Training your puppy to walk on the lead

Start from day one! A lead and a collar are foreign objects to your pup so they need to get used to wearing them and learn what it means to wear them.
We started out really well with Coop – for about the first week! He took to the collar and lead very quickly and didn’t mind them. In my puppy classes – we saw pups coming in at like 12 weeks old and had never been on a lead and they hated it! So make sure to get them used to it straight away.
 
The biggest thing I have learnt through our experience with Cooper is that you need to remember that your puppy is experiencing everything for the first time and they are SO curious! However, if you want a well-trained dog on the lead, you need to lay down the laws from the very beginning!
Start by putting the lead on in the house when the puppy is calm and you have made him ‘sit’. Open the front door and make him stay until you tell him to come. You should never start the walk with an over excited puppy or dog as it will make your walk impossible. Make sure he is calm and you walk out the door first and then tell him to follow you.
Positive reinforcement, as always, works best for a puppy.  
The ideal situation is to have your pup on your left side with a slack lead flush with your left leg – so when this happens, make sure to give lots of praise to your puppy – ‘good puppy’ in a high pitched voice. Traditionally in Australia we like to walk with our dogs on the left so when you pass another dog they don’t come at each other head on – so try sticking to that from the start so you train your dog to always be on the left. If the lead tightens say ‘ah ah’ and stop immediately, acting like a post – don’t move at all and don’t shorten the lead – just wait. When the lead slackens, immediately reward with praise and move forward. Your puppy should be learning that pressure on the collar means ‘stop’ while no pressure on the collar means ‘go’. If your puppy is initially reluctant to walk be careful not to pull or drag the pup or get angry, as it will discourage and worry your puppy, who may already be unsure of the lead.
We had a big issue with Cooper getting tired and plonking on walks – don’t push your pup – if he has had enough, take him home. You need to take care of their growing bodies. However, there were times that Cooper was doing this to be stubborn – for example, when we would try to leave the park. So you do need to be strong with them and let them know who is boss. You also need to be the one who chooses the direction you go on the walk – not the pup. You’re the one who chooses when they can go and sniff the tree or the grass, not them. As soon as we started to show Cooper that he couldn’t boss us around and that we were boss – the improvement has been incredible. We’re also teaching him that we can go on a walk without going to the park and that we can go to the park and walk around without going off the lead. This will (hopefully) teach him to stop pulling as he wont always be let of the lead when we go to the park. It is not up to him – it is up to us! 
Teaching your dog to ‘heal’ – to walk flush by your side, is very important, especially if you want to walk your dog off lead. We did a lot of ‘walk to heal’ with Cooper from week one of bringing him home. I put him on the lead in a quiet area (your own garden is perfect or out in the street early in the morning when no one is around – the less distractions the better at first) and have a treat in my left hand flush with my left leg – you step off with your left leg first and walk slowly saying ‘heal’ – take a few steps and use the treat to put him in a sit and as his bum hits the ground give him the treat and say – ‘good boy’. And then build on this by taking more steps. And once he has mastered that – start including distractions (other dogs, people, cars, etc). It is important to teach him to be flush with your left leg – and not to walk in front of you as you don’t want to encourage pulling on the lead.
The aim is to learn to walk together not begin a lifelong game of ‘tug–o-war’. Remember, how important the first few months of your pups lives are – they are like a sponge and will learn very quickly from you so please make sure to teach them good habits from the beginning because it is much easier than trying to train bad habits out of them. A cute pulling puppy – is only going to turn into a strong big, monster on the lead.

 


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