Step 1. Most puppies will be shy of you reaching for their head at first. Before trying to grab your puppy’s collar, reach toward your puppy to scratch the side of her head/neck. While you are reaching toward her (before she moves away from your hands), mark (clicker) and give her a treat with your other hand. Do this 5-10 times until your puppy seems comfortable with you reaching toward her and touching her.
Step 2. Reach toward the side of your puppy’s head/neck and touch her collar, and then mark (clicker) and treat. Practice this 10-20 times.
Step 3. Reach toward the side of your puppy’s head/neck and slip a finger under her collar, and then mark (clicker) and treat. Practice this 10-20 times.
Step 4. Sometimes you won’t be close to your puppy when you need to reach for the collar. Practice approaching your puppy from a short distance away (3-5 steps) – as you approach, mark (clicker) and treat for the puppy staying still or coming toward you. If your puppy moves away from you as you move toward her, run through Steps 1-3 before trying Step 4 again.
Step 5. Combine the approach with the collar grab. Approach your pup and reach for the collar, mark (clicker or verbal) and treat for your puppy completing the whole process. If at any point in the sequence your puppy seems uncomfortable or avoidant, go back to the last step that you were successful and continue to practice that behavior until your puppy seems comfortable again.
Step 6. Now that your puppy is comfortable with you approaching her and reaching for her collar, you can start to lead her by the collar. Continue to treat her when you grab her collar, but encourage her to move with you with a happy voice and even treats if needed to get her to come with you. Treat after just a step or two and let her go back to whatever she was doing, increasing the number of steps before a treat as you practice and she remains excited to follow you.