hi all, we have a 10 week old F1BB mini labradoodle.  Oakley is not fully vaccinated so most of the time he's off the leash in our fenced in backyard.  We have ventured out around the neighborhood a few times on his leash to orient him a bit.  I just defaulted to a standard retractable leash.  I fear it is going to be pretty difficult to train him to walk on left heel with that.  Any recommendations for a better training leash?  And any advice on when to start left heel training? We have two young kids who are desperate to hold the leash.  Is there a scenario where Oakley could walk with my wife or I with a short training leash (on left) and have a little more freedom to roam with a retractable lease with the kids?  Or is that too confusing?  Finally, does he "graduate" to a retractable leash eventually or if we are going to train left heel walking, is he always on a shorter leash, leaving my side only to go potty?  Sorry, lots of questions!

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  • This discussion should really be in the training group, but here goes.
    You should never ever ever use a retractable leash for any reason on any dog, ever. They are dangerous for both the dog and the human, and they encourage dogs to pull. Throw it away.
    Don't take my word for it. Google "retractable leash dangerous". Many people feel they should be outlawed. 
    Buy a plain old 6 foot leash, and use that for everything. Walking, training, pottying, etc. Everything. 
    I would never let a young child hold a puppy or dog's leash outside of a fenced or enclosed area.  It is not safe for the puppy. Let your children be involved in other aspects of training, but not walking the puppy. You have no idea how easily even a small puppy can pull a leash out of a child's hand. If the kids are that desperate, let them walk him inside your yard. 
    At 10 weeks, your puppy is months away from anything resembling left heel walking. (In fact he shouldn't even be walking outdoors in any area where other dogs may have been, until he has finished his puppy shots.) But as far as leash walking goes, right now he should just be getting used to being on leash and not pulling. For now, you will go where the dog goes for pottying purposes. 
    Start now to look for a puppy class, which will be challenging in this time of Covid. You may have to do virtual puppy classes, ot hire a private trainer to help you with the basics. Let the trainer guide you on when to start working on heeling. For now, just aim for not pulling. 

  • I also agree, get rid of the retractable leash.  I worked with a woman that lost the tip of her finger to one, my sister's bulldog got it wrapped around her leg and then freaked out when it felt it was in danger tangled up like that making it worse, it took a couple months for my sister's leg to heal.  I would like to add that IF you let your children hold the leash, even in the back yard, it is important to HOLD the leash and not wrap it around the hand or wrist...a quick pull will take a small child with it and could cause burns from a pulled wrap around the wrist.

    • I saw a couple 8-10 year old girls the other day at the park... one walking an adult (looked to be male, it was huge) Bernese mountain dog, the other walking a large Golden puppy (probably about 10 months).  Super irresponsible and potentially dangerous for kids that young to be walking dogs that large.  One of the dogs pulled one of the girls over to see Riley - didn't ask if it was ok if they said hi, there's no way they could have pulled their dogs away if Riley had been a reactive dog and started a fight.  Thankfully she is the opposite of reactive but it still made me nervous.  


  • Regarding, your pup "leaving your side only to go potty", typically, your goal in leash training a puppy is "loose leash walking", which is one item on the Canine Good Citizen exam. It's a first step toward formal heeling. 
    So, you are walking your dog on a 6 ft leash on a public sidewalk. The leash is held in your right hand and the dog is on your left. The leash is slack. This is how you will walk your dog for exercise and for potty. And that's about as far as many people go with it. In formal heeling, potty doesn't happen, period. Sniffing doesn't happen, period. That dog is glued to your left leg and looking up at you every second. So unless an obedience title is your goal, left side heeling is not something you should be thinking about, and even if it is a goal, this is way too soon. 
    I'm walking along the sidewalk, my dog is beside me sometimes, other times he is slightly ahead of me, or further to the left sniffing along the grass, mailboxes, fire hydrants, trees, etc. He does have six ft of space to move away from me. I can easily stand still on the sidewalk while he does his business on the adjacent grass. Nothing more than 6 ft. is necessary. 
    For more vigorous exercise such as running, that needs to happen in an enclosed area. There is not a leash in the world that is long enough for your dog to run full out on leash. 
    A dog who is more than 6 ft away from you on a retractable leash is a dog who is not in your control, and that's a dangerous place for an untrained puppy to be. :)

