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Hey everyone, I wanted to ask about teaching leash manners to a poodle puppy. My girl Penny is still very young, almost 13 weeks, so I realize my expectations are probably too high but I'm sure there's room for improvement in the way I'm teaching her. If anyone has tips or suggestions, that would be awesome. Also feel free to share your own progress or stories about teaching leash manners!

Currently I take Penny on two short walks a day for 10 minutes, plus routine potty breaks. I keep the idea of potty breaks and walks separate - if I intend on walking after a potty break, I'll bring her back inside for a minute or two then go back out again. Walks have been very hot and cold so far... If she's fresh from a long nap, she honestly walks SO well. She'll trot politely beside me or explore within the 6ft leash, while frequently making eye contact because I'm constantly praising "good walk!" every few steps. In these times she'll barely pull, and if she does, she responds well to correction. Unfortunately for both of us, she only walks this like 10% of the time maybe? :(

Much more frequently, walks don't go very well. Once we're out and she realizes we're walking, she gets very jumpy and jazzed. She'll start leaping in front of me with this super excited eye contact, which is honestly SO cute, but not exactly good walking behaviour! So I'll correct with an 'ah-ah' until she calms, then we try to walk a few steps. She almost always rushes to the end of the leash and clotheslines herself. Fortunately she wears a good harness, but it still can't feel good. Every time she does this, or if she starts pulling in one direction, I stop dead and say 'ah-ah' or just a firm 'ah'. She'll look at me, the line goes slack, then I'll take ONE step forward and the process repeats. She'll rush the leash or pull, I stop, she stops, and the circus show continues.

On her worst walks she goes bananas. She'll start biting the leash and trying to play tug, leap around me constantly, or rear up and ricochet off me using her front paws. It's awful and honestly a bit embarrassing, but I know she's just an over excited puppy. My solution is to force her into a sit and say 'calm' and 'easy' in a gentle tone while petting her until she loses the crazy look in her eye. Unfortunately this only works like half the time, and if she keeps going nuts, I'm forced to pick her up and carry her home. She's so activated that it seems no amount of correction will help.

It's frustrating because she has the capacity to walk beautifully on leash, I just need to figure out how to tell her I want that behaviour all the time, not just when she feels like it.

The little stinker in question:

470960
 

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You are doing all sorts of great training with what you are doing! It is really most likely age related and about her having not great impulse control. I would consider turning towards home when she acts off the wall bonkers. When I taught leash manners to Lily I rarely got much further away from home than my next door neighbor's driveway. I always found she would be a bit more chill on the way home and I could get a bit better attention going in that direction. I am certain my neighbors thought I was more than a little odd.

Make sure you take advantage of her checking in with you and reward it heavily. Try telling her to sit as she looks at you and then give her some really nice treats while she stays on the sit. I am not sure what you mean by forcing her to a sit but if it is physically pushing her to it try not to do that, but use the possibility of a treat to get her do sit on her own. She will learn faster this way. You will then be able to tell her sit to get reconnected to her and give her a chance to collect her head enough so she sticks with you.
 

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You are doing all sorts of great training with what you are doing! It is really most likely age related and about her having not great impulse control. I would consider turning towards home when she acts off the wall bonkers. When I taught leash manners to Lily I rarely got much further away from home than my next door neighbor's driveway. I always found she would be a bit more chill on the way home and I could get a bit better attention going in that direction. I am certain my neighbors thought I was more than a little odd.

