After receiving a glut of e-mails from people struggling with their dogs pulling on the lead and keen to get an insight into this problem. I have selected the five most common reasons for a dog pulling on the lead. When you have a puller, sputtering, choking and yanking at your arm, it’s no fun. Occasionally dog owners have required shoulder surgery or had their arm/arms broken by a dog who was pulling frantically.
Those who say they have tried EVERYTHING!! What then is ruining your LEAD TRAINING?????
5. Dog handlers put a lead on, in the belief that he/she is taking the Dog out for “exercise” The truth is that most dogs don’t get “exercise” on a walk.
If your one of the many people who grab the lead and think you will take your dog(s) for a stroll around the roads for some exercise. STOP. A dog needs more exercise than you think. Your dog is an athlete, and unless you are running or jogging at your dog’s pace, he/she is bored and not getting true exercise.
Your dog maybe over excited from a boring day of hanging out doing nothing and over exuberant, given his/her natural instinct and desire is to go as fast as possible; so this leads to pulling you when on his/her lead.
Remember, your dog has the attention span and excitement level of a toddler. Therefore, you would expect a toddler while at the zoo or in a fun park to get excited.
To slow your dog down a little bit prior to his/her lead “walk” give him or her some real exercise. Play a good game of retrieve, train him/her, or build his/her drive BEFORE trying to walk him/her!
4. Have A Goal, Or Somewhere You Plan to Go
As humans, we tend to be quite self-centered and so not very consistent in our dog training.
You may “want” to go to the park, or your friend’s house, or hit your five mile mark, however, that might not be in your dog’s best interests.
Instead you may have to stop in your tracks when he/she is pulling, change your direction, or just go home.
Its important to remember that you need to do what is best for your dog and his/her training whether you take him/her with you on your exercise routine or to the park.
That said, for some people this means simply working on lead manners and maybe not even making it out of the driveway. Never make “plans” or have a destination in mind unless your dog has great lead skills and is obedient! However, If you need to go somewhere or have time constraints and your dog is not ready; go by yourself until your dog’s obedience is consistent.
3. You Don’t Understand Opposition Reflex
Opposition Reflex means that you don’t truly understand that pulling on the lead is a nasty habit that you both are engaging in and therefore you are both creating a bad habit.
When he/she pulls, and you pull him or her, neither one of you are winning!
In fact you end up with a tired and possibly painful arm, and he/she can end up with damage to his/her trachea that can shorten his/her life.
Remember when your dog pulls; DON’T PULL BACK!!
2. You Are Painfully Inconsistent
Sometimes you care about your dog pulling; and sometimes you don’t and let him/her pull frantically. I have seen owners who sometimes use prong collars, or slap their dogs with the end of the lead, or pop the lead so hard they send their dog flying. These responses are negative response to a feeling of anger and or frustration.
The problem with inconsistency is that your dog never knows which “personality” you will, show up with for the walk or training and, pulling probably happens most consistently and is certainly the most fun. Its important to remember that most dogs would rather pull and sniff, than walk nicely and patiently at your side.
Therefore, pulling is what your dog is most likely to try.
The Number One Reason Your Dog is Pulling on the Leash??
1. You Have Never Taught Your Dog Lead Manners or Lead Related Obedience Skills
Most dog owners think lead manners and not pulling on the lead should be some kind of instinct that all dogs but theirs are born with! However, the truth is the opposite.
It is pretty natural to get over excited and pull against something that is restraining you from doing what you want to do, namely, go FASTER. It is not instinctual for dogs to respect the lead and put themselves into “heel” position.
For those of us who compete in dog obedience training trials and have great on/off lead dogs we tend to mock the idea that dogs are hard wired to walk nicely on lead.
We KNOW firsthand how difficult and how much time it takes to have a dog that listens and respects the lead, and we know the value of consistency.
My dogs are NEVER allowed to successfully pull on their leads.
I don’t care what is going on or what time constraint I am on, I do NOT allow my dogs to pull and get what they desire.
They learn through training and consistency if they want privileges, yes (I allow them to “be dogs” and wander and sniff occasionally). They are not robots and are not kept in heel position constantly.
It takes months of training and adding distractions slowly to get a dog to walk in the park consistently with very minimal effort.
Teaching eye contact, focus and lead manners is demanding.
It can take MONTHS…. now let that sink in for a minute.
There were days with my dogs which are rescues that I didn’t make it out of my driveway and, there were days I spent changing directions dozens of times in front of peoples homes.
Dogs need consistency and TEACHING in order for them to respect the lead and not pull; and sometimes those skills need to be revisited when the dog decides to pull and dog training takes thought and effort.
Remember the old adage “Nothing Good In Life is Free” all GOOD or GREAT things take time and effort!
Training a puppy can be hard, but its well worth teaching him/her basic lessons in behaviour early on to avoid any trouble later in their adolescent life. Teaching them to walk on a lead is a crucial skill that, when accomplished, can keep both owner and dog safe whilst out and about. Furthermore, avoid any unnecessary discomfort for both parties.
Teaching your dog to walk with a loose lead is not a quick process. It takes a great deal of patience and time, often several months, and there are no shortcuts. The good news is that the training itself is simple, although it does require a commitment from you.
Expect walks to take longer during this time, but DO stick with it because the rewards will becalm, pleasant walks and a happy dog who no longer pulls.
A quick internet search will reveal a vast range of equipment marketed as a ‘cure’ for pulling, which can look very appealing, but is any of it any good?
Sadly some equipment causes pain or discomfort when the dog pulls, by causing tension in a sensitive area. This can be both unnecessary and confusing for your dog, who still needs the opportunity to learn that pulling is not a successful way of moving forwards. I always used a collar and lead.
Your dog should ideally be walked on whatever piece of equipment is most comfortable for them, for example, a flat harness or collar. If you are at risk of losing control when walking your dog, you should consider other suitable options that do not cause pain, such as a front attaching harness.
How To Walk Your Dog Calmly With No Pulling
The instant the lead goes tight, stop walking. Simply stand still, keep quiet and don’t move forward again until the lead is slack, then walk on.
Don’t jerk the lead back, just stand and wait. If your dog does not turn back to you, try walking a couple of steps in the opposite direction to get his/her focus back.
Reward your dog whenever he/she is walking next to you on a loose lead. Keep some healthy tasty treats handy, but out of the way (in a treat pouch, or pocket).
You’ll probably need to use lots of treats at the start, but as your dog gets better you can cut down and eventually phase treats out completely.
Remember to keep walking forwards as you give your dog treats to avoid stopping and starting.
At the start practice in quiet areas, walking up and down with no distractions so that your dog can get the hang of it quickly. It’s much easier for your dog to learn new behaviours in quiet places where he/she won’t be easily distracted.
DO NOT REWARD PULLING. When your dog pulls on the lead, stand still and wait for the lead to become slack. Above all, do not move in the direction of the pull.
DO REWARD loose lead walking. Walk forwards with your dog and reward him/her when they are walking calmly by your side with healthy tasty treats.
When the dog is in the right position the lead should always be hanging loose with no tension.
DON’T PUNISH your dog when he/she pulls, (don’t shout at your dog or tug him/her back), positive reinforcement is much more effective.
DO BE 100% CONSISTENT each time you go out with your dog. This might take time, but it will be well worth the effort and make walks even more enjoyable for you and your dog.
In Next Months Blog I will discuss Handling On-lead Aggression.