by Michelle Santana,
I can’t say I have any great tips on leash training a new puppy but I will explain what I do. My situation here is a little different than the average puppy home.
I start my puppies out going on Nature walks at six weeks … picture this, ME, momma duck, with her gaggle of little pups. All the pups are off leash, I whistle and say ‘this way’ and I proceed to go for a walk on our seven plus acres. At first it takes a bit of coaxing and the going is slow as the pups learn about being outside in the big world following me. I often have to go back to help and encourage stragglers. At this point we make it to the end of the drive and back, a goodly distance for a six/seven week old pup. I may make several trips a day depending on my schedule. Eventually after a few days the pups are secure enough to make it around the bend to follow the trail into the woods and down to the creek where I sit and let them explore, climb the rocks at the edge of creek, wade or fall in the creek if they so desire. The whole walk takes 45 minutes or more during which time they can do whatever they want in the exploring department. Often leaving the trail, I walk slowly so I can take this time to enjoy their off road adventures and evaluate them structurally and temperamentally. They have a blast and so do I. I feel this is somewhat like Marj’ Brook’s ‘Rule of Seven‘. So, in addition to the daily house experiences, the puppies have a natural Jungle Gym with terrain such as gravel, grass, leaves, water, woods, tree stumps ,even plastic tarps and a chain link fence on the ground that they can crawl over. They have everything necessary to develop a well rounded strange footing and off lead confidence. Taking all this into account, it isn’t very difficult for me to lead train my pups. They have followed me their whole lives.
Then I graduate to lead training a pup with a nylon show collar. You can use a wider web buckle collar if your pup is really resistant to the choke-type collar. Remember what I said about bad habits being created with different collars? I don’t use a choke chain on young pups. It is a little heavy duty for what we are trying to accomplish at this point. I think it helps to first lead train a pup in a familiar environment like your yard. That way you’re not fighting two negative experiences; a strange place and walking on a leash/collar. I get a pocket full of hot dogs and place a medium width, round nylon show collar on the pup. I make sure it is a bit longer in length than necessary because it has to fit over the ear-rolling apparatus. The puppies, because of their upbringing of following me on walks, naturally want to go with me. I say ‘this way’ and usually they just follow because that is what they have always done. I take a few steps, walking backwards, half stooped over, facing them, holding a piece of hot dog just in front of them and they walk/run to me/hot dog and they get the reward. Gradually I increase my distance from them. I keep backing up until the pup catches on and becomes comfortable with the collar enclosing around it’s neck and the leash dangling. At this point I don’t have a particular direction. If the pup wants to go in another direction or is acting a little fearful of what is going on I let them go where they want to and try to position myself so that I can give the hot dog as reward for walking on the leash. It doesn’t take very long for the pup to put it’s fear of the confines of a collar and leash aside and follow me for the hot dog. When the pup is comfortable with following I stand up and turn around and go for a walk, encouraging and occasionally turning around to give a reward for walking with me. This doesn’t have to be a bad experience! Dragging young puppies around the show grounds to leash break them, with the pups screaming and everyone looking on in horror, is wrong. It shouldn’t have to be that way! Use patience and REWARD!