Make sure you take advantage of her checking in with you and reward it heavily. Try telling her to sit as she looks at you and then give her some really nice treats while she stays on the sit. I am not sure what you mean by forcing her to a sit but if it is physically pushing her to it try not to do that, but use the possibility of a treat to get her do sit on her own. She will learn faster this way. You will then be able to tell her sit to get reconnected to her and give her a chance to collect her head enough so she sticks with you.
Thanks for the advice!! I used to reward her with treats when she was walking nicely, but that caused her to jazz up an otherwise calm walk. It's like once she realized treats are involved, it made her overexcited and she lost her calmness, which led to leash issues. So I switched to verbal praise instead. But I'll try getting her to sit and receive the treat then carry on with the walk, that may help to maintain her calmness :)

By 'forcing' her to sit, I mean I firmly say 'sit' while using my hand to put pressure on her rump which reminds her to sit. I only do this when she's super activated and quite literally flailing around on the leash and not responding to verbal cues. Usually she's really good at responding to sit - We practice impulse control frequently because I get her to sit and wait before passing through the front door, then again before leaving the deck, and also before receiving all her meals. But when she's in her maniac mode, all training goes out the window haha. I think instead of trying to calm her down and continue the walk, I'll just pick her up and head for home.
 

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I liked playing lots of off-leash walking games at that age. I still do! Puppies have a high chase drive, and it's fun to use this to your advantage.

Peggy's favourite is "Let's go!" in which I say "Let's go!" and then abruptly make a 180 turn and continue in the opposite direction. She gets a yummy something once she catches up to my side, while we continue our forward momentum.

We regularly practise this on-leash, as well, and it really teaches puppy to tune into you. Just walk walk walk and then abruptly call "Let's go!" and change direction. Within a few reps, there should be no tension on the leash at all, as puppy is excitedly sticking to you like glue.

This maneuver is extra great if you're approaching a potentially gnarly situation, such as an off-leash dog on a narrow trail. So commit it to muscle memory. My husband once had to employ it when two little terriers—tethered together!—decided to throw themselves at him and Peggy. He was amazed by how naturally he delivered that well-rehearsed "Let's go" and how happily Peggy followed.

You can also try facing your puppy and then jogging or walking rapidly backwards while delivering treats. Do this off-leash at first and then try it on a walk.

Every evening after dinner, Peggy and I practise this sort of thing around the house. She thinks it's great fun, and I like that it reinforces good walking habits even without a leash.
 

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I liked playing lots of off-leash walking games at that age. I still do! Puppies have a high chase drive, and it's fun to use this to your advantage.

Peggy's favourite is "Let's go!" in which I say "Let's go!" and then abruptly make a 180 turn and continue in the opposite direction. She gets a yummy something once she catches up to my side, while we continue our forward momentum.

We regularly practise this on-leash, as well, and it really teaches puppy to tune into you. Just walk walk walk and then abruptly call "Let's go!" and change direction. Within a few reps, there should be no tension on the leash at all, as puppy is excitedly sticking to you like glue.

This maneuver is extra great if you're approaching a potentially gnarly situation, such as an off-leash dog on a narrow trail. So commit it to muscle memory. My husband once had to employ it when two little terriers—tethered together!—decided to throw themselves at him and Peggy. He was amazed by how naturally he delivered that well-rehearsed "Let's go" and how happily Peggy followed.

You can also try facing your puppy and then jogging or walking rapidly backwards while delivering treats. Do this off-leash at first and then try it on a walk.

Every evening after dinner, Peggy and I practise this sort of thing around the house. She thinks it's great fun, and I like that it reinforces good walking habits even without a leash.

This is a great game and I'll definitely try this starting tonight! :D
 

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This is a great game and I'll definitely try this starting tonight! :D
Have fun! Just remember (in case my post wasn't 100% clear) the verbal command comes a split second before the turn, so puppy has a clear cue. You don't want to be yanking her around, but rather giving her the chance to make the right decision and stay by your side.

In general, that's how I like to train. But poodles especially seem to respond really well to "fairness."
 

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Try to get putting pressure on her hindquarters to get the sit out of the picture. Your sits will be more durable if she has to do it herself. I also don't like putting pressure on puppy hips. Practice lots when things are calm.
 

