You have been playing with your puppy for weeks now. You have managed to toilet train them, you are enjoying fun play time and now you want to train your puppy to walk on the lead. It might seem like a daunting task, but it will be very rewarding for both you and your puppy. After all, a well-trained puppy is a happy puppy!
To make things a little easier we have put together a handy guide to get started with lead training. If you have additional questions then feel free to get in touch.
How To Train Your Puppy To Walk On The Lead
To have the most effective training session with your puppy there are a few things that you should keep in mind.
#1. Keep Your Training Sessions Short
It is always a good idea to keep your training session short as a puppy has a very short concentration span. Try to do it when your puppy is slightly peckish, as this will mean that your training aid (treats) works most effectively.
If you try training after your puppy has just eaten his breakfast or dinner, all he will want to do is sleep, so you will have lost his attention before you even start.
#2. Always Have Yummy Treats
The best way to get your puppies focus is through food and it is advisable to keep his favourite food (chicken for example) exclusively for training.
That way, he will always be eager to pay attention when you start your training sessions.
Focus is what you are trying to achieve with all training. You want your puppy to look and listen to you and ignore everything else.
#3. Be Patient
You need patience and gentle encouragement to get there. There will ups and downs along the way, but the main thing is to have fun during your training sessions.
If you start training with a fun positive attitude, your puppy will want to join in and copy you.
#4. Be Consistent
Repetition and consistency are key. Remember your puppy is still growing and his concentration span will be short, so try two or three short sessions per day to start.
#5. Keep Training Sessions Short
“Short” means around 20 minutes. All puppies are different and have their own unique personalities that make them special, so you will learn together as you go what works best for you.
A Guide To Loose Lead Training
It’s important that your puppy associates training with something fun and positive. Most dogs will be reward motivated and so by having a treat in your hand, it will help keep their focus on you.
Keep It Fun
Dogs are highly skilled at reading our body language, so the best advice is to feel calm, positive and happy and they will follow your lead (no pun intended!)
Keep the Lead Loose! (Aiming for a loose “U” shape).
As you walk along with your pup, “feel” relaxed. If you are tense that feeling will travel down the lead and puppy will start to feel tense and worry about what is out there to be tense about. You are their guide and letting them know that you feel your walk together is a fun adventure means your puppy will be happy to stay close by your side.
Let Your Puppy Sniff and Explore!
When you leave your house, let your puppy sniff and explore straight away. Take your time together and let your puppy enjoy all the new scents as you walk along. This is the most magical experience for your puppy. Remember a puppy’s scent is up to 100,000 times more acute than ours and is the first thing they use to explore the world when they are born, as they are born deaf and their eyelids remain closed for the first 10 to 16 days of life.
Use the focus command “LOOK”!
After a few minutes of letting your puppy explore with his nose along the walk, you can start asking for his attention to be on you.
You can use the word “Look” intermittently to get their attention back. Please use whatever word you feel most comfortable with yourself, but do not use his name as this will only cause confusion with your puppy, during the training period.
To teach the focus command “LOOK” hold the special training treat (example chicken) under his nose, let him get a good sniff of it, but do not give it to him.
Then move your hand (with the piece of chicken in it) from his nose up to your eyes. When the puppy’s eyes follow the movement of the treat from his nose up to your eyes and make eye contact with you, say “LOOK” and quickly give him the piece of chicken.
Saying the word “LOOK” as soon as your eyes connect and giving the chicken reward at the same time is key (as puppies only have a two-second word/reward association) at this stage.
The more you repeat this process, the better. Then your puppy will begin to respond as soon as you say the word “LOOK” by looking up to your eyes. You now have his attention and focus!
This will be one of the most useful tools for building a connection with your dog throughout your lives together!
Using The Sit Command If Your Puppy Is Pulling A Lot
The process for teaching your puppy a new command is always the same. You are creating a positive association between your command word and what you want your puppy to do, by using their favourite treat.
To teach the focus command “SIT”, stand in front of where your puppy is standing, hold the special training treat (example chicken) close to his nose and move it back over the top of his head towards his tail. His nose will follow the treat upwards, which moves his head back, which moves him naturally into a sit position. As soon as his tail hits the ground, say the word “SIT” and give him the chicken. Remember saying the word “SIT” as soon as he moves into the sit position and giving the chicken reward at the same time is key.
Again, repetition is the key to success.
The reason you are asking him to “SIT” when he is pulling on the lead whilst out on a walk, is to focus his mind on a command task, which reinforces his connection back to you again.
What To Do Before You Leave The House
What you do with your puppy before you leave your home, to go on your walk together, will set up how the walk goes for both of you.
With this in mind, when you are getting his lead, ask your puppy to “SIT” before you put the lead on. Then walk calmly to the front door with your puppy on the lead beside, or behind you.
Then ask your puppy to “SIT” at the door, rewarding him with a treat. You are now ready to head out the door calmly with puppy beside/behind you.
Remember how good puppies are at reading our body language, so lead by example and walk calmly and happily out the door. Rushing or scolding will only create unwanted behaviour.
Once you are out and about, let your puppy sniff and explore initially, so their scent instinct is satisfied, and then your pup will more happily walk along beside you, as the walk progresses.
What To Do When Meeting People
It is so important to socialise your puppy from his first walk. Socialisation involves exposing your puppy to all the different people, sights and sounds that the world has to offer, in a positive way.
Introducing your puppy gradually to each one with a positive association will result in a happy, healthy puppy, avoiding behavioural issues such as nervousness or aggression as he becomes an adult.
What To Do When Meeting Children
You always need to be cautious around children. Their natural exuberance and excitement can sometimes be too overwhelming for a puppy, or they can confuse children’s jumping and running for another puppies’ behaviour. Puppies play wrestle and play bite as part of their natural learning curve into adulthood and whilst this is perfectly normal and necessary for puppies, it is obviously not welcomed behaviour if they act that way with children.
What To Do When Meeting Dogs
Meeting other dogs is another important part of your puppy’s socialisation process. Unfortunately, due to the vaccination process, our puppies end up isolated, with human only contact, during a key part of their learning process, so that by the time they are safe to mingle with other dogs, their fellow dogs are not as familiar as they should be. So, we need to reintroduce our puppy to his own species in a positive manner, so that he can enjoy all that has to offer.
As much as we are his family now, he will never be a fully rounded happy dog without interaction with his own species. So, when out on a walk, let your puppy say “Hello” to other dogs that he meets, once the owner of the other dog gives the ok and when you are happy also. If for any reason you do not feel happy about the other dogs’ body language, just say “Hi”, keeping it relaxed, and keep walking and move on.
Saying “Hello” will involve a quick sniff for the dogs and then you can continue on your walk together. Do not hang around for too long, as this can lead to frustration and unwanted behaviour.
Should You Take Your Puppy To Puppy Socialisation Classes?
Puppy socialisation classes can be a fantastic way for a puppy to get to know other puppies. Here the puppy will be in an enclosed space, off the lead, with other puppies of his own size and age, so he can explore at his own pace. Just like us, puppies’ personalities vary from the very shy to the super confident and they will find their match naturally, where they can indulge in play wrestling and play biting.
Research your puppy socialisation classes well, as they need to be supervised by qualified canine carers, that can nip any unwanted behaviour in the bud and equally encourage and nurture positive behaviour.