How to stop your dog pulling on the lead
There’s no doubt that the most exciting point in the day for your dog is when you put on your shoes and pick up their lead. It’s time for walkies – an opportunity to catch up with the latest neighbourhood smells and a time to greet fellow four and two-legged walkers.
Some dogs can get so excited in their eagerness to get to their final destination that a leisurely walk can feel more like a drag race. A big, strong dog could easily pull their owner over and even a small dog can cause arm ache – so what can you do about it?
Why do dogs pull?
Before we consider how to stop a dog pulling on a lead it’s important to recognise why they do it in the first place. The most common reason is because they’ve learnt that if they pull, they get to where they are going sooner. If your dog loves to play fetch at the park and that’s where you walk to every day, they are going to want to get there as quickly as possible. If when they pull, you speed up – job done!
Teaching a dog to walk on a loose lead takes time and patience – especially if they have become used to pulling every time they are on a lead. Prevention is better than cure so if you teach your young pup how to walk nicely from their very first on-lead walks, you’ll never have to go through this process. But hindsight is a wonderful thing, so let’s deal with your pulling pet…
Collar or harness?
There is no quick fix to stop a pulling dog, although there are harnesses and headcollars that can help by restricting a dog’s movement. Choke chains or prong collars, which aim to punish a dog for pulling, should never be used. Instead of encouraging a dog to walk on a loose lead, they can cause serious physical and psychological damage.
If you have a dog that pulls it is a good idea to use a body harness rather than clipping their lead directly to their collar. This is because the neck of a dog is very delicate and can be easily injured. There is a wide range of body harnesses available to suit all dog shapes, which will make lead walks more comfortable while you are training your dog to walk nicely.
Loose lead walking
Your dog needs to learn that it pays to walk by your side and there are no benefits to pulling on the lead. Here’s what you do:
- Your dog needs to be able to focus, so start in your garden or a quiet area where you are unlikely to encounter distractions.
- Without your dog on a lead at first, reward them with treats for sitting or standing by your side.
- Encourage your dog to follow you by walking along with treats in your hand, giving them one every now and then as long as they remain by your side. Your dog will learn that at any moment you could dispense a treat, so they won’t want to miss an opportunity. It’s worth noting that if your dog is having lots of extra training treats you may need to reduce their daily amount of food to stop them becoming overweight.
- When your dog is reliably following you, put their lead on and continue in the same way.
- Gradually increase the time and distance between rewards, and every now and then change direction so that your dog has to watch you closely.
- If at any point the lead tightens, stop walking until your dog is back by your side. They’ll soon learn that by pulling forward it will take longer to get to where they want to be going.
- Never yank the lead or shout if your dog continues to pull. If you stop walking but your dog insists on pulling, take a couple of steps backwards. This should get their attention and help them regain focus.
- Be consistent! For training to work, you have to do it every time you take your dog out on a lead. Your pet won’t be able to tell the difference between days when you have time to stop walking every time they pull, and days when you don’t have time to practice walking nicely.
A dog’s average natural walking pace is twice that of an adult human so dogs may find it difficult to slow down at first, but with patience and consistency in training you should be able to keep in step with each other.