Taking Your Pup for a Walk
There are a number of different types of leashes and collars. Some people prefer rolled leather collars, some prefer chains, some prefer flat collars, some limited slip collars, and the list continues. One thing is certain: You must learn how to use the leash and collar correctly, and your puppy must learn how to walk on leash. Prong collars should not be used on a puppy. These should be a last resort, since problems can usually be avoided by starting with good early training. With any training tool, misuse can result in an injury.
The nickel plated brass chains are favored by some because the dog can hear the sound of the collar when you apply pressure. Draft dogs may be less sensitive to pressure, so the additional signal can help. Some owners prefer the rolled leather collars because these don’t get caught in hair. Some owners use flat collars with no trouble. Starting early with leash training is very important to avoid the problems that can occur from trying to leash train a muscular adolescent or adult who weighs over 100 lbs. Starting early allows you to shape their expectations about what a collar and leash means before the challenge of training increases.
Your dog needs to learn that the leash is merely a formality, and that his position beside you and his attention to you are the important parts. Being consistent, using praise for successes, developing a good relationship with your dog and learning how to train will be your best assets. Being inconsistent or not observing your dog well enough to predict his responses will allow bad habits to form that can be very difficult to correct.
For puppies, a “flat” collar or a limited slip collar is a good way to start. A leash that is not awkward to use and is not too long is best. Lightweight nylon leashes are good for this purpose. Flexi leads are not to be used for leash training a puppy. It is better that he learns to expect a consistent leash length, and that he learns to expect the leash to be somewhat loose. The expectation of constant tension on a leash can become somewhat of a security blanket. That is, he can learn bad habits because he can feel your every reaction and movement. Constant tension may also teach him that you do not have confidence in him, which in turn may negatively affect his self-confidence. This can also sometimes lead to dogs behaving like thugs on leash.
The first time you put a leash on a puppy may take more patience. Be prepared for any reaction, but without letting the puppy be aware that you are prepared. Keep the session short and positive. Be very encouraging and reward with praise and a very small treat. Even a piece of kibble is good for a training treat. Let the puppy become accustomed to the leash before trying to lead him to take a few steps. If he “throws a fit” the first couple of times, don’t react. Just wait calmly and patiently then proceed.
Puppies cannot take long walks, but they can be walked several times throughout the day. The iteration will help them learn, just as you learned multiplication tables. Once your puppy begins to be comfortable with the leash, walks around the yard several times throughout the day are a good next step. Change directions occasionally as you walk, teaching your puppy to stay in position next to you – not ahead of you or behind you. For a sound, healthy puppy, you can work up to a trip up and down the block two or three times per day. The added distractions of the neighborhood are good to improve on training. As the puppy grows and learns leash manners, you can progress slowly to longer distances. Frequency rather than distance at this age is your best approach. Puppies are constantly learning, and they are aware of everything that you do. When you cross new obstacles, such as storm drains, keep the puppy moving and do not react or change your gait.
Collar Choices for Walking Puppies
What is your favorite type of collar?
Newfoundlands are draft dogs, and one issue for new owners is pulling on the leash. Remember that this puppy will soon be over 100 lbs., so your opportunity to teach him how to walk on leash is now. If your puppy begins pulling, there are a number of techniques to use. If you have trained him the command to “Back”, you can make use of this by stopping with the puppy beside you and having him take 2 or 3 steps backward. Another thing you can do is to turn and continue walking at 90 degrees, and sometimes turn completely around and walk the other way. This will help him learn to watch you for cues. Another tactic is to stop, take one step at a time, and only begin moving forward when he begins watching you for his cues, stopping again as soon as he starts to pull. As with any part of training, be very consistent and use praise. There may be a time in the future that you want to teach him to pull.
During hot periods, walking on leash should be done in the mornings and late evenings. Concrete in the evenings will retain its heat, so walks should be shortened. Since dogs cool through their pads and their tongues, the heat from concrete can easily overburden their cooling mechanism. Pay attention to your dog’s panting or change in energy and scale back the length and duration of walks as needed. Newfoundlands can be very willing as well as stoic, so your careful observation will be needed. Remember that your dog wears a thick wool coat.
If you’ve done your job well, your puppy will be enthusiastic about putting his collar on and heading out for a walk!
© 2016 Newfoundland Club of America