Winning The Battle of the Leash
By Michael Russell
A puppy of any breed can become a real handful as far as pulling on the lead if they are not taught properly from the beginning how to behave on a leash. Lagging behind, lunging ahead, stopping and rolling over and yelping and screaming are typical behaviors of a puppy who is not being trained correctly how to walk on a leash. Often owners of small toy dogs will give up and simply pick the puppy up, which only re-enforces the recalcitrant behavior. Large dog breeds can end up being an impossible situation for the owner and the dog may even be given up to a shelter, since he pulls so hard on the leash that he in uncontrollable.
Approach the leash training issue as you would any other training issue, step by step, in sequential order. The proper equipment comes first. A Harness is the beginning step. NOT a collar. Putting the puppy in a harness makes it impossible for him to back away. Thus that is a behavior that is stopped immediately, once the puppy finds out that he can’t back away. Furthermore, you can actually “drag” an unwilling puppy in a harness and you will not hurt him. Also be sure that you are equipped with treats. Do make sure the treats are small, so that you won’t overdo and make the puppy sick.
Put the harness on the puppy and attach your leash. Give the pup a treat. Then walk two steps away from the puppy, or just far enough that he must come forward a step or two and offer a treat again. Continue this four or five times and within just a few minutes he should be coming along at least a distance of ten or fifteen feet. Voila! You now have a puppy who will walk along on a leash. You can “back off” on the treats after a day or so of this but it is still important that you carry treats with you for a while so that if the puppy comes across things that are frightening, you can fall back on “luring” the puppy with a treat.
When the puppy is quite accustomed to a leash with a harness, you will probably find that he often begins to forge ahead or lunge. The most effective way to stop this in the young puppy is simply to stop dead in your tracks each time he lunges ahead. Soon he will realize that lunging ahead gets him nowhere. Simply stop. Even if he is a big and rambunctious breed and he bounces back and forth and pulls and barks, do nothing. When he is quiet and standing still and ONLY THEN, progress forward with your walk. If the behavior continues, turn and go the opposite direction.
Do not attempt at this time to teach the puppy to heel. Do not worry which side of your body he is walking on. Keep your pace brisk and he will soon be walking briskly, even trotting, along beside you with no hesitation.
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