Training an excitable puppy on how to walk with a lead may seem impossible, but not to worry! Dog behaviourist expert Philippa Short gives you some handy tips on how to lead train a puppy.
Your puppy’s mental, emotional and physical needs are the most important thing to think about when training. While puppies can be excited for walks, they can also be nervous, so here’s some handy tips:
To teach your puppy the let’s go cue during your walk, reward them for checking in with you or moving along when you say ‘let’s go’. Rewards can be a food-based treat or a positive verbal ‘well done’. With time, you’ll understand what rewards your dog responds to best. It’s completely normal for them to respond to one and not the other.
To make lead training more comfortable for your puppy:
Keep in mind that your puppy is beginning to learn their daily routine, so disruptions to this structure could affect their walks. For example, walking before they’ve eaten can make your puppy fret and think you’ve forgotten it’s lunchtime.
Your environment will also affect your puppy’s experience. Taking them for a walk at night (with bright lights from streetlamps and cars) may make them feel scared or over-stimulated.
You’ll want to get your dog comfortable with a variety of surfaces (such as grass and gravel) so it doesn’t particularly matter which one they train on.
Remember to always be mindful of the temperature of the surface. Surfaces that are too hot could cause blistering while surfaces that are too cold may give your dog frostbite.
Being impatient, tough, or shouting at your puppy when training can cause them to shut down or shy away from walks in the future.
If a harness and collar don’t fit your dog properly, this could restrict movement and possibly their breathing. This can then create phobias and even discomfort or pain from chafing.
Teaching them how to behave correctly and being present on dog walks can be life-saving. We’re talking:
Being present on walks helps build a relationship with your puppy.
Don’t walk your puppy for longer than they want to when lead training. If your walk is only as long as the end of your street, then that’s where the walk ends. This is how you can show your puppy you prioritise their physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing above anything else.
Be wary of using choke chains/collars, half check collars, slip leads, or flexi leads when walking your dog. These can teach them to pull away when walking and can also be uncomfortable to wear. Try to stay away from any products that are anti-pull as these are designed to constrict your dog.
As you begin lead training your puppy, keep in mind that they need to wear an ID tag. This should state your name and address and can be attached to their collar or harness. It’s a legal requirement for your dog to wear an ID tag at all times outside of the home.
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