Perfect Puppy Training Book – Chapter 5 – Leash/Collar Training
Chapter 5 – Leash/Collar Training
If you ever want your puppy to go anywhere with you, she’ll have to get used to a collar and leash. She is likely to follow you around closely until about four months of age. That’s when she’ll start developing better senses of smell and hearing and start noticing that the world is a bigger place than the view from behind your ankles. One day, your puppy will bolt for the street, something she’s never done before. Don’t wait for disaster to happen—collar and leash train your puppy right from the start.
Collar and Leash Training: The Basics
- First, train your puppy to become used to a collar. Get some treats ready. Put the collar on your puppy.
- As soon as the collar is secure, give your puppy a treat and praise her.
- It’s normal for your puppy to scratch at her collar or act concerned about this new thing around her neck. Just ignore this. As long as you can get two fingers underneath it, it’s not too tight. Redirect her behavior by getting her to play with a toy. Don’t pet or soothe her if she’s upset about the collar, or you will be rewarding that behavior, and she’ll keep doing it. Also, don’t take the collar off if she’s scratching at it. This will just teach her that scratching gets the collar off. Be patient—your puppy will get used to it.
- Connect her leash to the collar, but don’t hold onto it. Give her a treat. Just let her drag the leash around for a few minutes. Supervise her very closely during this process so that she doesn’t get tangled in anything.
- Play with her. Don’t let her chew on her leash. Just redirect her behavior by getting her to play with a toy.
- When your puppy is calm and not scratching at her collar or leash, take them off. Wait at least 15 minutes, then repeat Steps 1 and 2. Always give her a treat when you put her collar and leash on. Gradually increase the amount of time your puppy wears them. Always supervise your puppy when she’s dragging the leash. After she has stopped noticing the leash, move on to the next step.
- Put your puppy’s collar and leash on, then give her a treat. This time, gently hold the leash. Your puppy may not like it at first—she’s used to being able to go wherever she wants. Don’t soothe or pet her if she pulls against the leash, or you’ll be rewarding that behavior. Ignore her instead. The second she stops, praise her. Redirect her behavior by getting her to play with a toy
- Take a short walk with your puppy, encouraging her to come with you. If she puts on the brakes, ignore this. She’ll keep doing it if you make a fuss over her. Just pick up a toy or act very interested in something ahead of you. When your puppy realizes that she’s not getting any attention, she’ll want to join you. As soon as she does, give her a treat and praise her.
- Keep in mind, as soon as your puppy realizes that her leash means she’s going outside or for a walk, she’ll come to love it.
- Some puppies love their leashes so much that they use them for leverage. They’ll drag you down the block before you can brace yourself! Pulling on the leash is a very common problem. You will make this behavior worse if you reward it—and you may be rewarding it without even realizing it. Let’s say you drop some treats on the floor, and your puppy pulls you over to the treats, then gobbles them up. Your puppy just got paid for pulling on leash. What if you are walking your puppy, and you see a friend up ahead? Your puppy pulls you to your friend, who showers her with attention. Your puppy just got rewarded for pulling on the leash. Before you can change your puppy’s behavior, you have to change your own. Make sure that you aren’t accidentally rewarding your puppy for pulling on leash, or the habit will be harder to fix.
- In your mind, imagine exactly where you want your puppy to walk next to you. Do you want her on your right side or your left? If you don’t teach her a specific side, she could zigzag in front of you and cause you to trip. Do you want her right next to your leg? Or maybe a little ahead of you? Think of the exact place you want your puppy as a picture frame. When she steps outside the frame, she’s out of the picture you want. Be sure that your entire family has the same picture in mind, or your puppy will get confused.
- Pick a cue to use for this specific action, like “Let’s go” or “Let’s walk.”
- Start by practicing this exercise in a quiet area. It will be too much to ask your puppy to walk nicely by your side in a busy park. Start in a quiet environment, like your living room or backyard.
- Hold a few small treats in your hand. Attach your puppy’s leash. Use a treat to lure her to the side on which you want her to walk next to you. (Don’t use the leash to drag her into position.) You can use your “Sit” cue if she knows it, or use this as a training opportunity to work on that exercise, too.
- Give your cue “Let’s go.” Take one small step, and give your puppy a treat Be sure to hold your hand low, in front of her nose, by your side. This can seem awkward at first, but if you hold your hand in front of your body, she’ll cut in front of you. If you hold the treat too high, she’ll start jumping. Hold the treat where you want your puppy’s head to be.
- Practice this for one week, several times a day. You are teaching your puppy that she’ll get rewarded for staying next to you.
- Now it’s time to start weaning your puppy off the treats. Attach her leash and get her positioned on the appropriate side. Ask her to sit. Give your cue “Let’s go.”
- Instead of giving one treat for one step, take several steps before you give her a treat. Try not to hover your hand in front of her nose anymore. Instead, keep it up next to your waist. This will help to transition her attention from your hand to your side; you want her to learn to walk next to you, not to follow your hand around.
- Watch your puppy—where is she walking in your imaginary picture frame?
- If your puppy walks perfectly where you pictured her to be, acknowledge this by proving her a treat periodically.
- If your puppy lags behind, encourage her to keep up with you. Every time she comes up to your side, acknowledge the action with a treat.
- If your puppy pulls, immediately stop walking. Start again at Step 5, except this time, don’t walk as far. The goal is to have a nice walk for three steps, then four steps, then more, gradually building toward success.
As your puppy learns to walk nicely by your side, gradually begin to increase the distractions in your environment. Go for walks around the block or in the park. You may have to back up your training a bit at first, but your puppy will catch on if you are consistent. If you find that your puppy is just too distracted, go back to a quieter place and gradually increase the distractions at a slower rate.
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