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I liked playing lots of off-leash walking games at that age. I still do! Puppies have a high chase drive, and it's fun to use this to your advantage.
Do you have a link to suggest or a book which has a list of games like this to play with puppy? I just KNOW the second I bring home floofypoofy my brain workability will be zero and I am going to need lists or books to keep me on track. 😂
 

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Do you have a link to suggest or a book which has a list of games like this to play with puppy? I just KNOW the second I bring home floofypoofy my brain workability will be zero and I am going to need lists or books to keep me on track. 😂
I've learned a lot from our trainer. We started Peggy in puppy classes around 12 weeks, repeated them just for fun, and then continued into a teenage socialization class.

I also love Spirit Dog. Lots of free resources here (plus some great paid courses): SpiritDog Online Dog Training |

She also has a great Facebook page.
 

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Do you have a link to suggest or a book which has a list of games like this to play with puppy? I just KNOW the second I bring home floofypoofy my brain workability will be zero and I am going to need lists or books to keep me on track. 😂
But most importantly:


Also available online for free:



I recommend reading (and maybe even re-reading) this before you welcome your puppy home. It'll absolutely keep you on track during that crazy first year. :)
 

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We had a very, very similar experience with Cody when he was that age, which was only about two months ago - it has gotten much better since! In fact I had forgotten about the leash crazies until I read your post!

I think two things really helped. One was, like Peggy suggested, doing a lot (LOT) of leash training, at first mostly inside the house. I liked this video a lot:

The other thing that really helped was to shorten the leash. He was also on a 6 foot leash. I read somewhere that it's better to train a puppy using a 4 ft leash, so since ours was fabric I was able to just tie it in such a way as to make a second handle loop, which shortened it by about 2 feet. Having a little less freedom helped him behave better. Since he's gotten better at walking (and bigger), we've let the leash back out.
 

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I found teaching "With me!" off leash helped a lot - very like PtP's game, with lots of fun running and bouncing beside me in a game of Follow the Leader. Excitement and bouncing are part of the game, as are lots of treats - gradually treats become less frequent and the distance between them a little greater, and the bounces reduce as well, I find. Introducing a leash becomes much easier when the puppy already understands that the game is to stay beside you. Even then, with young pups, a few hundred yards is a lot - mine spent much more time playing and sniffing off leash in safe places or just sitting with me watching the world and learning about it when they were very young.
 

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I think your leash is too short. I would put on a ten foot to give her more room and simply keep calling her back to the heel. When she is at the heel position, praise. You could give her a little treat, but you probably don't need too. Then, give her a release word (freedom, at ease, break) to release her to her antics. Repeat this over and over and over. You have her longer at the heel position by seconds before releasing again.

Do not keep up constant chatter. Just praise at the heel position. If she gets to the end of the leash and pulls, change direction. Go north, then east, then north, then south, etc. This teaches her to keep an eye on you as well as to respect the end of the leash.
 

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Oona (same age as Penny) is going through a similar thing, though we have been taking longer wanders in the neighborhood and she is usually settled down after 5 mins. She seems to be the most activated right as we are leaving the house, probably a combination of the excitement of the walk and also the first couple of minutes before we get around the corner or onto the path have a lot of stimulus (cars, construction). She also has recently started leaping and biting my coat while we are crossing the street when I can't just stop and ignore her like I'm able to on the path and I just have to hold the leash away from me and haul/hustle across the street ... stinker. By the time we get to the quieter part of our route, she usually calms down. I like PeggytheParti's "let's go" game for encouraging civilized walking! And I feel like we are getting the hang of preventing some of the jumping by working through it with paying attention to how much is going on in the environment, and countering it with lots of sit, short bits of moving, and lots of rewards - but the crosswalk sneak attack is what's getting us at the moment!
 

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I am where you are right now.
My pup leapd and jumps like a bunny, it's v cute but yeah, not the desired behaviour. He also takes his leash in his mouth and carries it as we walk, lol
Maybe this is the retriever thing.
I have thought about giving him something to carry but then he would have a mouth full when I want to treat him.

