Struggling with an unruly pup or a stubborn adult dog? Learn how to get your dog to follow you with tried-and-tested techniques that foster obedience and trust.
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Understanding the Basics of Dog Following Behavior
When you’re looking to teach your canine companion to follow you, it’s more than a simple trick; it’s an essential command that enhances safety and enjoyment during your time together. Whether you’re navigating crowded streets or hiking off the beaten path, having your dog follow you can be both a comfort and a necessity.
Step 1: Mastering Basic Commands
Establishing a foundation with basic commands such as ‘sit’, ‘stay’, and especially ‘come’ is critical when teaching your dog to follow you. In a quiet room, without distractions, begin by using a cheerful voice to give the command ‘come’, paired with your dog’s name. Reward them with a small treat and affection whenever they successfully respond. Repeat this exercise daily, gradually increasing the distance between you and your dog to reinforce their response over distances.
Step 2: The Power of Positive Reinforcement
Positive reinforcement is a cornerstone of dog training. When your dog follows your command, immediately reward them. This can be with a treat, their favorite toy, or verbal praise. Be consistent with your rewards to help your dog associate following you with positive outcomes. Over time, you can reduce the frequency of treats and replace them with verbal praise and petting as your dog becomes more reliable in following you.
Step 3: Leash Training Basics
Leash training is a critical step in teaching your dog to follow you. It establishes the fundamentals of obedience and sets the stage for a well-mannered pet. To begin, select a comfortable collar or harness suited for your dog’s size and breed. Let your dog wear the chosen accessory during their relaxed times at home. This helps them associate the collar or harness with a calm state of mind.
Once your dog seems comfortable with the collar or harness, it’s time to introduce the leash. Clip it on and allow your dog to feel the weight of the leash by moving freely around the house with it attached. Initially, follow your dog to build confidence. There’s no need to hold the leash tight; just let it drag on the floor as they explore. This helps your dog get used to the idea of being connected to you without any stress or force.
After a few sessions, pick up the leash and hold it loosely. Start inside where there are fewer distractions. With treats in your pocket and a happy tone, encourage your dog to come to you. The moment they take a step in your direction, verbally praise them and offer a treat. If they walk alongside you, reward them again for this behavior. The goal here is to make following you the best option in their mind.
If your dog pulls on the leash, stop walking immediately. Stand still and wait for them to look back at you or come back to your side. As soon as the leash slackens, praise and resume walking. This technique teaches your dog that pulling gets them nowhere, but staying by your side moves them forward and comes with rewards.
Once you and your dog are confidently navigating the indoors, it’s time to venture outside. Start in a quiet area to minimize distractions. Keep the initial outdoor walks short. Your patience will be tested more outside, but it’s crucial to remain consistent. If your dog pulls, revert to the same response as indoors: stop, wait for them to return, praise, and then continue. Gradually increase the duration and complexity of your walks as your dog’s skills improve.
Leash training can be a bonding experience, reinforcing your role as the pack leader. As your dog becomes more attentive to your movements and commands, you’ll find a rhythm in walking together, which is the ultimate goal of leash training.
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Step 4: Increasing Distractions Gradually
As your dog becomes proficient in following you in a quiet indoor setting, it’s time to introduce distractions. Begin in your backyard or another familiar outdoor area.
Use a longer leash to practice ‘come’ and ‘follow’ commands while outside. When your dog successfully follows you with distractions, reward them. Gradually introduce more challenging environments, like a park, as they become more dependable in their response.
Step 5: Off-Leash Training in Secure Areas
Off-leash training can significantly enhance your dog’s sense of freedom, but it must be done responsibly. Start in a secure, enclosed area such as a fenced yard or designated dog park to ensure your dog’s safety. Ensure the space is free from potential hazards such as sharp objects, toxic plants, or harmful substances.
At first, let your dog explore this new freedom without any calls or commands. It’s essential for your dog to feel comfortable in the environment.
Observe their behavior closely; you want to ensure they’re not showing signs of anxiety or over-excitement. When they appear relaxed, initiate a recall by calling their name. Use a happy and enthusiastic tone to make coming back to you a positive experience.
When your dog returns to you, offer a high-value reward, such as their favorite treat or toy, and lots of praise. Make this reunion the highlight of their outing.
