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Imagine your puppy stuck by you like glue whenever you wanted them to be. With one magic command, you could attach an imaginary bungee cord around your pup and they would keep close behind you. Follow the leader is not only a fun game to play with your new friend. It also teaches them great off-leash skills and creates a strong bond between you and your puppy.
Training a puppy to play follow the leader is pretty easy, especially for puppies under five months. At that age, your puppy has a natural inclination to follow you around and will likely take well to the game. Puppies older than five months can still get the hang of this game, though it may take a little longer. The best place to start working on this game is in a fenced yard. If you don't have a yard, this game can still work in the house, as long as you have a fair amount of room to work with.
For the most part, all you need to train your puppy to play follow the leader is some yummy treats and a space to play in. You can also use household items to set up obstacles for your puppy to follow you around, such as chairs, boxes, cones, or even trees in the yard. Some puppies will respond better to this game if they are attached to a harness and leash, but many will follow you naturally without needing a lead.
The Come Along Method
Get your puppy's attention
Go outside with your puppy and let them explore for a bit, while following them around. Stick close to your pup so they get used to the fact that you are around. Then say your puppy's name and give the command "come along."
Don't dawdle around and see if your puppy actually comes along. Start moving away from your pup right away and really move. You don't have to run, but you do want to inspire your puppy to come after you.
Do the opposite
If your puppy starts to wander away from you, say their name again along with "come along!" Then do the opposite of whatever it is they are doing. If your puppy is ahead of you, stop in your tracks, lie down, or go in the other direction. If they slow down, run ahead.
Let your pup wander for a bit
Once you've practiced following for a while, give your puppy a break and let them wander around on their own for a little while. Then, get their attention and start playing again.
Switch back and forth
You should alternate between playing follow the leader and letting your puppy explore so they don't become bored of the game. Once they get the hang of it and stay with you well after you say "come along," try practicing in an unfamiliar environment to see if the game sticks.
The Look What I Got Method
Create an obstacle
Prepare for this method by setting up a small obstacle or choosing a path that has some variables to it. Don't make it too complicated, but create a path that your pup needs to stick with you to navigate.
Show your puppy the treat
Pick a good treat that you know your puppy likes and then make sure they know you have it. You will use this treat to lure your puppy to follow you around the obstacles.
Lure your pup
Step over the obstacle or start walking your path. As you do so, look back at your puppy and show them the treat. When they successfully follow you, reward your pup with the treat.
Add in a command word
After a few tries, give your puppy a command, such as "follow me" or "come along," when you offer them the treat lure. You want your puppy to connect the phrase with following where you lead.
Add in more and more challenges
Once your puppy can follow you consistently with simple obstacles, increase the difficulty of the track they have to follow you through. Don't add too much too quickly though. You don't want your puppy to be afraid you will lead them into danger, so keep obstacles simple until you think your puppy can safely manage them.
The Follow Me, Follow You Method
First, lead your pup
In the beginning, have your puppy follow you. Get their attention by saying their name and then quickly move away from them. If your puppy is young, they will likely follow you eagerly. If they are more hesitant, show them you have a treat first.
Keep your puppy interested
Makes lots of dramatic changes in direction and speed to keep your puppy interested. If they get ahead of you, stop suddenly and make them come back. If they turn left, turn right and hurry off in the other direction. You want your puppy focused on you as much as possible.
Let your puppy lead
After a little while, let your puppy lead you. Follow them around for while and make sure they know you are close behind them.
Get left behind
If your puppy gets too far ahead, lie down on the ground or jump behind some bushes. Making a big show of getting left behind shows your puppy they need to keep track of you. When your puppy comes back for you, reward them and then continue following.
Swap back and forth
Follow your puppy for a while and then have them follow you. Keep the game as interesting as possible. The goal is to train your puppy to stick close by you when they are off of their leash. That way, your little friend learns good off-leash behavior and you both have lots of fun!
By Christina Gunning
Published: 03/28/2018, edited: 01/08/2021