    • Appreciate the responses.  I had no idea retractable leashes were considered so dangerous.  I just want to make sure we are establishing the correct behaviors early on.  Based on what you describe, formal heeling is not what I'm after.   I assume if he is walking on my left (maybe slightly ahead, behind, or sniffing around), then that is sufficient to establish that the human walking him is the pack leader versus the other way around.  Fair to say?  Do you reward this left walking with treats during training or is it natural with some repetition?  Thanks again. 

      • We rewarded walking calmly beside us with treats.  Anytime we caught our puppy walking nicely and not pulling they were quickly rewarded with an excited "Yes!" and a treat in their face.  Anytime they pulled we would stop dead in our tracks until puppy either sat down or came back beside us, which was rewarded by being allowed to continue the walk.  By controlling the situation you are letting the dog know it is YOU who controls the walk, not them.  Regardless of where they are positioned relative to you I think the "I'm in charge" reinforcement is what lets them know that you are Alpha more than anything (or really, just that you are in control).  

        Riley generally walks nicely on leash now, she does pull occasionally but mostly she stays on our left side, wandering a bit as Karen described.  I think the side is mostly due to habit moreso than training; sometimes she walks on the right if the situation warrants it.  She just knows that the "curb side" is the side she goes on I think.

      • The main thing is that the dog is not pulling and the leash is not taut. Forget about terms like "pack leader", that's a pretty antiquated idea that has lost favor with most reputable trainers. :)
        Focus on LOOSE LEASH. It is much harder than you might imagine. It took me months and months to get my puppy to walk with me without pulling ahead, to the side, etc. and it requires the dog to focus on you. Thousands of treats, even a long handled spoon coated with peanut butter held in the left hand. I was tearing my hair out, and I am not an inexperienced trainer, plus my puppy is a purebred from long lines of obedience champions, lol. He was also started on some training during the 10 weeks he was with his breeder, which is something your pup did not get. It still took months and many, many classes to get him to stop pulling and pay attention. Loose leash walking on either side is not a "natural" behavior. Your puppy is an animal, and he is ruled by a sense of smell that is 5000-10,000 times more powerful than yours. He wants to run and explore, not walk along calmly. For now, you want to focus on loose leash, leash in right hand, and that's about it. Once you get rid of the retractable and try this with a plain old 6 ft leash, you will be astounded at how difficult it is. 
        I also want to mention that I know that some of your focus here is on your children being able to handle the puppy, and many people may have told you that to stop the puppy biting your kids, the puppy has to see them as "pack leaders" and not littermates. Forget about that. The fact of the matter is that small children cannot safely walk puppies, period. 
        We have lots of discussions in the Training Group here about this. 

        • Curious what does the training scene say instead of the "pack leader" idea?  I still feel like the dog needs to know that you are in charge/in control which is a similar idea.  

          The mental image of you walking with a peanut butter spoon with a little excitable baby Jasper is also hilarious.

          • I don't think that the average modern trainer eschews "leadership" entirely, just not this idea that you have to be "alpha dog," be "dominating," or follow some kind of superstitious behaviors "that dogs do" and that somehow will lead to a well trained dog.  I think they just focus more on actual training.  

            I do think (my opinion) that dogs can and do take charge (do what they want) in situations where there is no leader (rules/boundaries/reasons not to), but not in in some kind of dog pack mentality way.  Kids do it, humans do it, etc.  Since we are technically responsible for our dogs, I do think we need to be leaders, just doesn't have to mean we are mean or domineering or convince the dog "you are lower than I!"


            • I agree, you said it perfectly, Adina. There need to be clear, consistent rules and boundaries, and every dog needs someone he can look to as his "leader", someone he knows will protect and care for him, and who has his back. It has nothing to do with dominance. It has to do with a bond of trust and with dependable, realistic expectations on both sides. 

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