Puppies arrive knowing very little. If you want your pup to have good habits, you’ll have to teach them what to do. The easiest way to do this is to start training your puppy as soon as she comes home. One of the earliest lessons (it feels like there are so many early lessons!) we teach our puppies (service dog or pets) is to walk on a loose leash. The bigger the dog, the bigger the problem. Your chihuahua probably won’t pull you down, but your Great Dane surely will — unless you start teaching polite leash manners early. Here’s how you can teach your puppy to walk with a loose leash.
Put your puppy’s breakfast in a fanny pack or treat pouch. Get your clicker ready. When you go on your morning walk, click and treat every time you take a step and your pup’s leash is slack. You’ll be clicking a lot, and that’s good! That’s why you brought your pup’s entire breakfast with you. They need to eat anyway, you might as well get some mileage out of all those treats.
You’re clicking (and treating) every single time you take a step and your pup’s leash is slack. It doesn’t matter which side they are on, if they’re switching sides, or if they’re behind you. As long as there’s a little dip in that leash, you’re clicking and treating.
If your pup gets excited about another dog or a squirrel and pulls ahead, simply stop. Mouth closed, arms at your sides, just wait. Pretty soon, your smart puppy will figure out that she’s not going anywhere. She’ll probably turn to look at you quizically. Yay! You’ll click and then hold the treat down by your side. You want the pup to come back to you to get the treat. Click and treat again. And again.
You’re making it obvious to the pup that being with you is really rewarding! Pulling isn’t.
We inadvertantly teach our pup to pull when we follow along behind them when the leash is tight. Your pup doesn’t know that pulling means you’ll follow — until it actually happens! So unfortunately, when you follow your pulling puppy, you’re actually telling your puppy that that’s how to move forward — just lean into the collar, little buddy, and I’ll follow along.
That isn’t the message we mean to send, but it’s what’s received by the pup. Puppies do what works. If pulling gets them from Point A to Point B, why on earth would they try something different? So you, the smart trainer, are going to start your pup out with the realization that pulling = no movement.
And, in addition, staying closer to you, so the leash stays slack, gets the puppy two things: (1) treats and (2) moving forward! It’s a double win for your puppy! And it’s definitely a win for you! This is how we start loose leash walking — there are more advanced steps as the pup gets older, but we’ll get into that in another post. For now, all you have to worry about is teaching your puppy that pulling doesn’t work and having a loose leash gets that puppy lots more fun and freedom!
When did you start teaching your puppy leash manners? Share your dog-friendly loose leash walking tips in a comment below! I’d love to hear what’s worked for you!