When taking our puppies out we dream of perfect loose lead walking, amazing recalls and focus on us passing distractions. One thing we need to practice if we want all of these things is attention. When your puppy’s attention is partially on you, lead walking and recalls become much easier. Trying to teach a puppy these things when they’d rather play with another dog, get to a person or pull to every distraction is hard work and often impossible. We often fall into nagging and bribing these things which does not lead to much solid learning that we hope for. We must first start with teaching your puppy that engaging with you is super valuable.
Once your puppy is allowed out, for the first week of walks, I want you to concentrate on 3 things: checkins, having fun with you and just sitting and watching the world go by or allowing your puppy to simply be a puppy and explore the area.
Check Ins – Two options :
1- When walking reward your dog every time they look at you. Prevent nagging, no cues, no calling their name, just rewarding them whenever they choose to look at you. You wont get much to begin with, that’s ok. With time you should begin to notice your puppy checks in with you more and more.
2- When its nice and quiet, sit or stand somewhere and reward your puppy for checking in with you. Again this may not be that often but with practice your puppy will get better at it. If you’re stood still, I advise you to drop the treats to the floor, this prevents your puppy from just staring at you while you feed them!
When they get good at this, you can either begin to switch out rewards for ‘good puppy’ or you can begin to up the distraction level by playing in more distracting areas of the park or as you pass distractions. You’ll then be ready to practice loose lead walking and recalls with greater success.
Note- once your puppy is good at this, do begin to remove the reward and allow your puppy more time to be a puppy. Naturally, you will begin to see better recalls and lead walking skills which allows you to take a step back with check ins. This prevents your puppy from continuously staring at you during walks instead of enjoying them. This is very much a skill that when taught well can have massive benefits but if taught too well and too much, can often be more of a detriment to natural walks.