Boston Terrier Leash Training: No Pulling Guide


Train your Boston Terrier to Walk on a Leash Without Pulling. Boston Terrier Society.
Sofia walking Bella the proper way.

We all love walking with our energetic, happy Boston Terriers but unfortunately, it isn’t always the fun experience we hoped it would be. Bostons are active, athletic dogs, pulling on their leash with their humans trailing behind them isn’t an uncommon occurrence. However, with patience, the proper training, and some yummy treats, we can all teach our Boston Terriers how to walk on a loose leash.

As with most things, it is best to start training your Boston when they are young. Although, if you have an adult Boston that pulls on their leash, you can still teach your dog to change their behavior, it might just take a bit more patience. Puppies are easier to train because they haven’t developed bad habits yet.

If you use the right training methods and tools, you will likely be able to see changes in as little as the first training session. Patience is vital in training dogs of any breed or any age, remember all dogs are trainable. 

How To Train Your Boston Terrier To Walk On A Leash Without Pulling Step by Step

If you are just getting started with this process, you may want to scroll down to the bottom to know what tools you will need before you get started. 

Step 1: Location

We have all heard the saying “location is everything,” well, it’s true, especially when training your Boston. You will want to choose a place that has few distractions, but enough space to walk several feet in one direction. Backyards or even long hallways work great for this.

Step 2: Leash

Leash your Boston buddy on the front ring of the harness, attaching on the back ring can actually encourage pulling.  

Step 3: Situate your hands

Hold the leash in your right hand, careful not to add your own tension to the leash, and hold treats in your left hand. If you prefer to train your dog to walk on your left side, just change hands. 

Step 4: Persistence

If your dog pulls on the leash before even taking a step, wait. Don’t tug or call your dog; just stand still and wait for them to return to you. Once they come back on their own, show them the treat and place it on the ground, on your left side. 

Step 5: Repeat, Repeat, Repeat

Once your dog eats the treat if they stay where they are, take a step forward, if they go to the end of the leash, repeat the previous step. If they stay with you, drop another treat. You will want to reward frequently in the beginning. If your dog pulls, putting tension on the leash, stop and wait, repeat step 3.

Step 6: Consistency

As your dog becomes more consistent, you can lessen the number of treats you’re giving your dog, wait for every 3rd step or so. However, if your dog loses interest and starts pulling again, redirect and reward more frequently until you can get a reliable and comfortable walk.

Eventually, your dog will get the idea that staying at your side brings them treats. After your dog has been walking with you consistently, likely this will take multiple sessions, you can change locations to a place with more significant distractions. 

Be sure to move slowly through the process

Remember to take baby steps when training. If you move your Boston too fast through the process, you might be setting your dog up for failure. 

If you started in your house, then you can move to your backyard, if you started in your yard, change to the driveway, you see where this is going? With each level, you can add more distractions, distance, and time to your training sessions.

Tips for Success

Baby Steps 

As mentioned earlier, baby steps are critical, yes it may seem to take a long time, but it’s worth the investment.

Consistency

If you let your dog pull on the leash 3-4 steps before coming to a halt, you will be giving mixed messages. It is hard enough to communicate with a different species, so do your best not to muddy the communication waters.

Keep Training Sessions Short and Sweet

It is best to start with 5-10-minute training sessions, especially for young dogs with short attention spans.  We don’t want the dog to get bored before the training session is done, always keep your dog wanting more.

Change up the Treats

Remember your treats need to be high-value treats, aka delicious! If your dog is getting bored with the treats, it’s time to change it up.

End on a Good Note

Always finish on a good note. There will be frustrating sessions that you want to give up and walk away, and if you’re feeling that way, then it’s a good idea to bring an end to the session.  Even if your dog is pulling at the leash get their attention and ask for a different behavior unrelated to loose- leash walking, such as a sit or down. Reward for that and end the session.

When my Emily and I were training Bella, our Boston, to walk on a leash, Emily was a natural. I became frustrated with the amount of time it took for Bella to get it. Be patient, it will eventually click for you and your Boston.

