of the major advantages here is that an e-collar can be used for a variety of training purposes, and offers effective control of your dog at longer distances.
Take a look here to read my dedicated article on the topic of the e-collars for training.
Steps for Training Your Great Dane to Walk on a Leash
1. Begin With the Basics
Start with a basic sit command. A good understanding of Pavlovian conditioning is helpful here, but not necessary. If you have some treats you will be ready to rock and roll! Even without treats, praise is a sufficient reward for most Great Danes.
The gist is that you reward the desired behavior. Once your dog gets used to obeying the sit command, you can begin work on leash training. Begin with short distances, handling any miscues as outlined below 😉
Remember that training requires patience. It’s a relationship, and yes, you’re in charge, but you need to be aware of your dog’s unique personality and temperament.
You may have heard the old saying about the dog actually training the human? Well, it’s not far off. The process of training applies to both parties
If your pup is already rambunctious, start with the leash indoors, to get him used to the motions and commands.
2. Keep Calm and Walk On
First, this is where the reasoning for the six-foot leash decision comes in. Hold the leash at a comfortable, but a close distance from your dog’s neck, so that he has enough room for mobility, but not enough to wander without pulling.
If your waist is just in front of his front shoulders, you’re doing it right. The slack should be held with your other hand to keep it out of the way. Walking in this position will help you establish you as the pack leader, and prevent the desire to pull.
If, however, your Great Dane starts pulling past you or exhibiting any other inappropriate behavior, simply stop, give the sit command, and don’t give any slack.
Don’t jerk back on the leash, or he’ll want to pull harder, which won’t be good for either of you.
3. Be the Leader
I know I brought it up earlier, but your dog may not get these things right away.
Make sure you’ve nurtured the relationship to the point where your dog will obey your sit command before trying the outside walk – especially with an adult dog.
Remember, all dogs can be trained, but it requires patience and a trusting relationship with your dog. If your dog learns to see you as the leader, the walk will be amazing for both of you.
4. Be Patient…Again!
One of the major reasons for dogs pulling, lunging, and barking on a leash is that they are breaking routine and being exposed to a whole new world of sensations.
You can actually make this worse by showing a lot of excitement yourself. Obviously, that’s not what we want, so try to be as calm as possible before grabbing the leash.
If you usually take your dog out for a walk right after you get home, you will have better luck if you let your dog get most of her excitement out for a few minutes by letting her run outside or playing with some toys in the house before starting the leash walking routine.
This will help disperse some of her energy. Once you’re done, calmly get the leash and don’t say anything.
Fixing Common Miscues
As we mentioned above, the best method for dealing with this is sometimes referred to as the “tree” method.
The basic idea is, the moment your dog passes the walking boundary or threshold that you set (make this no farther ahead than your hip line), you stop and firmly hold the lead, without giving any slack – effectively making yourself a “tree.”
And again, please don’t jerk back on your dog’s collar; it’s ineffective at best, cruel at worst.
Another trick to remedy persistent pullers involves the use of a 30-foot long line leash. If they start to pull ahead of you, simply stop in place, drop the remaining leash slack to the ground, turn 180-degrees around, and begin walking in the opposite direction from the dog.
Be careful not to jerk them when they reach the end of the lead, and continue your walking in the opposite direction. This will force them to cover the 30-foot gap to catch back up to you.
This is where the long line leash provides an advantage over your standard 6-footer. As they return, slowly reel in the leash slack to prevent any detours.
Repeat the same process if they pull ahead of you again. This process will quickly wear them out and they will soon learn that pulling or getting ahead of you simply isn’t worth it.
A couple sessions leveraging this approach is typically all that it takes to curb this unwanted pulling behavior.
Make sure to practice this approach in a field or other safe open area as the long line leash has a large radius for movement. For example, a sidewalk next to the road is not a safe option!
Lunging is slightly different from pulling in that it is caused by a specific distraction, rather than a desire to lead the pack. These distractions can be other dogs, postal workers, cats, El Caminos, almost anything really.
The key here is to be proactive! If you see a potential upcoming distraction, issue a preemptive sit command. Have them remain in the sit position until the distraction has passed.
Sitting forces the dog to focus on you instead of the potential distraction. With time this will positively condition them to remain in a calm state, rather than getting excited and lunging towards the distraction.
Because Great Danes are such social dogs, lunging can also arise when they want to say “hi”. They may lunge towards someone they know in order to get attention. Do not let them get away with this type of behavior.
Doing so sends mixed signals that it’s acceptable in other situations as well.
Barking at other dogs can often be dealt with in the same way as lunging.
Create some distance between your dog and the other dog. Get your dog’s attention with a sit. Once her attention is on you, reward her behavior with a treat or some praise.
Barking at other dogs will often become less of an issue the more time she spends around other dogs.
Maintain your status as the pack alpha and give her plenty of opportunities to socialize with other dogs and this behavior should go away.
And here’s a video tutorial that we put together to cover some of these tips in case you’re more of a video learner!
If you’re looking for a way to help hold yourself accountable to getting walks in, then I’d recommend considering a smart collar like the one made by