BRIAR: LEARN­ING TO BE SO­CIAL

Shooting Times & Country Magazine - - FRONT PAGE -

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.

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