BRIAR: LEARNING TO BE SOCIAL
NOW BRIAR IS a little older, I can introduce her to new environments, which is an important part of socialising. To do this she needs to learn to walk on a lead. I am lucky that up until now I haven’t needed a lead to be able to walk her. But I appreciate this isn’t always the case for other dogs and a lead may have already been introduced.
Briar will already follow me with a little encouragement and, thanks to the older dogs remaining at heel, will rarely stray more than a few yards. I start by putting on a slip lead and leaving it to drag on the floor. I begin somewhere familiar such as my garden. Once she will follow me with the lead on the floor I begin to quietly pick up the other end.
I want to teach her to walk next to me on a loose lead. Therefore it is imperative that I don’t let the lead go tight. If a handler “clings on” to the dog’s lead, the dog will mimic this and lean back. It is a hard concept to get your head around but a dog will only pull on a lead if the handler pulls back. Once I have started to pick the lead up I still allow her to walk within reason where she wants. All I want is for her to follow me.
I’m not particularly concerned for now if she is on my left. When she looks at me and/or follows me willingly I use my voice to praise her and reassure her that she is doing the correct thing. When she lunges/ walks/bounces off in the wrong direction I let the position of the slip lead simply turn her head. As soon as she turns her head towards me I offer massive praise and reward — fuss, treat, toy. A common puppy reaction to the lead — which Briar did — is to panic a little and bounce
“As soon as Briar turns her head to me I offer massive praise and a reward’”
around like a kangaroo. When she did this I simply stood calmly waiting for her to stop. As soon as she did I praised her and encouraged her to follow me again.
Within a few days of doing short sessions in the garden she is happily trotting along next to me on a loose lead. We have a long way to go with heel work but this is a great start.