Almost seven weeks ago, I brought home a puppy named Gimli. He was tiny and adorable and I knew that I had to start his training, even though I only wanted to snuggle him and spoil him. Since he’ll be a bigger dog when he’s full-grown, it’s important for Gimli to start learning the skills he’ll need throughout his life. The very first skill that he and I started working on together was walking on a leash. By starting early, being consistent, and keeping it fun, leash training a puppy has been a piece of cake.
Tips for leash training a puppy:
- Encourage and reward your puppy for following you. Each time I’d take Gimli outside for potty time or playtime, we’d “run laps.” All that means is that I’d walk up and down the length of the yard while having him follow me. I’d give him verbal praise as we moved along together, frequently stopping to give him pets and treats. Each time we would start walking, I would give my loose-leash walking cue–”Let’s Go!” Puppies naturally want to follow and stay close to the people they trust, so this exercise puts his instincts to work for us. Leash training a puppy is also a great time to start teaching pups that they can’t walk underfoot.
- Acclimate your puppy to his walking equipment. Once Gimli was following me around the yard with no collar, harness, or leash, I knew it was time to get him used to the tools we’d be using for his walks out in the world. Keeping your dog on a leash keeps him safe while he’s enjoying his walks with you. For Gimli, I decided to use a handled harness and 6-foot lead, since he’ll eventually be my hiking buddy. A few times a day, I’d put his harness on, feed him some treats, then take it off. After a couple of days, his tail would start to wag when he saw me get his harness. That’s when I hooked on the leash. I sat down on the ground with him and made sure he had all the slack available. I kept treats on hand to give to distract him and lure him back to me if he reached the end of the leash. Once he was happily taking treats and ignoring his gear, we took a few steps. Again, the leash was completely slack, and he got rewarded for following me. We increased the number of steps we took as he got more and more comfortable with his equipment.
- “ABC” = “Always Bring Cookies” Gimli’s been walking on a loose lead with me for a couple of weeks, now. Every time I ask him to walk on his leash, I use the cue ”Let’s Go.” I always bring treats in case he needs special encouragement. Sometimes he gets timid or unsure of the big, scary world. When that happens, I bring out the cookies and watch his emotional transformation. He gains confidence and gets excited to work.
I’m looking forward to seeing Gimli grow and develop. I love being able to help him learn to navigate our world. If you need help leash training a puppy or any other obedience issues, please call Guthrie Pet Hospital and set a consultation.