Leash Training your Puppy
My Approach – Mylad Havanese
Havanese are great walkers –they LOVE to go for walks or runs. Before taking your puppy on that 5 mile run though, or that 3 mile walk make sure they are physically up to the challenge. I personally would not take my puppy for long runs until they are at least 7 months old and then I would build up their endurance and muscle gradually.
They need to work up to strenuous exercise just like humans do. Make sure you take water for the puppy with you as well.
There are a number of ways to train your puppy to walk well on a lead, and it really depends what you are after. Do you just want a leisurely walk, or do you want a well trained walker that will not pull, will walk on a loose lead or heel?
If you just want a nice comfortable walk, and you have a ‘tugger’ then a harness or a nose lead will do the trick for you pretty quickly. Dogs will not tug on a nose lead, but they have to be trained early on it as they don’t tend to like the feel of it as they get older. A nose lead does prevent a dog from tugging but does not necessarily TRAIN the dog not to tug, if you ever revert back to a collar and lead.
Loose Lead Training:
I like to train my puppies to walk nicely on a lead at my left side without tugging. It’s called loose lead because you should never see any strain on the lead at all. Loose lead training is, of course, necessary for training for the ring, but it is also great to walk a puppy or a dog without frustration and begins the more advanced training for heeling and off-lead training.
Note: I do not use and do not like the flexi leads at all – they don’t train your puppy to walk, and some of them are dangerous. The small lead has gotten wrapped around children’s limbs and also puppy limbs and has caused serious damage. Some pet stores have banned them, and most have warnings on them now. In addition if you have your lead on flex, you are not able to reel in your puppy quickly enough in the event of an emergency. I have heard a tragic tale of a puppy getting killed by a passing car while on lead – a flexi lead.
So ready to start Loose Lead – this method has worked for me on many puppies – it requires a lot of patience, so if you don’t have the time to put in, go for a nose lead or a harness.
Some puppies can cover Walk 1, 2, and 3 all in one Walk – some need to spend more time on Walk 1 before moving to walk 2. Just be patient. Don’t worry about tugging quite yet – you need to have them comfortable with a collar and lead first, then we start to train.
Don’t let your puppy bite the lead – we think it is cute but many trainers think it is the puppy being Alpha to you so I just say no bite and remove the lead from the mouth every time the puppy tries to bite it.
Generally with a new puppy who has never been on a lead before I don’t do any real training to start with – this is all about fun and enjoyment. I let the puppy explore on his new lead and I follow him/her. The only thing I do is encourage moving. If the puppy stops I coax him/her to move again by saying “let’s go” and sometimes even use bait in front of the puppy to encourage moving when I want the puppy to keep walking. Big praise when the puppy moves again. Keep this first time entirely fun and happy with lots of praise and little treats to encourage movement. Don’t worry about what side the puppy walks on and that they sniff and seem to go around in circles. Fun is the name of the game for Walk One.
More of the same but you are going to really encourage moving in the direction you want to move now using your “let’s go command” If you can get the puppy to follow you, even if it is for a few minutes give huge praise. Don’t overdo the training on this walk – be happy with the puppy being comfortable to walk with you leading today, even if only for a short time. Repeat this Second Walk several times until the puppy moves comfortably with you leading it. This does not mean it won’t stop, sniff, circle a bit – it still will be with a little encouragement and a let’s go command you should be able to motivate the puppy to move when you want it to.
Left side walking. Today you are going to have your puppy walk on your left side. It is really a repeat of the second walk, you are just going to direct your puppy to your left side every time it is between your legs or on your right. This is going to be more you moving to his/her right then the puppy moving to your left initially.
Fourth – Sixth Walk – “The Plant”:
Reinforce Left Side Walking and Stop Tugging: You are really walking the puppy now and teaching him how to let you lead him.
Keep the puppy on your left side.
When you feel your puppy tug, or try to go in a different direction, you are not going to coax this time.
You will do what we call a “PLANT”.
You will stand perfectly straight with the end of the lead in both hands in front of your body and you will stay firmly planted UNTIL you puppy stops what he/she is doing and makes eye contact with you.
Once the puppy stops and looks up at you say Good Dog (or whatever your reward word is) and then Let’s Go.
The puppy should move on his/her own again. He/She may only move a step though and then pull or act up again, you stop, plant, wait and then Good Dog, Let’s Go. You do not talk to the puppy or look at the puppy while you are planted – you wait for the puppy to LOOK AT YOU.
You repeat this until you are finished your walk
For Havanese, who are not big tuggers generally, it should only take 1-3 walks using the plant before your puppy walks without tugging.
As I said this takes lots of patience – it once took me 25 minutes to walk two blocks with a Bichon who loved to tug, but it has worked for every dog I have trained. Havanese are easy – they love to walk and if you use treats you can have your hav trained not to pull very quickly.
Walk Seven etc:
You are going to give you puppy some slack. He knows how to walk with you without tugging, now you are going to keep the lead very loose, and as soon as he/she tightens up that lead do the plant. The puppy will understand very quickly that he needs to look at you for direction and hints. Mix it up a bit, slow down, speed up, stop, begin. Always have the puppy look at you and use the Let’s Go command when you want the puppy to move with you.
The Heel Command:
Once your puppy can loose lead walk and is looking at you to guide the pace and direction he/she is already learnt the basics of how to heel. Heeling involves keeping the dogs shoulder at your knee. Start with the leash, and do the same as Walk Seven – we are going to still keep the leash slack but we are going to gently pull the puppy back into the position we want him in everytime he moves to far ahead or behind and say heel. Keep these sessions short and have lots of treats available – I would do no more than 5 corrections and repetitions on the first session. Continue with the lead heel training until you dog understands the command. . Like any training, the rule of thumb is it takes 50 repetitions for a command to become a habit so go slow repeat often and reward and celebrate in increments.
Heeling is particularly useful if you want to train your dog to follow you off leash. Again start with small increments. Have treats ready as a lure and make them visible to your dog in your left hand. In a safe secure area practice off-leash. Start with your dog by your side and use the heel command. Have you treats ready in your left hand and lure your dog into position with the treat. Do small increments at a time – a few steps with your dog following you, not jumping for the treats, not too far ahead and then treat him – say heel again and do a few more steps. Move up to going across your yard in a straight line with your dog at your heel. Once you have mastered a straight line off-lead heel – start adding turns and stops etc. into your walk. Heeling takes time and patience. Remember go slow repeat often and reward and celebrate in increments.
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