French Bulldogs don’t need as much exercise as the majority of breeds, but they do still need to be kept active. Our Frenchie Claude loves getting out and about, so we go for walks twice a day. We’ve been doing it since he was a puppy and he’s completely at ease with his leash.
But it wasn’t always this easy. When we first started leash training, he was extremely stubborn and sometimes would even refuse to walk at all. On other times he would pull and act so manic that we struggled to control him.
However, once we had learned how to leash train our French Bulldog life got a lot more enjoyable. I actually looked forward to going to the park rather than viewing our walks with trepidation.
Here’s how we did it; I hope it works for you too if your French Bulldog won’t walk on a leash like our used to.
French Bulldog puppy leash training
I am going to assume you already have a leash or harness. If you don’t please read my guide which explains which one you should choose. Some owners prefer harnesses that fit around the body, others a collar and leash combination.
With the guide below, the aim is to understand how to leash train a stubborn French Bulldog from a puppy so that he will follow you or walk by your side at all times. He should not be refusing to walk or pulling you in all sorts of different directions.
And before you start; patience, repetition, and consistency are the three key elements to leash training your Frenchie.
1. Get your Frenchie puppy used to the leash indoors
The first aspect of leash training is getting your Frenchie puppy used to having a collar or harness on. Most puppies will find it very weird and will wriggle and roll about trying to get the strange thing off their back or neck… it’s to be expected.
Handy Hint: If your Frenchie is frightened and starts to get anxious, stop the leash training immediately. A scared dog is very hard to train, so for leave it for a couple of hours.
Your job here is to use distraction and praise to get them used to wearing it.
We found that the best way was to put the leash and collar on Claude and then play with him in the house. We’d do this for 15 minutes at a time, whilst giving him treats.
You don’t even need to be holding the leash at this point; it’s perfectly fine to let your puppy run about with it on so that he doesn’t feel restricted.
This lets him associate having a leash on as being a positive and fun thing to do.
2. Start with small leash walks indoors
Once your stubborn little Frenchie is used to the leash and doesn’t appear to be scared of it, you can do some little practice runs indoors.
Walk a few paces using a command such as “here, here”, keeping eye contact with your Frenchie. As he walks towards you, reward him with a treat.
Don’t be afraid to really go heavy on the treats either as it’s the repetition and reward that’s going to result in well-trained dog.
We’d do these 5-minute training segments for no more than 3 times a day, and for just a few days leading up to his first ever outdoors walk. A tired dog won’t leash train well, and young puppies are easily distracted.
It’s now time to take that leap and try your French Bulldog puppy leash training in the great outdoors.
3. Pick the right time for your first outdoor leash walk
As with any dog training, sometimes the timing is key. A Frenchie who is excited and full of energy is going to be far harder to train. But it is a delicate balancing act, because conversely, a tired-out puppy will also be hard to train.
You need to take the middle ground, and I recommend you play a quick game with your Frenchie before taking them for their first walk outdoors. A game of indoor fetch is a great way to tire a high energy dog out, and help them focus later on the leash walk.
Handy Hint: If you’re wondering what the best age is to take a puppy outside safely then please read my quick guide which outlines what precautions you should take.
4. Try leash training outdoors for the first time
Outdoors will be far more challenging mainly due to there being plenty of distractions.
The aim is to get your French Bulldog puppy paying you constant attention when they are on the leash. Remember the treats and verbal command from step 2; it’s time to use those again!
Do the same thing as you did indoors.
It’s inevitable they will be distracted outdoors as it’s part of being a puppy. Don’t pull hard on the leash – you want to train your Frenchie to do what you want, rather than having them react to your aggression.
To keep them focussed on you only, make constant direction changes with verbal commands and treats. This can include zig zagging, or stopping, turning, and heading back in the other direction. Keep it random and keep it interesting.
If you keep quickly changing direction where you are walking, your Frenchie puppy will be focussed on you to see what you’re going to do next rather than anything else.
5. Make things fun when they get stubborn
French Bulldogs love to play (see what I mean here) and you can use this in your leash training to great effect.
If your French Bulldog puppy gets difficult on the leash, wants to go in different direction, or completely refuses to walk, then make things fun.
The easiest way to do this is to start acting excitable; quicken your step, run a little, wave your arms, make silly noises – this will intrigue your stubborn Frenchie and in most cases they will follow you to see what the fuss is all about.
6. Dealing with scary noises including cars
One of the most important factors in leash training is getting your Frenchie used to the scary sights, sounds, and smells of the great outdoors.
Leash training is a great opportunity to expose your French Bulldog to things it needs to get used to. For example, if you’re walking near a kid’s playground, walk closer to it. The same goes for other dogs, wildlife, and loud noises.
You want your Frenchie to be well-adjusted, and whilst on a leash there’s no reason why you cannot expose them to the reality of what a dog walk will be.
One of the biggest things we had to get Claude used to was cars driving past us. Our Frenchie would cower and be scared. It was the repetition, reassurance, reward, and continual exposure to traffic noise that got him over this fear – it did take 3 months though for him to be completely at ease with road traffic noise.
Leash training trouble-shooting tips
Learning how to train a French Bulldog to walk on a leash isn’t going to be easy. It takes time and patience. Even if you think you’re got it cracked, there will be occasions where it slips; particularly in new environments or with new distractions.
Here are two common problems with a suggested solution.
Pulling on the leash
For the first 12 months of taking Claude for walks he was a huge puller. Frenchies are excitable, and ours would pull because he knew he was going to be off the leash at the park once we got to our destination.
Handy Hint: Read my views on whether Frenchies are good to walk without a leash and what you need to be careful of before doing so.
It took some time for it to stop and also coincided with him maturing from puppy to adult.
During the first year of leash training, I would always stand dead still as soon as he started pulling. It took a lot longer to get where we wanted to get to, but I wanted him to understand that pulling isn’t going to get him to where he wants to go faster.
Once I came to a stop, I would call him back to me, get him to sit, and reward him with a treat. I would then start walking again. If he started pulling, I would repeat the process. Over time our Frenchie learned not to pull.
What I didn’t do was pull back against him on the leash. Yanking on the lead can hurt your puppy and doesn’t actually work from a training perspective.
Chewing on the leash
Almost every puppy will chew on the leash.
Whilst this isn’t a huge issue, after prolonged biting, you’re going to need a new leash. When they start to chew, provide a treat rather than trying to yank the leash from your Frenchie’s mouth.
Using a leash is the best way to control where your Frenchie can or can’t go during the first year of training.
Young puppies like to stay near their owners; this results in some people thinking they don’t need to do leash training. This could not be further from the truth! Frenchies can develop bad habits at any age, and the older they do, the harder those habits are to shift!
But a word of warning; French Bulldog leash training is much harder than people think. When you have a young puppy, they grow very quickly. They will get quicker and stronger as they get older meaning they will end up walking a lot faster than you.
That’s why it’s imperative you crack leash training from as young an age as possible. It could take a couple of months to get it right, but it will be worthwhile.
You might also like…
If you like this guide on how to teach a French Bulldog to walk on a leash you might also be in interested in the following guides:
- How to stop a Frenchie from pulling on a leash
- How to teach a Frenchie to come back when called
- How to stop your Frenchie from jumping on people
- How to train your Frenchie to sit on command
Watch this video…
Unfortunately, I started our own Frenchie YouTube channel after Claude was already leash trained meaning I cannot publish my own training video on this. But I did find a very good one which I recommend you watch below.
Watch from about 1 minute 30 seconds, as everything before that is an advert for dog treats.