Good behavior in any puppy includes the ability to walk on a leash. For everyday walking there is no need for professional “heeling”, with the dog not straying at all from his owner’s knee; rather a regular walk outside should be a simple exercise and not a struggle between dog and walker.
Time and patience are necessary when training a puppy to walk on a leash without pulling, but luckily cockapoos are very intelligent and learn quickly. One vital rule as part of the training program is that good behavior is rewarded, and inappropriate behavior is not. Walking on a leash without pulling against it would obviously constitute appropriate behavior, worthy of a reward.
Generally, all puppies love to walk, run and play. So walking in itself is considered a reward for good behavior. Withholding a walk by stopping in your tracks will indicate to your puppy that he should not pull on the leash. The walk will only continue when he desists and allows the leash to slacken. Remember to praise your puppy as he responds to the direction, then continue with the walk. Likewise, stopping and walking in the opposite direction will also indicate to your puppy that you are the leader who makes the decision, and he should not pull against you. Assert your position verbally by telling your puppy “no” when he pulls, but do not fuss over his inappropriate behavior. Rather, show him affection and praise him when he lets the leash go slack and does not pull against you.
It is not uncommon for young puppies which are still learning to resist their collar and lead by scratching or rolling. But your perseverance on this point is vital. If you were to give in and carry your dog, or to allow him to walk without the leash then he will only learn that bad behavior is acceptable. You will find it difficult to control his behavior as grows up.
Rather than purchasing a heavy chain leash for your cockapoo, invest in a lightweight nylon or leather collar with a buckle and a four to six foot lead of similar material. A chain or thick rope is heavy and excessive, especially given that cockapoos range from small to medium size and are quite gentle by nature.
Whilst speaking soothingly to your puppy, put the collar around his neck. Praise him if he accepts the collar without resisting and be sure to reward his good behavior. If he does struggle or try to wriggle out of the collar, do not make a fuss over his efforts. Next, carefully attach the lead to the collar. Allow your puppy to drag the lead along so that he becomes aware of it, but verbally discourage him from chewing or biting it. Remember to reward his good behavior in accepting the lead, and he will likely become accustomed to it quite quickly.
Pick up the lead and walk with your dog, allowing him to explore but without letting him run away. In time, your puppy will become aware of what is expected of him and what behavior you will or will not allow.
Older puppies and adult dogs may still be trained to walk by the use of training collars. One of the more efficient and passive devices for training is the head collar or head halter. On the other hand, choke-type collars are often misused and are based on the principle of punishment rather than reward. A walker using a choke collar effectively punishes a dog for pulling, and assumes that the dog will learn not to pull. Unfortunately, many dogs have not learned the lesson, but have accepted the choke collar as part of their walking routine, coughing and pulling, but not slowing down. Choke collars should not be used when walking puppies, especially on dogs with tracheal or neck problems or on smaller dogs.
With patience, positive training, and a little know-how, teaching your cockapoo puppy to walk on a leash need not be an ordeal for either of you, but should be part of an enjoyable long term friendship.
For more detailed instructions on leash training and other obedience methods, please read our free Cockapoo Obedience Training Guide, which contains the methods we have found work best with these bright, energetic dogs.