Tethering – or umbilical cord training, if you want to make it weird – is when you leave your dog’s leash on inside your home.
Usually, you’ll hold the leash or attach it to your belt while you go about your activities, like cooking, cleaning, or looking at other dogs on Instagram.
Tethering is often used as a potty training aid. While tethered to you, your dog cannot sneak off and have an accident.
This also makes it easier for you to pick up on your dog’s cues. You’ll immediately notice when your puppy starts to sniff around as though they have to go potty, then you can take them outside just in time.
How To Use Tethering As A Training Aid
There’s no need to use any particular schedule, or tether your dog for any specific period of time.
I wouldn’t do it more than 3-4 hours per day, because you do want to give your dog some agency to be herself, hang out on her own, and learn to stay out of trouble without a constant eagle eye on her.
You can use tethering as a part of your daily potty training arsenal, or just use it on nights when you’re too busy to watch your puppy closely, yet you don’t want her to be confined to her crate.
You can use a regular 6-foot leash for tethering. Attach it to a harness, not a collar, especially if you have a tiny puppy. Toy breeds are prone to tracheal collapse, which is as awful as it sounds.
For Matilda, even though she’s already five years old and just 4.5 pounds, she only really fits in this harness from Coastal Pet Products’ Li’l Pals line.
The leash should have a tiny, lightweight clip that won’t drag down your small dog.
You can use a carabiner to clip the leash to your belt for hands-free tethering.
As you move about the house, try not to depend on leash pressure to get your dog to follow you. She should learn to stay by your side while she walks with you.
If you’re walking about, use your voice to guide her, rather than just tugging her about.
Most of all, make this experience pleasant. You can put a dog bed within range of the tether, or let your puppy play with toys. She might be content to just hang out and watch you do things.
Every so often, look down at your dog and engage with her in some way. This can be as simple as calling her name, and telling her “good dog!” when she looks at you.
Tethering has the physical advantage of keeping your puppy out of trouble. It also teaches your puppy to look to you when she has a need.
Remember, this is not a punishment. This is a way for you to supervise and guide your puppy without having to track her down around your home.
What Other Training Lessons Can I Teach With Tethering?
You can use tethering to help fix any behavioral issue that makes you feel like your dog is physically out of your control.
For example, if your dog runs up to the window and barks at everyone who passes by, you’ll find it very difficult to get their attention. By the time she has started to react, she’ll be too far away from you for any meaningful training to take place.
If your dog jumps up on visitors, tethering can also help. Even if you ask your guests to ignore your dog when she jumps on them, they may find her jumping hard to resist. It’s easier to keep her tethered until she is ready to greet them calmly.
Tethering is also helpful if your dog is a door dasher. You can safely work on training your dog to wait for a cue before she crosses the threshold, without risking having her actually run out and get hit by a car.
If your dog chews up forbidden items (like shoes), tethering is a good alternative to crating, and necessary if you’re not always able to clean and put away those forbidden items before your dog gets to them.
What If My Dog Hates Being Tethered?
For most dogs, most of the time, spending time close to you is a good time.
But your dog might sometimes feel distressed at being unable to lie down where she wants.
Do not force your dog to be tethered if she does not like it. Being close to you should never be an uncomfortable experience.
I would recommend combining tethering with crating, using playpens or closed-off areas with baby gates and supervised free time.