You want to establish that following your call is always worth their while. As they become more reliable in returning to you, gradually increase the challenge. Wait for moments when your dog is distracted or slightly further away before you call them back.
To heighten their attentiveness to you, incorporate ‘hide and seek’ games into the training. Step out of sight for a moment behind a tree or structure, then call your dog. This encourages them to not only listen for your command but to actively seek you out. Each successful reunion should be met with lavish praise and rewards, reinforcing their desire to stay close and responsive to you even when off-leash.
As your dog’s skills improve, you can practice off-leash training in larger areas or during quiet times at public parks. Always keep a close eye on your dog and the surrounding environment, and be prepared to clip the leash back on if needed. Remember, the transition to off-leash freedom should be gradual and based on the dog’s consistent recall, attentiveness, and obedience.
Be mindful that off-leash privileges are a significant step in your dog’s training and should only be given once you’re confident in their recall ability, and they’ve proven to be reliable in a secure environment. This milestone in training is as much about your dog’s obedience as it is about your trust in their behavior.
Step 6: Consistency is Key
Consistency is vital in dog training. Make sure to practice daily and use the same commands each time. This will help your dog understand what is expected of them.
Inconsistent command words or varying routines can confuse your dog, leading to unreliable behavior. Also, ensure that all family members use the same commands to avoid mixed signals.
Step 7: Dealing with Setbacks
Understanding that setbacks are a natural part of any learning process is crucial in dog training. If you find that your dog is not responding to your commands as well as they once did, it’s essential to approach this situation with patience and a problem-solving mindset.
Begin by assessing any changes that may have caused the setback. Ask yourself: Have there been recent changes in the environment, your dog’s health, or your training routine?
Identifying the root cause can help you adjust your training plan effectively. When your dog seems to forget their training, simplify the tasks for them. For example, if your dog was performing well in a park but is now struggling, revert to practicing in your quiet backyard or inside your home where they first learned.
Reduce distractions to a level where your dog can succeed. This might mean training at less busy times of the day or in less stimulating environments. If they’re having trouble with a specific command, break it down into smaller, more manageable parts. Go back to the basics and reinforce the foundational behaviors before attempting more complex tasks again.
Always maintain a supportive tone and body language. Dogs are incredibly perceptive and can pick up on your emotions, which can affect their performance.
If you exhibit signs of frustration or disappointment, this may make your dog feel uneasy and less likely to follow your lead. Instead, use encouraging words, a cheerful tone, and positive body language to create a stress-free environment where your dog feels safe and eager to try again.
Remember to celebrate the small victories. If your dog completes a previously mastered task after a period of difficulty, treat it as a big win. This not only rewards your dog but also reinforces your bond with them. Continuous encouragement will help rebuild their confidence and enthusiasm for training.
If you’re facing persistent setbacks, consider seeking advice from a professional dog trainer or behaviorist. They can provide targeted strategies and insight based on their experience and expertise. Never be afraid to ask for help; doing so can bring a fresh perspective and new techniques that can benefit both you and your dog.
Step 8: Gradual Increase in Freedom
As your dog becomes more reliable in following you, you can gradually increase their freedom. This could mean transitioning from a short leash to a long line, then to supervised off-leash time in safe environments.
Monitor their progress and only increase freedom as they show consistent compliance. Always be ready to step back if necessary.
Step 9: Reinforcement in Different Environments
It’s important to practice following commands in various environments so your dog can learn to follow you regardless of where you are.
Whether you’re at home, in a park, or in a pet-friendly store, use every opportunity as a training session. This reinforces the behavior and helps your dog understand that the ‘follow’ command applies everywhere.
Step 10: Ongoing Training and Bonding
Remember that training your dog is an ongoing process. Continue to reinforce the ‘follow’ command throughout your dog’s life.
This not only ensures that they remain obedient but also helps to strengthen the bond between you. Regular training sessions are a great opportunity for bonding and can be a fun activity for both you and your dog.
Conclusion: How to Get Your Dog to Follow You
Remember, teaching your dog to follow you requires patience, consistency, and understanding. Each dog learns at their own pace, and it’s important to celebrate the small victories along the way.
Stick with these steps, and you’ll build a bond with your dog based on mutual respect and understanding, ensuring they’ll follow you reliably, whether on a leisurely walk or in a necessary recall situation.