I have found myself saying this even more frequently here lately, so I thought I would expound upon it in a post:
The leash may be the most underutilized puppy training tool.
Now, there are several really important training tools for puppies and dogs alike – the crate being the other potentially most important that comes to mind – but I find the leash is horribly underused indoors.
Yep – INDOORS.
Your puppy runs off behind the couch to pee.
Your puppy steals your shoes out of the closet and chews them.
Your puppy bites at your legs as you walk down the hallway.
Your puppy runs away from you or hides in unsafe places where you can’t reach.
Your puppy launches at other members of the family (usually kids) whenever it is given the opportunity.
In each of the above scenarios, a leash worn indoors, and possibly even tethered to you, could have either prevented or significantly mitigated the issue. Now, your crate plays a large role in the above as well, but your pup can’t live in a crate all day every day – nor would you want him to!*
When your puppy is out of its crate, it should be 100% supervised until it is old enough/mature enough/trustworthy enough to be given a little freedom. The easiest way to do this and still be able to do some things around your house? A LEASH.
Need to do laundry and take care of your pup? Tether your leash to your belt and have the puppy follow you from room to room, to the laundry room, and then lay calmly next to you or chew a bone while you fold it. Use the “Sit on the Dog”** exercise often.
Want to allow your pup some freedom but know he’s likely to grab a shoe and run under the bed? (First of all, if that’s a big issue, maybe freedom isn’t the answer.) Let your pup drag a leash so that when he dives under the bed, you can just grab the end of the leash to retrieve him safely and end the “game” of stealing and chewing.
Now, don’t let your puppy drag around a $50 custom leather leash that you hope to use with him as an adult. That just begs for trouble. Go buy a cheap little nylon leash – something easily replaceable if you forget to watch your pup for a moment and he chews through it. If your pup is a horrible chewer, you may even want to get a thin metal line to start. And bonus, for pups who really hate leash walking, this is part of getting them used to the idea in the environment that is the most comfortable and familiar to them.
People are always amazed that I was able to raise Tucker, my Labrador, without loosing any items to puppy teeth. This method is how I did it. You wouldn’t leave a little baby alone in a room with no direction, protection, or supervision – so why would you do that with your puppy?
*Puppies DO need a fair amount of structured rest in their crate. Most puppies need to be getting 18-20 hours of sleep a day, and the crate is the best way to make that happen.
**Sit on the Dog – essentially placing the leash under your foot close to your puppy and just standing on it until your puppy settles into a sit or down. Only give the pup as much leash as it needs to stand next to you – no more. If your puppy flops around a little, it’s okay. Most will settle quickly next to you when they realize it’s the only option. Start creating a “coffee shop mentality” early with your dog.