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One of the first things that owners want to be able to do is to start taking their puppy out with them on walks and to new places. In order to do so safely it is important to get the puppy leash or lead trained as soon as possible, although puppies will naturally stay fairly close to people when outside of their normal environment. Remember however that puppies will chase and just act silly and should never be taken out of the safe yard area without being on a leash or lead.
The first component of leash training is to get the puppy used to all the equipment. Start by finding a good, properly sized collar. If the puppy is going to wear the collar all the time it is essential to get a break away collar that will easily come apart if it gets hooked on something and traps the puppy. A break away collar will snap open, preventing the puppy from possibly injuring itself or even being strangled. The collar can be leather, nylon or cotton blend and should be sized to allow the owner to insert two fingers between the collar and the back of the neck. Collars that are too tight will result in discomfort for the puppy and negative associations with the collar and collars that are too loose will simply slip off the puppy and teach them how to get away.
Some people prefer to use harnesses rather than collars. For short nosed breeds such as Pugs, Boston Terriers and Shih Tzus as well as most of the toy breeds harnesses are often recommended to prevent possible trachea collapse if the puppy or dog pulls against the collar. Harnesses, like collars, need to be properly fitted and should be the correct size for the dog. It is important for owners to carefully check for any signs of chaffing or rubbing when using either a harness or a collar. Some puppies seem to have an easier time with a harness whereas others really don't seem to like them, so it is important to work with the puppy as well as get advice on properly fitting and measuring your puppy for a harness.
Starting Leash Training
Start by allowing the puppy to wear the collar for short periods of time just around the house. This is the same if you are using a harness. Don't attach anything to it at all; just allow the puppy to wear it. Gradually increase the length of time that the collar or harness is on. Avoid pulling or grabbing the collar or harness in any way at this time, this is just a desensitization process and is not really part of the training. The next step is to attach a string or piece of yarn to the collar or harness and let the puppy get used to it dragging on their neck. Do not use the leash at this time as the puppy will bite and play with the yarn, and you do not wish to encourage them to bite to play with the leash itself. Once the puppy is comfortable with the yarn or ribbon, it is time to start the actual training.
For most breeds of dogs a six to eight foot nylon or leather leash is all that is required. An easy-snap type clasp is great for simply attaching and detaching the leash with minimum chances of the puppy being able to get the leash detached. Avoid using a retractable leash for training as this can confuse the puppy as to how far he or she can go at any time. A retractable lead or leash is ideal after the puppy is trained, but just complicates basic training.
Start by attaching the least to the collar or harness and then stepping away from the puppy, giving the "Come Fido" or "Walk Fido". The puppy will likely get up and move with you, but if he or she doesn't stop and wait, do not use the leash to pull. When the puppy gets up to move towards you repeat the command and start to move, matching your pace to the puppies.
Never, ever use the leash or collar to drag the puppy or allow the puppy to drag you. If the puppy starts to go in a direction the owner doesn't want to go, simply stop until the puppy quits pulling and then continue, but do not go in the direction the puppy wanted to go. They need to learn that you are setting the course and that they are not.
Some tips for leash training your puppy include:
Always exercise the puppy by playing a game off leash before setting out on a leash training exercise.
Remember that puppies have limited bursts of energy and may not be up to long walks and are definitely not up to jogging. This will come with time but young puppies and jogging are never a good combination.
Plan to start out leash training in an area the puppy is already familiar with. The backyard is an ideal option as long as it is distraction free. Walking on the sidewalk is very challenging as there are so many new sights, sounds and even people that it is often very difficult for the puppy to focus.
Watch for signs that the puppy is not attending to you. When you notice this happening simply turn and walk the opposite direction, but don't pull or drag the puppy. Soon he or she will learn to keep one eye watching what you are doing.
Keep the leash loose, not tight. The only time the leash should be tight is if you are changing directions and even then only for a split second.
Don't turn leash training into a power struggle between yourself and your puppy. Often this is very difficult for people and puppies, so attending an obedience training program can help both puppies and owners learn how to approach this training routine successfully.
Don't always walk in the same area and place, give you puppy a chance to explore new areas while on the leash.
Get into the habit of having your puppy sit and wait while you put on the collar and leash. Don't reward them if they jump, bark and whine during the process as these are bad habits that will be hard to break when the puppy gets older.
Once your puppy is leash trained they can be more easily socialized as well as taken out of the yard for longer walks and trips to fun places. By keeping leash training fun and rewarding for the puppy they will quickly learn to look forward to seeing the collar or harness and leash.
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