When Should you Let your Puppy off Lead?

When you let your puppy off the lead she should return to you when called.  You will need to be practicing this from the first day you get her home.  Call her, and give her a treat when she comes.  Recall is one of the most important lessons you can teach your dog.

You need to start early to train a reliable recall.  When a puppy first goes on a walk it will be nervous and looking to you for reassurance.  Letting a puppy off in a safe place and recalling it often will help you start as you mean to go on. 

One tip is to take treats with you, and if you are on a walk you will be doing regularly, pick some points to give her the treats.  She should remember and wait for you at these points.  From time to time call her back and give her a treat. 

It is strongly advised to go along to puppy training classes where you will learn how to cope with distractions of different pups who all want to play.  Some breeds are more trustworthy off the leads than others, and all can have their moments of bad behaviour if a cat or rabbit suddenly appears just begging to be chased.  Never let your dog off the lead unless you know it is 100% safe to do so.

It is to be hoped that your pup will grow into a well behaved dog who you can trust to come back to you in all situations, and who is not a nuisance around other dogs or people.  If, however, (and this will usually be a result of not having been socialised properly when young) she is vicious towards other dogs or cannot be trusted with children you should consider using a muzzle in public places, and not letting her off the lead. 

It is your responsibility to control your dog.  If your dog is off lead, and an on lead dog is coming towards you always call your dog back and put if on a lead.  On lead dogs may be nervous or scared of dogs just running up to them. 

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Taking Your Puppy for Walks


Try to get a soft light collar, not a hard leather one at first, so itís easier for her to accept.  Some dogs barely notice a collar, but for others it can cause a bit of distress.  Introduce the collar slowly by only leaving it on her for a short period of time, and play whilst she's wearing it.  You can gradually lengthen the amount of time she's wearing it. 

Name Tags

It is a legal requirement for any dog to carry a name tag on their collar which has your surname on it, plus a contact address/telephone number, so itís best to get one of these early too just in case she escapes out of the garden.  Itís a matter of personal choice  whether you put the dogís name on the tag - some say itís better not too in case your dog gets stolen. 

Should a Dog wear a Collar all the time?

Some people leave the collar on their dog all the time.  This has the advantage that, if your dog escapes out of the garden, or sneaks through the front door when you're talking to the postman, he will be easily identifiable and more likely to be returned to you. 

Others prefer not to use a collar in the house fearing it might get caught and strangle their pup if they are not there.  Another reason for removing the collar is that it can leave a mark on long coated dogs. 

Adding a lead

Once your pup is used to a collar you can add a lead.  Leads should be between 4 and 6 feet long - any longer and you will not have your dog under control. Try this first in the house, and let her get used to having it on when she is doing something pleasurable, such as eating her food.  Let her trail it behind her, and then progress to holding one end of the lead, and walking with her around the house and garden.  You will find that as soon as she feels any pressure she is most likely to sit and not move.  Relax the lead and coax her to you.  If she pulls ahead stop and change direction, calling her back to your side.  Practice as often as you can.  The more used she is to walking on a lead, the better she will be on that first outing. 

She may well chew the lead, and start trying to play a tug of war game with it, or walk by your side with the lead in her mouth.  The object for now is to get her to walk with you, so whilst you shouldnít take part in the tug of war, donít worry too much if she is carrying the lead.  Most of this behaviour is because she is in a safe environment - it will be different when she has new sights and smells to distract her.

Dogs should always be on a lead when walked on public roads and in areas where there are signs saying dogs need to be under control.  This often includes playgrounds.  Even if you have an extremely well behaved dog who walks quietly by your side you can never predict what they are going to do.  A cat appearing on the other side of the road, for example, might tempt your dog to run across the road in front of a car causing not only injury to him, but a nasty car accident.  The accident would be the dog ownerís fault, for not having his animal under control.

So it is vitally important that your pup learns to walk on the lead, and also learns not to pull.  When you take your puppy to training classes you will be given advice on how to make her walking nicely by your side.  Walking is an extremely enjoyable activity for a dog, and humans never seem to walk fast enough for them.  It's annoying to have a puppy pulling ahead on the lead - it's extremely unpleasant to have a full grown dog straining ahead pulling your arm out of the socket on every walk.  Many owners have dogs which pull, making walks a battle and not enjoyable.  The more work you put in training your puppy at the start, the more fun you'll have with your dog as an adult. 

Irish Setter Puppy reluctant to move with lead
Irish Setter Puppy on Flexi Lead
When you buy a puppy,you will probably have an image in your head of going for long walks in the countryside or local park with a happy little pooch trotting along at your heels.  You will be eagerly awaiting the day when the vaccinations are complete and the vet has now advised that you can take your pup out into the big wide world.  Only to find that she has quite different ideas to you, and doesnít want to take a step out of the front door!

If you wait until your puppy is ready to go out before putting on a collar and lead you are going to have problems.  Early training is the key to making those first outings enjoyable for you both.

If you start training early you'll soon a puppy who doesn't understand what being on the lead means and is reluctant to even take one step (top picture right) into the enthusiastic pup who's soon ploughing ahead and enjoying her walks.
Collar Training

When your puppy first arrives home she will need a few days to adjust to the changes, so donít add additional stress too quickly.  However, after a few days you can put a collar on her.

Out at Last

When it is time to take her out remember she is a growing puppy.  She should have no more than 5 minutes exercise for each month of her life. 

You may well find that although she runs out into the garden, taking that first step outside the front door is scary.  Be ready with treats to coax her, and you may need to give her some encouragement.   Donít worry if you make slow progress at first, but persevere and donít give up.  If you can get her to a grassy area youíll find she starts sniffing around and should being to enjoy herself.  Keep the first walk short as obviously she will not know her way home yet.  It was on the way back home that Bess decided she had had enough, and it was actually hardest to coax her the last few metres on her first walk. 

If possible take other members of the family with you so that she feels more secure.  It may take you a few tries before she understands going out is a fun thing, but after a couple of days, when you pick up the lead she should react with pleasure in anticipation of what is to come. 

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When you first attach a lead to a collar your puppy might be very reluctant to move.
But soon she'll be striding out and enjoying her walks.
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STAND! A Complete Guide to Showing your Dog from Companion to Champion A fantastic new book that takes you through everything you need to know about dog showing, from training your puppy to showing at Crufts and even abroad!  Available in paperback or for Kindle.