By Josh Weiss-Roessler
You just got your new puppy a few days ago, and you’re itching to take the little guy out and show him off around the neighborhood. No big deal, right? You just need to get a leash and a collar and head out the door with him in tow.
Not so fast…
While it’s true that you can start training your puppy to walk with you and obey your commands very early on in her development, you might not want to head out into the great wide world just yet. Veterinarians recommend keeping your pup away from dog parks and avoiding walking outside until after she has had all of her core vaccinations.
You can’t get a rabies shot until your pup is at least three months old, and he won’t receive his final booster until 16 weeks — or longer, depending on when you start the process. Already you’re looking at four months or more, which is a lot of time for a growing dog to have pent-up energy and pick up bad habits.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. Here are things you can do to start training your dog for the walk while you’re still stuck inside.
Introduce the collar and leashAs early as a few weeks old, you can introduce your pup to her collar and leash. Wait until she’s doing something positive such as feeding, playing, or getting affection from you and slip on the collar and leash. The idea is both to get her used to wearing them and to have her associate them with positive feelings. If your dog fights against the leash or collar, try using treats or toys to get her more comfortable.
Go for a walk — inside
Just because you don’t want to risk taking your pup around the neighborhood doesn’t mean you can’t walk. Attach his leash and guide him around your living space so he gets used to you leading him around. If you have a backyard, you should use bathroom time as another opportunity for leash training by walking your pup out to the spot where you want him to go, instead of letting him have the run of the yard.
Help him learn to follow
Ideally, you want to be leading your dog when you’re on the walk — not the other way around. But this is a lot harder to do with a large adult dog than a tiny pup, so there’s no better time for training than now. All you have to do is put on his leash and walk a few steps. When he inevitably starts to pull, you should turn and walk in the opposite direction. You’ll stop-and-start a lot at first, but eventually she’ll get it. You can reinforce this learning by rewarding him with praise or treats when he does follow.
Practice obedience training
By the time your dog is ready to go out on walks, between months 3 and 6, it’s also a good window to start obedience training. Start with basic commands such as “sit,” “stay,” “come,” “heel,” and “down,” and make sure everyone doing the training is consistent, using the same words and gestures. Otherwise, the dog will become confused.
One of the best ways to teach these basic commands is the “Ask, Tell, and Command” method. The idea is that you first ask your dog to do something, such as “come.” Then tell them to do it using a firm voice if they don’t comply the first time. If that still doesn’t work, repeat the command again and physically pull your pup to you. Regardless of whether your dog comes on her own or you bring her over, immediately offer praise. This will help her to associate completing the action with a reward, and next time she may do it sooner.
Keep up with the training and stay consistent. Pretty soon your dog will obey you without even thinking about it!