Collar & Lead Training Your Puppy: Tips & Techniques
Collar and lead training for your dog © Heidi Hudson
 

Lead training your puppy takes time and patience for both you and your puppy so do your best to avoid scolding them. It's not fair to correct puppies for something they don't understand.

The secret to getting a collar is to buy one that fits your puppy now, so just choose a small lightweight one that he will hardly feel. Don't get one he's going to grow into eventually, because that's just going to be too big, heavy and intimidating.

You can buy one with clips on it to start with, just because it's going to be a lot easier to introduce it to him. You can just put it on and clip it together, rather than fiddling with buckles which can be scary when he's wearing a collar for the first time.

Introducing the collar: think positive rewards!

The first thing is to put on the collar and immediately after give him a treat so that he realises that the collar means good stuff. Don't put the collar on then take it off and give him a treat, otherwise all you're rewarding him for is having the collar off. You put it on nice and quietly and this is where you'll find the real advantage of the clips because you don't have to mess around with the buckles and the minute the clip's on… he gets a treat!

Then you can build up the length of time that he's wearing the collar for, until he's wearing it for longer and longer periods of time. But just leave it off when he's in the house, just in case he gets caught up on things (e.g.furniture) which can also cause him to panic and get hurt. However he'll have to wear it when he's out and about with his ID details on, like a grown up dog !

Introducing the lead: training tips

Once your puppy is happy wearing the collar you can introduce the lead and just start off in the house, don't try to go straight away out and about. You should think about the lead as a safety device so that he doesn't run off anywhere. Not something that you pull him around by. You want a dog that doesn't pull on the lead, so you don't start by pulling first. 

First of all, clip on the lead and give him a treat while you put it on if need be. The minute the lead is on, just use the treats (instead of pulling on the lead) to lure him beside you so that he gets used to walking with the lead and with the collar attached.

As well as using treats you can also make good use of toys - especially if your dog has a favourite one - to do exactly the same thing: walk around the house with the lead on and lure him with the toy. That way your puppy will build a positive connection with wearing the collar and lead without making any fuss whatsoever.

The most important thing is to never pull on the lead. If it is ever tight just lure him beside you with a treat or a toy while walking. All you're doing is getting him to moving around beside you with the lead and collar on. Remember to keep your hand down (the one holding the treat or toy) so your puppy doesn't get the habit of jumping up at you. That helps your puppy learn that he can move around with a collar and lead on and that the lead is never something that he's going to pull on.

If you feel that your puppy is getting stressed when walking with a lead outside try putting treats along the route you'll be taking to turn this into a rewarding game: good times are ahead. That way he learns to focus on what's ahead of him with curiosity and not fear.

For more information and advice, you can find a puppy foundation course with the Good Citizen Dog Training Scheme.

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