Have you ever watched the National Geographic Channel or Animal Planet and seen video footage of alligators or crocodiles doing "death rolls"? The crocodile has its prey in its mouth and it is rolling over and over and over again with it. Or perhaps you have seen footage of rodeo bronco horses, bucking off riders.
You might be wondering what these images have to do with your puppy. Well, have you ever attached a leash to your puppy for the first time and watched as your adorable bundle of fur turned into a bucking bronco or a rolling gator? Perhaps your puppy did the opposite and turned into a deer in headlights, frozen in his tracks.
A puppy can act wild and frantic the first time that he experiences the sensation of leash pressure. The puppy has no idea how to respond to the strange long object that has suddenly trapped him. You might be experiencing that type of response from your puppy and are feeling distraught, wondering how you will ever take your puppy anywhere in a country with widespread leash laws and dangerous cars! Most adult dogs were unsure of the leash at one time or another, and they overcame it. Your puppy can too, with a little help from you.
Acceptance of the leash is vital for your puppy in so many ways. Your puppy's temperament as an adult will depend a lot on the type of interactions that he has now, as a puppy. In order to learn how he should behave around other people and animals, and in order to gain confidence around new objects and through experiences, your puppy will need to go places with you. Places like your neighborhood, where he can encounter new sights and smells while on a walk. Places such as pet stores, parks, and trails are not safe for your puppy unless he is on a leash. Besides socialization, your puppy will need to be able to walk on a leash for practical purposes. Your puppy will need to go to the vet from time to time. He may need to go to the groomer. He will need to go on walks for exercise, and he will need to go outside to eliminate several times a day!
What type of temperament your puppy has and how old he is should affect which method you choose to use. If your puppy is very young or timid, then take the extra time required for the 'Drag' method, to allow your puppy to become accustomed to dragging the leash around before you apply any pressure to the leash. If your puppy is older, very confident, or even a bit stubborn, then you might find that the 'Pressure' or the 'Wait' method will work just as well but will take less time to teach.
The end goal with all of the methods should be to teach your puppy to come toward you when he feels the leash tighten. You want him to learn that he can always escape the uncomfortable sensation of the leash tightening simply by coming toward you and that when he is with you he will receive wonderful things, such as affection, praise, food, and getting to walk forward. Building your puppy's desire to be with you now can help future off-leash training be more successful. It might also help you keep your puppy safe if you were ever to accidentally drop his leash or let him escape through a door.
To get started, with all of the methods, you will need lots of small, tasty treats. If your puppy is very food motivated, then you can also use your puppy's own dog food in place of the treats. You will need a collar or a harness that your puppy cannot slip out of, and a regular, non-retractable leash. You will also need lots of patience and calmness when your puppy fights the leash, an encouraging tone of voice while you teach your puppy to come toward you, and lots of enthusiasm and praise when your puppy succeeds.