Use other forms of exercise

Your Boston still needs exercise, and short training sessions won’t be enough. During the loose leash training period, you will want to find other forms of exercise to keep your dog happy and healthy. Also, it is tough to work with a dog bursting with excess energy. Below are some ideas on how to exercise your dog:

Decompression walks

Attach a long lead (30+ feet) to the back of the harness, bring your dog to an open empty safe area, such as a ball diamond, beach, or open field and let them explore with a loose lead trailing behind them.  

You can keep hold of the lead, in case you encounter other dogs, people, or animals, but this is your dog’s time to explore. Decompression walks will burn a ton of your dog’s energy. 

Play fetch 

Letting your Boston run after things is a great way to burn energy. Emily and I once mixed fetch with swimming by throwing a stick in the lake and having Bella go after it. Bella was exhausted after that fetch session.

Swimming 

Note not all dogs swim well or like to swim, so only use this form of exercise if your dog knows how to swim and enjoys swimming. 

Tools Needed to Train Your Boston Terrier to Walk on a Leash Without Pulling

4- or 6-foot leash, not a retractable leash

A shorter leash will aid in controlling the training session, and retractable leashes are not ideal for this type of work. You need to be in control of your Boston the whole time.

Small high-value training treats

Delicious treats both rewards, as well as help, keep your dog’s attention. Try warmed up hotdogs, chicken breasts, or their favorite store-bought training treat.  

No Pull Harness with front and back attachment points

The harness works best for Bostons since their snouts aren’t long enough for a head halter.  Also, the body harness is a helpful training tool. However, Emily and I have been using the Slip Lead Dog Leash Ceaser uses. The slip lead leash has worked pretty well with Bella.

Treat Pouch (Optional, but recommended)

Treat pouches are great because they make accessing treats easy and keep your pockets clean.

Clicker 

Optional, if you have been using a clicker for other training, continue to use it here. If you don’t already use a clicker skip this.

Hungry Dog

If your dog is hungry, they will be more interested in treats, keeping them engaged in training.

Patience

Training takes time. Even the smartest dogs have bad days. If you find yourself getting impatient with the training session, end it early and start fresh later.

Positive, Happy, Upbeat Voice

Positive reinforcement is critical and more effective than scare or intimidation training.  

Final thoughts…

There is a reason we brought these vibrant, energetic, fur babies into our lives and it wasn’t so we could be couch potatoes. Walking with our Bostons is one of life’s great joys and should be a fun bonding experience. With a little time and a lot of treats, the two of you will soon be sharing fun and relaxing walks together.   

Donnie Gardner

Donnie Gardner is the owner of the Boston Terrier Society. He has been raising Bella the Boston since 2010. He resides in Kansas with his wife, daughter, and Bella. His favorite activities are hanging out with family, traveling, running (but has bad knees), and reading non-fiction books.

2 thoughts on “Boston Terrier Leash Training: No Pulling Guide

  1. I love these recommendations!!!! I have seven year old and a 16 month old Bostons, and I’ve taking over walking them in the morning since my husband had his knee surgery. Shi Shi is my older Boston and she weighs about 23 pounds and is VERY strong. With the arthritis in my hands, I’m worried about either of them pulling free on a walk. I saw the front lead harness at the pet store and interested in trying this. I still need to walk them in the morning before work, how do we transition from the training so she knows this is what’s expected all the time? I use a six foot lead for Shi Shi , and a retractable for 13 pound Sadie, one in each hand. I use Shi Shi like a carrot on a stick for Sadie walking behind her, and would like to train them to walk with a splitter on one leash.

    1. Hey Patricia,

      Thanks for the comment! Answering your question in the short, there will be no “transition”. Every time you take your Boston for a walk you will need to take a second or two to retrain them how you want them to walk. We have been training Bella to walk without pulling for the last year and she has a tendency to pull when she sees something she really likes. The good news is once you have this habit of properly walking your dog you Boston will quickly re-learn the proper way, not to pull. We had to get rid of the retractable leashes to teach Bella to walk properly. I found a good YouTube video that might help you, especially since you walk two dogs at once: https://youtu.be/NMbYFnlZwEA.

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