While your pup is still growing and in training, you may need to prevent them from doing something they shouldn’t – so train them to understand that you grabbing their collar is a good thing!
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 their head/neck. While you are reaching toward them (before they move away from your hands), mark (clicker) and give them a treat with your other hand. Do this 5-10 times until your puppy seems comfortable with you reaching toward them and touching them.
Step 2. Reach toward the side of your puppy’s head/neck and touch their 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 their 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 towards them, 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 them and reaching for their collar, you can start to lead them by the collar. Continue to treat them when you grab their collar, but encourage them to move with you with a happy voice and even treats if needed to get them to come with you. Treat after just a step or two and let them go back to whatever they were doing, increasing the number of steps before a treat as you practice and they remain excited to follow you.