Everyone thinks walking a dog is natural and easy…it is the hardest thing to do successfully with your dog. Done wrong it can lead to a huge amount of stress for you and your dog.
I advise all my puppy owners to get behaviour at home perfect first – sleep, toilet training, recall, calm behaviour is all working on auto pilot. Owners who are learning how to do Jan Fennell Dog Listening are on a steeper learning curve than the dog! Once this is achieved at sometime after 12+ weeks you can start preparation for a successful walk. During this time you won’t be going out for walks at all. Play, on your terms, in the back garden is enough exercise and enjoyment.
Puppy Heel training
We always start after 12 weeks of age and only start when you feel in control of all other behaviour.
Prepare a bag of 10 tiny food rewards – very thin tiny piece of ham or tiny cubes of hot dog.
Start after a re-unite when the puppy is calm. Choose the side you want the dog and the hand opposite holds the food reward.
Call to your heel by Saying ‘Name of dog HEEL’ in a happy request type voice. Hold the food at ankle height, you want all 4 paws on the ground. When the dog comes to heel, walk forward one step and repeat HEEL and food. Try 3 steps for the first session then stop. Build up slowly, always end on success. If the puppy is distracted then just stop and try again another time. Work up until you are walking randomly, changing direction, around your house for 3 mins.
Then move to the garden and start from scratch the same process all over again, except this time there are more distractions for the dog. Don’t try when its raining or windy, choose a quiet dry day and build up. (NB. Wind literally winds dogs up, they find it very unsettling for the rest of their lives!)
Next, make sure there is no lead reaction. So pick it up and put it down until the dog just doesn’t care and remains calm.
Then inside the house call the dog to you, pop the lead on and call to HEEL. Walk randomly around your house with the puppy at heel for a few minutes. If it goes wrong take the lead off and stop. Try again later. Once the house is sorted, use the lead in the garden for longer distances – 5 mins.
This whole process could take many weeks. Only when its been successful do you attempt to go out the front door. The outside world is several more chapters. I strongly suggest reading The Practical Dog Listener by Jan Fennell.