Puff, puff, pant, pant, about to burst a blood vessel and that is just you- never mind the dog at the end of the lead desperate to get there NOW! Pulling is one of the common issues that arise with dog owners, it makes walks unpleasant, sometimes this even leads to the dog in question no longer being walked, or even being rehomed as their people feel they are no longer doing their best for their beloved pooch.
Prevention is absolutely better than cure; with a new puppy you can start great leash skills right away, even if they cannot go out yet or if you don’t have a leash. Yes indeed, you read that right, you don’t need a leash initially. If we break down what we want from our walking experience with our dogs then it’s to be by our side, to be close to us. We can teach this first and it makes a great foundation for when we do get those puppers out and about in the world.
Exercise 1- Close Encounters
You will need puppy’s breakfast, a clicker and somewhere quiet.
Start in a room with very few distractions, the aim of this game is to teach your puppy that being close to you is the BEST thing ever.
You want to be the most interesting thing in this room, so any time the puppy takes a step towards you, or even looks in your direction click and reward. If you have rewarded them multiple times for being right by your feet, you can move a step or two, click, and reward when the puppy re-orientates in your direction. If you bounce, do little runs, stamp your feet, this will make you even more exciting, be careful though that you don’t overdo it and make the little one too excited, they might just start biting and jumping and that isn’t the aim with this exercise. If they are getting over excited, calm it down again with nice slow and steady movements.
When they have mastered this game in a quiet room, you can start adding in some distractions. Some noise from a television or radio perhaps, again click and reward for the puppy looking your way or being close to you. Once your puppy has mastered this distraction, add in another, you can add in some interesting smells by putting food in small containers, but make sure they are out of reach of the puppy. Be creative but only ever add in new distractions when they have mastered the previous set of circumstances and one at a time, slow and steady wins the race. A big challenge for them would be to have someone else in the room, ask the person to sit quietly in a chair, ignoring the puppy completely, as soon as your puppy comes back towards you click and reward.
When they can handle the quiet room (which by now will not be so quiet) take the puppy out in the garden and do the same again- starting from scratch so as little distractions as possible, so clean up all the toys first. It is already a far more distracting environment than the quiet room as it has all the smells in the air and on the ground, noises from birds, cars or neighbours. Remember you are competing against all these things so if your puppy comes close then they, and you, are doing super well in your training process. Reward and praise every time your puppy comes by or looks at you.
Value in YOU
So, this first exercise is just to add value in being close to you, your puppy is learning that being near you is a super place to be. Good things happen when they stay close by. This foundation exercise helps with – RECALL, LEASHWORK, HEELWORK and FOCUS.