- How To Walk Your Puppy
It sounds fine in theory... until they try to get their ten week old puppy to leave the yard. Then their vet tells them not to take the puppy anywhere because it isn't vaccinated... but the dog trainer says to socialize it...
The first four months of a dogs' life are vital for socialization. If you wait until your puppy is fully vaccinated, it will be too late. The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior has released a position statement strongly in favour of socialization.
Behavioral problems are the greatest threat to the owner-dog bond. In fact, behavioral problems are the number one cause of relinquishment to shelters.
Behavioral issues, not infectious diseases, are the number one cause of death for dogs under three years of age.
--© 2008 AVSAB American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior
It is still very important that your puppy sees a vet regularly through puppyhood and receives their monthly booster vaccines!
Because your puppy is learning about the world, walks need to be taken slowly. Your puppy may be unwilling to even leave your front step before they've had a chance to sniff the air, and look around, and mentally adjust to the world.
Then your puppy will want to stop to check out everything. We mean EVERYTHING. A twig! A bird! A smell! And after every one of these your pup may need to sit down and THINK about what they just experienced.
Be patient. Your puppy is not thinking about toileting right now, or about getting in their daily cardio. Your puppy is creating a mental database of All The Things. Sometimes they get stuck on the loading screen, and that's okay.
Now understand that when your leash tugs at your dog's harness or collar, your dog feels trapped.
Now understand that until you relax that leash, you're not going anywhere.
As far as we know, Pavlov didn't give a name to the human need to turn leashes in marionnette strings, but let's call it the Puppet Reflex.
Stop Puppeteering Your Puppy!
That leash is a safety line to ensure your puppy doesn't wander into the road or down the maw of a roaming cougar. That's it.
Every time you try to use the leash to guide the movement of your dog, you're making them balk, and pull against you. This can become a habit that is incredibly hard to break.
You're also setting a really bad example. How can you teach your dog not to pull on the leash, when you can't even stop doing it?
I mean, we can land a man on the moon, but we can't model good leash manners for a puppy?
You're the team leader. You're older, your brain is bigger, and you have a GPS on your phone. You should be the one leading the way.
But ultimately this is also a six legged race. Neither of you can move without the permission of the other, unless you drag each other which you do not want to do.
Instead, stand there and wait. Wait for your puppy to thoroughly investigate the area within the boundary of the leash. Wait for your puppy to process everything and feel ready to move on. Wait for your puppy to realize they are tied to you. Wait for them to look up.
When your puppy looks up, get very excited, praise them and rush forward a few steps, encouraging puppy to follow you. You can use treats, peanut butter on a touch stick, a toy, anything to make moving with you - engaging with you - fun. As soon as puppy looks away from you and starts tugging toward a bush, stop again.
You may not get far today, or tomorrow, or the next day. But when you do get somewhere, you'll get there together, and you'll move together for the rest of your dog's life.