This week we will talk more about introducing your puppy to walking on a lead and retrieving.
The first time you put a lead on your puppy be prepared for the puppy to fight, scream, and not want to move. However, if you follow the next few steps it should be smooth sailing. I start teaching pups how to walk on a lead when they are 5-6 weeks old. Yes, you read that correctly and yes it is possible. I begin by taking short, short walks around the room-not a mile long hike. I pick their feeding time to introduce walking on a lead (typically the lunch time feeding). I start by having them on my left side. It’s important to pick one side and stick to it. I use my left because I shoot on my right side. Let them smell the food, then call them to you while taking one or two steps forward. This part needs to be fun! Try saying “here puppy puppy puppy” in a baby voice. Once they have a taken a couple of steps, tell them sit while gently holding the food to their mouth and pushing back so it causes them to sit down. If I have time I will do the full feeding this way or if I don’t have much time I will do a few handfuls then make them sit down for the rest of the food. Remember to take it slow and don’t get frustrated. They are learning!
How to teach your puppy to retrieve:
Teaching a 4 week old puppy how to retrieve has to be one of my favorite things to do! Even if you don’t have a lab you can still use these methods to teach any breed how to retrieve. I have taught many different breeds to retrieve ranging from schnoodles to dobermans.
First and foremost I NEVER leave a puppy unattended with a toy because this is a choking hazard and it teaches them to chew on things when they are bored. I want toys to have rules and be super special for the dog. As I said last week, dogs are extremely smart but not smart enough to know the difference between their toy and your shoes, baseboards, etc. When starting out with a puppy I use a small squeaky ball in a small room with zero distractions. We start extremely close and slowly increase the distance. I will toss the ball right in front of them and tell them to “fetch up” once they have the ball in their mouth. Then I am praising them (petting their head) while my hand is on the ball, then say drop and throw the ball a few inches in front of their face. The number one thing when teaching a pup to retrieve is to ALWAYS praise them before taking away the ball. Imagine if I brought you something and you just ripped it out of my hand and walked away 😳. Pretty sure I’m not going to bring anything else to you. We have to let the dog know that by him going and getting the ball, he did exactly what I wanted and he did a great job! I may only get 1-2 retrieves the first time and that’s ok!! Take away the ball when the dog is still having fun so the next time you get it out they are super excited!!! If your dog is doing AWESOME retrieveing do NOT start adding a bunch of rules too soon as this will cause LOTS of problems in the long run. I get calls weekly about owners telling me how good their dog does retrieveing but has lost interest and this is most likely to the owner turning into a drill Sargent without even realizing it. The main objective when first teaching a puppy or dog to retrieve is to MAKE IT FUN!!!! I do not add any rules in the beginning other than they have to go get it then bring it back. Once they are doing this great for a couple weeks and retrieving at least 10 times perfectly, meaning they go get it, come right back, and they are NOT dropping the ball at my feet, then I will add on a rule or two. Think about teaching a kid how to play baseball. We don’t start with the major leagues, we start with T-ball then slowly add rules as they mature.
Teaching a dog any type of skill should be taught SLOW and always remember to take BABY STEPS. Don’t get into a big hurry!!! We need to make sure each step is perfect before we move onto the next step. We have to lay the foundation just like when building a house and then go from there, we don’t start on the second story and build our way down. Dog training should be fun not frustrating. Always shoot for having your dog a little better today then he was yesterday.