Leash Training Questions
I'm new to the forums with a young (13 wk) pup, Sonji. This is my first German Shepherd and my first time raising a dog from puppyhood. She's brilliant, amazing, and wonderful, and QUITE a handful.
I live in a metropolitan area (Philadelphia) and I have a few separate challenges stacked up that I'm looking for some advice on.
It has been snowing a lot lately. Prior to this, I was taking her for short walks in the neighborhood, keeping a careful eye on her to tell when she'd had enough and wanted to go home.
However, this is the city, which means people de-ice their sidewalks with anything from rock salt to chemicals. I don't happen to live near any dog parks, and the only feasible one even reasonably nearby seems to have a reputation for being frequented by owners who let their dogs attack other dogs, so I'm afraid to take her there.
She also tries to eat EVERYTHING all the time. I've changed her food intake and this has helped a lot, but she does it most when bored or in new places.
So I have been afraid to keep taking her for these walks (at first I was oblivious to the potential hazards, and she ate a few small pieces of rock salt we tracked into the house and threw up. After doing the research I was downright afraid to walk her out there). But this is resulting in her having too much energy pent up, which is resulting in her being completely unruly on a leash when I take her out at all, and I have difficulty not having her tug me all the way down the sidewalk.
So I have a few different questions:
First, how early is too early to expect a puppy to behave on a leash? Also, is it fair/reasonable to try to get her to walk calmly (be a tree, don't move unless the leash is slack, etc.) when I know it has a lot to do with her lack of exercise? I actually think this would be less of a problem if she was getting out more frequently. I want to take a drive and get her out for exercise, but I don't want to be drug down the path when we do it. I'm also afraid that if I let her do this now, regardless of the reason, she will learn that pulling me along works and is a good way to get where she's going. So I would love advice on this.
Second, I can't always drive her the 30-40 minutes it takes to get to safe walking paths. I know they make those rubber booties to protect her feet from the salts, etc. (haven't tried them yet) but she literally drops her nose to the ground every five seconds, and if I try to keep the leash taught to keep her head up, we end up struggling down the sidewalk and she gets pretty overwhelmed. (not to mention that I feel like a crappy owner for some reason for having to do this with her... it almost feels like she's a little too young and I need to do this stuff a step at a time, but I'm also afraid of allowing her to learn habits that will later become impossible to break.)
So, I'd also like your opinions on training her against eating everything in sight/sniffing and licking the entire time on a walk. Should I simply be avoiding these situations for now? Or is this the time to start her on this stuff?
She is very responsive to everything else I've taught her (she already knows sitz, platz, hier, blieb, and box -for her crate), but I think due to energy levels and curiosity this is a tough one. I'd love to know everyone's experience on this and how you've handled similar issues.
Thanks in advance for your help!