Trying to put clothes on babies for the first time can be a tricky task for parent and child, so it’s really not surprising that collars, leads and harnesses are all strange ideas to a puppy and need to be introduced carefully to ensure your pooches safe passage to the great out-doors!
Equipment should be comfortable and not too tight.
A harness removes any pressure from a puppy’s delicate neck area.
A collar and harness should be introduced at home first and associated with nice things like treats.
Teach the puppy to ignore the lead hanging near them by rewarding them for walking calmly.
What equipment should I walk my puppy in?
It is a legal requirement for all dogs to wear external ID tags in public, so a collar with an ID tag is sensible.
Collars and harnesses should be comfortable and not too tight. A body harness removes any pressure on a puppy’s delicate neck area but it is important that a harness does not dig in under the armpits or rub the puppy’s skin.
Harnesses with both a front and back attachment point can be useful for a double-ended lead to attach to both points, or to use different attachment points depending on what you are expecting from your puppy (for example, a lead attached to the front means they walk on a loose lead, a lead attached to the rear means they can move on ahead).
A lightweight, two-meter-long lead is generally ideal to use for a standard walk. Slack is easier to maintain in the lead and it prevents the puppy from feeling too restrained.
A longline is also a useful tool whilst teaching a puppy to come back to you when called.
How do I fit my puppy’s collar or harness?
A collar can be introduced on the day the puppy is brought home. Sit down and put a few pieces of food on the floor and put the collar on whilst the puppy is distracted by the food. If you are sitting it will mean you are not towering over the puppy which can be intimidating. Once the collar is on, continue feeding them or give them something to chew on or play with, so that they associate wearing it with something nice happening. Ensure you can fit a finger between the puppy’s neck and the collar so it isn’t too tight.
Fitting a harness can be quite invasive from a puppy’s perspective. Try to avoid:
Towering over the puppy or leaning into their space;
Man-handling the puppy to get them into the harness;
Faffing and fiddling to adjust the harness when it is on the puppy;
Introducing a harness on the same day as taking your puppy out for a walk wearing it.
From the start, try to set it up so that the puppy chooses to come to you rather than you approaching the puppy holding the harness. Use a few pieces of food to lure the puppy’s head through the harness or pop some food on the floor so that they are happy to stand still whilst you put the harness on. Keep rewarding the puppy for standing still as you clip the harness up – the feeling of something around a puppy’s body can be a very strange sensation, so ensure you associate putting on the harness with treats
Remove the harness to adjust it and repeat with some more food to re-fit it. Give the puppy a break if they have had enough or eaten enough food! Practice putting the harness on at home for mealtimes and play times so that the puppy is more than happy wearing it before being taken out for a walk.
How do I stop my puppy grabbing at the lead while we are walking?
Lead grabbing is common in puppies because they have the temptation of something moving and hanging around their face! However, it can also be a symptom of anxiety or frustration triggered by something on their walk.
Start off at home initially with a handful of treats and place one to the floor next to you then clip the lead on. Immediately place another to the floor next to you. Try to keep the lead out of the puppy’s face – your aim is for them to not really notice the lead at all. Take a step and place another piece of food to the floor by your feet. Repeat this until you have one treat left. Place that piece to the floor and unclip the lead. Repeat this for short sessions, practicing around the house and in the garden before proceeding to walks. This has an added benefit of teaching your puppy to walk to heel on a loose lead!
First walks should involve letting the puppy take their time watching the world go by. Try to avoid dictating the direction of your walk. This will ensure their first experience of walks is not overwhelming, the lead remains loose and is ignored.