I have treats in my hand the whole walk and give him verbal signals of "good boy, good walking" regularly then every maybe 10th verbal signaI say "yes" and treat him.
Depending on how cray cray he is that day he may need more frequent treats to keep him focussed but obviously the idea is to space the treats out more.

I feel like he's gone a bit backwards but he is 16 weeks now and adolescence is kicking in.
 

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When Peggy was that age, cutting the chatter was a big one for me. We'd been attending puppy classes, but it took a single one-on-one session with our trainer to really make a dent in the bad habits I'd picked up. I think I was watching too many Zak George videos! Lol. He always seems so enthusiastic. I guess I was subconsciously trying to emulate him, but my timing was all wrong.

With our trainer's help, I learned to keep a pretty strict 1:1 praise to treat ratio to firmly establish which behaviours = reward. With time, the duration between rewards was extended, so instead of treating every few steps, I was treating every ten, and so on. But I kept the chatter dialled down.

Now we regularly do totally silent training sessions, and they tend to be the most successful.
 

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am not sure what you mean by forcing her to a sit but if it is physically pushing her to it try not to do that, but use the possibility of a treat to get her do sit on her own. She will learn faster this way. You will then be able to tell her sit to get reconnected to her and give her a chance to collect her head enough so she sticks with you
I agree with not pressing the back end to request a sit. I taught my guys to sit by holding a treat in front of them and then moving it over their heads. As they raised their heads to follow the motion of the treat, they naturally shifted their weight back, and their haunches went down into a sit.

Later, when they got to be really solid in their sits, I could actually request a sit by applying slight upward pressure on the collar with the leash. The dog would lift his head to avoid the pressure, and muscle memory would drop the haunches into a sit. We think of the sit as something performed by the back end of the dog, but controlling the front end was the key for me.

Regarding your leash chewing problem, I think you made a good observation when you noticed that she was better when she had just woken up. To me that suggests she has a problem with impulse control. The more tired she gets, the less self restraint she has. She's a baby, so that's utterly and completely normal.

What you might try are some exercises to improve impulse control. I'm sure people have lots of recommendations. Fjm's "follow me" exercise is one of my favorites, as it taps into the puppy's desire to chase while also forcing the puppy to think. I only give the puppy a treat when he is positioned at my left heel, roughly the 8 or 9 o'clock position, while looking up at me. I don't want the game devolving into "chase your owner and bite her on the butt," so no rewards for puppies sneaking up on my blind side.

I also think it might be a good idea to practice calming exercises for both you and the puppy. I think a lot of people accidentally (or even deliberately) get their dogs over-excited with high pitched happy praise or with body language. The dog then reacts by playfully jumping, nipping, or chewing. My husband has a tendency to wave his hands when he talks, and it always spins Galen up. Spouse has no clue he's doing it until Galen leaps at the waving hand. Sigh. Work in progress, both of them.

I realized recently I have a tendency to say "thank you" for calm praise to acknowledge Galen did what I asked and "good boy" for happy praise when I want the energy to stay high. An example would be thank you for sitting down while I clip the leash, and good boy for coming to heel.
 

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For what it's worth, I talk and sometimes sing to Normie when we walk. Poodles are good at judging vocal tones, so when I say 'move along' he does, no leash tug required.

Needless to say, this can have its embarrassing moments.
 

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For what it's worth, I talk and sometimes sing to Normie when we walk. Poodles are good at judging vocal tones, so when I say 'move along' he does, no leash tug required.

Needless to say, this can have its embarrassing moments.
I do, too. And I narrate my everyday activities. She loves watching me do laundry!

But where I got in trouble with puppy Peggy was with the constant praise. She didn't really understand what I wanted because I never shut up. Lol. Our trainer was so blunt:

"Why are you saying good right now?"

"Um.....for eye contact?"

"But she wasn't even looking at you."

"No?"

"Nope."
 

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And the silent training sessions are about 2 minutes each. I use them primarily to make sure my visual cues are clear and solid.

Just clarifying in case anyone thought I meant to NEVER talk to your poodle. ;)
 
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