My little tots will wear a tracking harness and probaby an SD candidate vest from the very beginning, so they are used to having items on their body.
These items move around a bit, so they become accustomed to the sensation of it, and can learn a couple very important obedience commands: pull, no pull.
When I pull back on their future mobility harness handle, I want them to lean into the chest plate to pull slightly. This helps me on inclines, like in a park or handicap access ramps, and even on stairs. So I start teaching this with that little bitty tracking harness.
Pull forward when they are being pulled backwards is instinctive. Anyone who’s tried to walk a dog that pulls will tell you that pulling back makes them pull forward harder. When I pull the tracking harness back, and they pull forward on an incline, I capture that behavior when they’ve pulled a few steps with a click and high value treats.
They will naturally stop pulling when they hear that click, if you have consistantly used that clicker to mean “end of action, come get treat”. If they have suddenly decided they were born for the Iditarod…lure their nose with a treat towards you and stop. A sled dog wanna be will have to learn pull/no pull in two steps.
Once they have pulled in harness, I make a big deal about moving the leash onto their collar so they notice they are not using the harness anymore and walk a few steps loose leash. I may have to have a treat in my lowered hand for them to nibble in a heel, just as a reminder.
Then I do it again. Making it obvious when they pull and when they don’t will help them understand a shift back in the harness means pull forward, and leash to a collar means not pulling.
You notice I haven’t added any words to their actions yet. Once they have the idea and are pretty reliable about offering the behavior without my asking, then I add the words so I can have them pull on command or stop pulling on command.
I also begin teaching certain body positions like brace front. I want them to help me when I’m sitting down, or getting up. Not just a chair, but the floor, the curb I had to stop to rest on, the picnic blanket, kneeling down in the garden row…
To teach it, I simply wait until I’m ready to get up from wherever, call them over, and give a nice big click/treat/praise session for coming to me! Coming is such an important neccessity that I try never to miss an opportunity to reward them for it, either coming on their own, or when I call. Especially when I call.
Next I use a high value treat to lure their bodies into a position perpendicular to me. Sometimes I’ve had to make this huge silly circle to bring them from in front of me to having their side to me. That’s okay too.
I want their shoulders centered in front of me, when they get there, they get a click, the lure treat and a few more with lots of praise. The shoulders are the safest place for them to brace with: I never ever brace anywhere else on a Dane. Their necks and backs can get hurt.
Then I get up with my hand atop their shoulders. This introduces the idea that there will someday be some pressure, then weight on those not little for long shoulders! If I need another treat lure to hold them in that position until I’m standing so be it. Then they get the click and the treats again.
To keep them from getting bored with the repetition, I mix up their rewards. Sometimes its treats, sometimes is a ball to chase, sometimes its a big hug, sometimes it’s all of the above.
A brace side is as simple as walking along, then putting a hand, maybe a little pressure on their shoulders with a click and treat for not moving from their position. If they move to look at you, it’s too much pressure, so go back to less and reward more. Gradually build their tolerance of it.