My Smart Puppy

with Dog Expert, Sarah Wilson

Introducing the Collar and Leash


Getting a new puppy can be a tough process. Don’t get us wrong, bringing your puppy home is one of the most exciting things that can happen, but there is so much to think about before bringing your furry friend home so make sure you’re prepared. You need to consider getting the right bed, toys and make sure you get the correct food for your pup. The most important part – ask questions! No question is too silly, and with a quick Google (like asking can dogs eat rice – the results will be back in seconds!). Once your puppy comes home, you need to get straight into training with them! Every puppy goes through this process. With a few tricks of the trade in hand, you can use this event to lay the foundation for future wonderful walking and control around distractions. It isn’t a big deal – you see Sarah work a young Jack Russell Terrier through some of her concerns in just a few moments.

Introducing the Collar

Your pup’s first collar should be a non-tightening buckle/clip-on collar. It should fit so only one or two fingers can slip underneath it. Too loose and your pup may slip it off or get a paw or his jaw caught in it. Choose as wide a collar as you can find in a length that will fit your puppy. Wider is easier on your puppy’s throat. Ready to introduce the collar? Good. Put it on. There, you’ve done it.

Most pups will scratch at it a bit then ignore it. A few have a bigger reaction – rolling in protest or freezing in place, but they generally adapt if left alone to sort things out. Whatever your puppy does, it is a window into how he will deal with stress in the future.

  • Scratch a bit but go about his day? Easy-going guy.
  • Freeze in place, look miserable? Sensitive dog – start confidence-building games now!
  • Roll around violently? Stressed by stress. Start Calm=Release and self-calming games now.

If you want to go more slowly, you can put it on before each meal for a few days, letting him eat with the collar on, but generally this is not necessary. A little stress that your pup learns to cope with is not a bad thing.

Introducing the Leash

Many people recommend letting the pup drag a leash around to get used to it. We don’t. We want the pup to learn from the first moment on-leash that her job is to learn to move into pressure – not away from it. So, arm yourself with good treats and a hungry puppy, go to a quiet indoor area where YOU are the most interesting thing in the room, and practice.

  • Before the leash goes on, touch, talk to and treat the pup just for being near you.
  • Now, clip on the leash.
  • Back away from your puppy and apply light pressure toward you with the leash.
  • Most pups will do what comes naturally, and that is balk – pulling away from you.
  • Hold steady. Do not add to or subtract from the pressure. Do not drag the pup toward you. Just meet her pressure with an equal amount of yours.
  • Squat or bend down and encourage the pup to step toward you by speaking kindly and patting your leg. When the pup even leans a bit in your direction, immediately move your hand toward your puppy to release all leash pressure and praise! (Praise verbally, do not go to the pup to pet her – praise from where you are). Good puppy!
  • If the pup comes to you after you give her some slack, great – touch, talk to and treat her! Give her at least ten seconds of loving to underline to her that coming to you is a very, very good choice. You are safe harbor in any storm. People often rush the praise party piece of this, but don’t. Emphasizing the right choice is always time well spent.
  • If she doesn’t come to you, that’s fine too, she will soon enough – just warmly praise her.
  • After that praise party, go quiet, back up and gently apply pressure toward you again. Hold it there. Do not add, do not subtract – just hold. Encourage your pup toward you with your voice. When the pup steps forward – move your hand toward her so she instantly gets slack and praise! What a SMART puppy!
  • Soon your pup will be stepping toward you anytime she feels any pressure on the leash. Excellent! That’s going to help a lot later on in training.
  • Practice this inside the house daily until your pup walks all the way to you as soon as she feels any pressure on the leash.
  • Some pups will react to the pressure. They will buck, rear and become very upset. If this is case with your pup, we want you to give her slack the instant she stops all that. For right now, we want to reward self-calming. Do that a few times and when she is calm to light pressure, then start waiting for her to move toward you the least little bit. One of the rules we train by is “start where the dog is to get where you’re going.” In this case, your pup’s reaction has to be dealt with first, before you can teach her to give to pressure. No worries. Most pups, once they are clearly and quickly rewarded for a calmer choice offer that choice over and over again.
  • Note: This is one of the few times in our training when you will hold a steady pressure. The purpose is to train your pup to feel pressure and step forward toward you, rather than to pull away.

Common Human Errors

  • Giving the puppy slack for struggling. Message to the puppy: Struggle = slack. Uh-oh.
  • Going to puppy when she struggles. Message to the puppy: Struggle makes owner come to me. Uh-oh.
  • Adding more pressure when the puppy balks or steps toward you. Message to the puppy: There is no escape, this only gets worse. Uh-oh.

by Sarah Wilson,


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