Now that Atlas has received all his vaccinations, including his rabies shot, it’s time to take him on a walk. This article is about taking our Doberman puppy on his first walk, starting at 14 weeks old.
The rule of thumb for walking a puppy is 5 minutes for every month the puppy is old. That is, a 4 month old puppy can walk a maximum of 20 minutes. If given the opportunity, I am sure Atlas can walk much longer than a mere 20 minutes. However, when starting out, especially when leash training, this real of thumb is on point. A four month old puppy can hold its attention span much longer than a 2-3 month old puppy, but is still easily distracted.
Since Atlas is our first Doberman and our first dog, we had to start from square one. I watched several YouTube videos on leash training and I asked for tips from seasoned dog owners.
Before we took our Doberman puppy out on his first walk, we leash trained him in our own backyard. I used a 15′ and 30′ long lead to train Atlas. Atlas has always wore a collar, so collars are not alien to him. However, it took a couple of days for him to get used to the leash. Initially, he would bite and try to chew on the leash whenever I attach it to his collar. After a week of attaching a 15′ leash to his collar, he finally got used to it.
Leash Training Methods
I followed dog training videos from Robert Cabral and they helped tremendously. Had I discovered Cabral’s YouTube channel earlier, training Atlas to sit, stay, wait and come would be tremendously easier.
Once we got the basics of leash walking down, we applied the training on our block of the street. We gradually allowed Atlas to walk on a leash for 5 minutes at a time, until he could manage himself without being constantly distracted by his surrounding. Keep in mind, he’s been inside for the first 4 months of his life. A mundane thing such as a dandelion flower or a car tire is all new to him and he’ll stop in his track to sniff it down. We gradually increased his walk an additional +5 minutes every couple of days.
Walking a Doberman Puppy Week 1
We gave Atlas a two week head start. That is, we took our Doberman puppy out for his first walk two weeks before he received his final vaccination and rabies shot. Atlas walked pretty well for his first week, although he did stop frequently to sniff at objects. He did not object to the leash nor did he pull or lunge. Generally, he walked by my side throughout the entire session. For the first week, we limit the walking to a few houses around our block.
Walking a Doberman Puppy Week 2
On the second week, Atlas continued to walk normally, no pulling, no lunging but frequent sniffing and stopping. Towards the tail end of Week #2 of walking, Atlas began to tug at the leash. This time, I limited his walking to one complete street block.
Walking a Doberman Puppy Week 3
On the third week, Atlas turned 16 and got his final vaccination and rabies shot. I increased his walks to ½ mile. On his walks, however, Atlas began to pull on the leash. He would often walk ahead and pull on the leash, even if it means he’ll be choking from his flat collar! Atlas would lunge across the street and sometime would stubbornly stop. He would also frequently hop and jump on my legs while walking. At this point, it is time to complement his collar with a Herm Sprenger slip chain collar for corrections.
Walking a Doberman Puppy Week 4
Let’s start off with what I did wrong. I ordered the incorrect Herm Sprenger slip chain collar size for Atlas. I researched how to properly size a slip chain collar and the recommendation is neck size plus 2 inches. At the time, Atlas’ neck was 13″ so I ordered a size 15″. However, the chain wouldn’t fit over his head!
I re-ordered a size 22″ and the slip chain fits over his head perfectly but with a lot of loose chain left once fitted.
The slip chain collar worked in containing Atlas’ lunging and pulling, albeit temporarily. After approximately 4 days, he continued to pull and lunge, even after repeated corrections and even after the chain is in full constriction due to his relentless pulling. At this point, I figured Atlas is ready for a prong collar at 20 weeks old. On week 4, I increased his walking distance to 2 miles.
Prong Collar on a 20 Week Old Doberman Puppy
So if you do a quick search on when is the appropriate age to use a prong collar on a dog, the answer you’ll likely come across is minimum 6 months old. I wholeheartedly understand the reasoning behind that. However, with Atlas’ increasingly domineering behavior, I started him at 20 weeks, about 5 months. How did it go down? Continue reading to find out.
Using a Prong Collar Properly
Before I put the prong collar on Atlas, I watched Robert Cabral’s videos about the prong collar on how to size and fit, how to secure and how to use. If you are considering a prong collar, I recommend watching his highly educational videos:
Getting Our Doberman Puppy Used to a Prong Collar
On the fifth week of walking at 20 weeks old, I would slip on a 2.5 mm prong collar on Atlas for 10 minutes at a time, throughout the day. When it came time to actually put the prong collar to use, Atlas was absolutely terrified by it and hated it. In fact, he would howl and whimper when corrections were made. Atlas would stay petrified in place with his ears down, or he would simply drop his entire body down on its side and refuse to move until the collar was removed. Starting out, we practiced using the prong collar in our backyard.
Positive Reinforcement with Treats
To get Atlas to walk comfortably with the prong collar on, I had to use treats. Every time he walks during a gentle tug, I praise him. If he walks too far ahead, I give him a gentle tug. If he’s distracted and falls behind, I give him a gentle tug. I gave him a treat every time he walks toward the leash when correction is made. I would give him between 3-5 prong collar lessons a day for two straight days. Atlas quickly learned that to relieve the pressure of the prongs, he has to walk towards the leash.
Using the Prong Collar Beyond Our Backyard
When it is time to use the prong collar in the real world, Atlas readily allows me to secure the prong collar around his neck. I started by walking him one block with the prong collar on. The pulling, the distraction, the lunging ALL disappeared. With the prong collar, Atlas would never walk ahead of me unless I allowed him to. His pulling and lunging has stopped altogether.
If he wants to stray from the path, he would turn and look at me for approval. No longer do I need to tug or lure him with a treat to get him to continue walking. Each day with the prong collar on, I increased his walk a little more; from one block to a ½ mile, from a ½ mile to two miles, twice a day.
Training Atlas while walking is easy with a prong collar. I can get Atlas to “sit,” “heel,” and “stay” on command. Before the use of the prong collar, Atlas would either refuse to listen because he is distracted or he would sporadically listen to commands. As mentioned earlier, no lunging and if he wants to investigate a rock that’s 3 feet ahead of us, he would look back at me for approval.
If you have a stubborn Doberman puppy who likes to take control of the leash, I highly recommend using a prong collar to take back control. I do not recommend using a prong collar for puppies younger than 5 months old because, puppies will be puppies. That’s what they do. There is a discerning difference when puppies begin to show dominance versus puppies just acting like puppies. Taking our Doberman puppy for his first walk required training and patience in conjunction with the right tools (slip chain and prong collars by Herm Sprenger). Overtime, you’ll overcome challenges and enjoy morning and evening walks with your Dobie.