Dear Uncle Matty: I have a 10-week-old beagle. Reggie loves to play and walk outside. This all changes once I put the collar on him. We can be walking or inside playing, and the minute I put the collar on him, he just sits in the same spot and doesn't move. This also occurs with the leash. He refuses to walk on it. I tried changing collars. I've tried leaving the collar on the floor. Nothing works! I love to go for long walks, but he refuses to walk with me. Please help. — Kelly A.W., North Arlington, N.J.
Dear Kelly: You are expecting this puppy, who is not used to collars or leashes, has no training and is not yet communicating, to wear the gear like a trooper and stay by your side for long walks. Not yet! You have to teach this little one paw by paw. You have to learn to communicate with him, just as he has to do the same thing with you. This is like putting a saddle on a horse. The horse bucks. The dog refuses to move and may paw the leash, bite it or chew on it. Why? Because he is not used to the feeling of the weight, and it may make him a little fearful.
Patience is a virtue, and it is definitely needed now. First and foremost, it appears that you take your dog outside without the leash and collar, and then, in the middle of a romp, stop all the fun and put on this strange thing that Reggie is not used to. So, he sits down. And then, to get him to move, you take it off. Boy! Has he got your number?
You may have tried everything, but again, you need some patience, and you need a lot of praise. That is Reggie's reward for wearing a collar, walking on a leash, going potty outside, sitting and coming to you when called. It is all about praise and positive motivation!
You have the right idea, but there is a bit more to it. A collar needs to be worn inside the house — one that fastens with a buckle. Put it on. Tell him he's a "good boy!" in your best high-pitched, Uncle Matty voice, and let him sit like a statue if he wants to. Make wearing a collar fun but always on grass or carpet. Throw his toys. Bounce a ball. Use one of those long, wiggly toys that move back and forth. Get him interested. When you feed and water him, put the dish 10 feet away. Call him in a friendly voice. Praise him when he comes toward you, even if it is only part of the way. Praise him when he plays. Praise him when he eats. But again, patience is a virtue.
Then, put on the leash and let him drag it around. In my book, "I Just Got a Puppy. What Do I Do?" you'll find I suggest that you can also use a string or a 4-foot clothesline. He needs to get used to the leash, and he needs time to do it. This can take as long as seven days of dragging around his little leash. And every time you put it on, don't forget the praise. Never leave your dog alone with a leash or string attached.
Never take your puppy outside without his leash and collar. For the time being, even playtime outside in a fenced yard is OK with the leash and collar on.
Part of the process is early doghood education. So get started. Follow the right program. Read the books. Work with the videos. And before long, you and Reggie will be on the same page. Then, it will be time for those long walks.
Dog trainer Matthew "Uncle Matty" Margolis is co-author of 18 books about dogs, a behaviorist, a popular radio and television guest, and host of the PBS series "WOOF! It's a Dog's Life!" Read Uncle Matty's columns at the Creators Syndicate Web site at www.creators.com and visit him at www.unclematty.com. Send your questions to dearunclemattyunclematty.com. Or mail your questions to him at P.O. Box 3300, Diamond Springs, CA 95619