I believe that one of the main reasons so many behaviour problems can develop on walks, is due to a lack of confidence from owners to let their puppies off the lead as soon as they can. Puppies are often lacking in confidence when they arrive in their new home and so this is the BEST time to let them off, as they are far more likely to not only stay close to you, but offer lots of check in’s which you can then reward. Calling the puppy back when it finishes a sniff, checks in after meeting a new person/dog, and calling it between 2 of you will provide lots of opportunities to give the puppy praise and treats, an essential first step in a fast and reliable recall.
One of the GOLDEN tips to ensure that your dog is the one checking in on you is to play lots of hide and seek. Suddenly changing directing, diving behind a tree, or crouching below the grass line will keep your dog’s attention on YOU and the more fun you can make it, the more your dog is likely to want to come and find you.
Even before the puppy has finished its vaccinations you can take it to a friend’s garden (no dog household or dogs that have been fully vaccinated). Obviously it is essential that the environment is safe and secure but trust me, this is MUCH easier to create with a young puppy than it is with a fast and confident adolescent!!
Problems that can result from keeping a puppy on the lead for too long include:
- A lack of recall.
- A general lack of attention on the owner both on and off the lead.
- Lead frustration due to the inability to interact socially and with the environment.
- If lead frustration builds this can lead to a very strong dog on the lead and barking and lunging towards other people and dogs. In some situations this can then lead to anxiety, as they are either punished or met with aggression from other dogs who are concerned by their behaviour.
- Over exuberance when allowed off the lead, especially if there has been a build up to their release.
- A lack of social skills, especially with other dogs. This may then lead to more serious dog-dog problems.
With all of these problems the owner is likely to stop allowing the dog off the lead and this is often a vicious circle as it is unsafe to let them off, but being on the lead accentuates the problems.
So please do take your puppy somewhere safe with LOTS of tasty treats and its favourite toys and HAVE RECALL FUN :)