Without a doubt, the easiest way to have your puppy walk calmly on leash is to play ‘follow me’ off leash.
How to do that?
Move away from him and keep moving. It is not possible to follow a stationary object.
If Bozo doesn’t follow fast enough, move faster. If his attention is diverted, clap your hands, say something like, “come along” and move quickly in another direction. If he rushes ahead of you, turn around and move quickly back the way you came.
Your constant moving away from him keeps him focused. Encourage him as he follows you. He can’t depend on you to stay still. He’ll soon figure out he needs to keep an eye on you at all times.
You can start this is his long-term confinement area when he’s very young… as soon as you get him home, in fact. After he’s pottied outside, you can play ‘follow me’ in the kitchen, the living room, anywhere, really, and the more places, the better. Obstacles work too… around the table, behind a chair. Don’t forget outside. As long as your yard is fenced, that’s a great place. Both you and Bozo can move quickly over longer distances.
If Bozo lags or stops, clap your hands and move away from him. If you decide to shorten the distance between to by moving towards him, to make it easier for the little fella, it won’t be long before Bozo is leading and you’re following him. That will not be helpful when he’s on a leash.
Once Bozo is 3 months old, find somewhere safe that you can walk long distances. Stop lots and ask him to ‘sit’ or if a large sitting rock lures you, bring along a stuffed chewtoy and ask him to ‘settle’. If he roams off, run in the opposite direction. Hiding behind a tree will keep him attentive too. Don’t take YOUR eyes off HIM.
Call out his name from behind the tree. (You’ll have noticed we haven’t been using his name to keep him following you. If you’re hiding, though, it seems only fair!) Lots of praise as he comes towards you.
Kids are particularly good at this. They move quickly and that keeps Bozo on his toes. Do supervise. The ‘follow me’ (he follows you) is important.
Some independent breeds may be more easily distracted. Does this mean they can’t be taught to walk on a leash? Not at all. Redouble YOUR efforts. Make yourself more interesting than the distraction. Talk to a squeaky toy, zigzag quickly, make a noise like a cat – be creative. Never forget: puppy training is FUN!
DO NOT DELAY IN STARTING THIS EXERCISE.
An adolescent dog (5 -6 months) is far more interested in doggy things than he is in you. If you start early and continue, by the time Bozo reaches adolescence, you’ll have a Velcro dog… well, “elasticized” Velcro might be more what we’re looking for.
Then, just snap on the leash and off you go. That simple? Yes, with a few cautionary words:
Allow time for the introduction of the leash.
Ask Bozo to ‘sit’ before attaching the leash and wait for him to do so. It may take a few minutes of bouncing and bobbing about. If you stand still, he will ‘sit’.
Praise him and snap on his leash.
Most likely that will cause him to rocket to the end of his leash. Stop. Stand still until he ‘sits.’ Praise him.
Then say, “Let’s go” and take one giant step. You may only be AT the door at this point. That’s OK. Remember to ask for a ‘sit’ before you open the door.
Once you are outside, continue to take one giant step, stop, ask for ‘sit’, say, “Let’s go” and take another step, same as before.
Once Bozo sits immediately when you stop, try taking two steps before stopping. Those two steps must have a slack leash – like the letter “J” between you.
Gradually increase the number of strides you take, three, then four, then five before stopping and it won’t be long before Bozo ‘sits’ as soon as you stop. He has learned that his ‘sit’ makes you go again. Pretty smart, huh?
Now you can go for a real walk.
You’re moving along nicely and suddenly the leash goes taut. Bozo has spotted something of doggy interest.
STOP. I repeat, STOP.
This is where pulling begins and either you deal with it right now, or become the human Bozo walks for the rest of his life. Or, worse still, there are no walks because Bozo is a “puller”.
There is a simple solution; not necessarily easy because we know humans have to train ourselves to:
1) Stop when the leash goes taut
2) Wait 2 seconds. Stand still, saying nothing
3) Make a clicking or smacking noise with your mouth or lips
4) When Bozo starts to turn his head towards you
5) Praise him
6) Walk a few steps in another direction. He will follow.
7) Reward him for following
Most importantly, we must do it every time the leash goes taut. That’s the tough part for us… consistency.
Behavior you reward is reinforced. The first time you ignore the taut leash, you telegraph to Bozo that pulling is OK.
When I got Jack, I knew how to stop the pulling. What I didn’t get though was what I was telling him by not ALWAYS stopping. By age 10, he’d slowed down to the point where people had stopped asking me, “Who’s taking whom for a walk?”
All that pulling that could have been stopped had I had the self-discipline to consistently enforce the primary rule of a puppy on leash.
Hey! Notice how there are no (or very few) treats/rewards involved here? That’s because the activity (the walk) is the reward. Bozo understands that. Do you?
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