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The first year of a dog’s life is the most important stage in their development, and during this initial year they will be growing and maturing both physically and mentally, and learning from the world around them all of the time.
This means that the initial year is both really important and highly-loaded in terms of getting things right-failing to teach your pup the basics while they are young, or going about things the wrong way can have implications that will continue to affect both you and your pup potentially for the rest of their life. It is much easier to train and correct a puppy than it is to have to re-train or undo problems in adult dogs later on, and this is not simply because puppies are of course physically smaller and easier to physically manipulate!
This is just as true when it comes to learning the core essential skills all dogs should have-such as walking on the lead-as it is for other issues such as managing the potential onset of bad or undesirable behaviours, or tackling problems.
How you approach teaching your pup to walk on the lead, how you build and develop your pup’s skills and how you tackle any problems that arise all contribute to forming and shaping the on-leash behaviour of your adult dog, which means that approaching leash training the right way is really important.
In this article, we will share some basic tips and advice on how to train your puppy to walking on the leash, and how to head off any potential problems in order to ensure that your future adult dog will remain a pleasure to walk. Read on to learn more.
First things first, in order to be able to walk your dog on the lead, the lead needs to be attached to something! This means that a collar or harness is the first step of leash training, before you even introduce your pup to the leash.
It is wise to get your pup used to wearing both a collar and a harness either simultaneously or alternately, as this will provide you with more options. A collar is necessary for all dogs in order to display an Id tag, even if you do not use the collar to attach the least-and a harness is ultimately the best tool to use with a leash, even for dogs that walk nicely and do not pull.
Get your pup used to wearing a collar as soon as possible, and of course, make sure it fits well and is comfortable, and does not restrict, rub or irritate your dog’s neck. Check the fit of the collar every week, to ensure that it is not getting too small.
The first time that your pup sees and wears a harness should not be the day that you attach a lead to it. Get your puppy used to putting on their harness and spending some time in it, as it can take time to get your pup used to the feeling and comfortable with it, and this should be achieved before you attach the leash.
When you are ready to introduce your pup to the leash itself, it is important to let them get a look at it, sniff it and explore it, but without starting to chew at it or view it as a toy. Don’t let your pup tug the lead with their mouth or otherwise treat the lead like one of their tug toys! It is entirely possible that your pup may try to do this when you attach it, but in general terms, let them get this type of experimentation out of their systems with gentle correction and positive reinforcement before you begin using the leash on them.
Both dogs and people tend to get into a set pattern in terms of which side of you the dog walks on, and being walked by someone who prefers the other side can be challenging for both dog and person! Generally, keeping your dog on your left is the most common approach, and your dog should walk alongside of your heels, keeping pace with you without pulling ahead or lagging behind.
Get your pup used to this, matching your stride to theirs initially until they begin to become conditioned to the appropriate position, and will naturally match their pace to yours in the future.
Pulling on the lead is one of the most common problems that owners of adult dogs face, and this behaviour usually becomes firmly established while the pup is still very young, creating the beginnings of an irritating issue that may remain with the pup for life.
Pulling on the leash is both an annoyance and bad manners, and yet few dog owners have the know-how or patience to go about resolving it properly. However, getting this right early on makes the issue much easier to correct, and avoid storing up problems later on down the line.
The classic mistake made by owners of pulling dogs is to pull them back, even to the point of yanking on the leash in frustration. This is ultimately the worst approach to take-the dog will either view it as a game or simply not understand why they are being chastised, and pulling back can potentially damage the pup’s neck muscles, or even strengthen them to worsen the pulling in future.
The only time that you should “pull” a dog-and this should be a gentle check rather than actually pulling-is if the dog gets more than a step or so behind you, as a gentle reminder to pick it up and stop sniffing the flowers! However, this should be a cue to your dog, rather than a physical action.
So, if your pup is pulling ahead, how should you handle this? The simple answer (but one that is harder to execute reliably in practice!) is to stop, and keep a firm but slack hold on the lead until your dog returns to you or loosens their pull. Then, resume walking when your dog stops resisting, but stop once again as soon as they pull.
This might sound really simple, but the sheer level of persistence involved in getting it right can be frustrating, and many owners struggle with patience when getting annoyed and wound up with the dog, and pulling them back seems like the most convenient option.
However, persevering and checking your dog while they are a pup and first learning will virtually eliminate the problem in the dog when they are older-or if not, make going back to this basic approach more of a refresher that will prove effective quickly.
Although it can be time consuming and yes, frustrating to tackle pulling in this way, you will be glad you did it in the long run, so persevere!
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