Leash Pulling

How do I stop my dog from pulling on the leash?


Pulling on leash is a behavior almost all of us encounter. The best way to stop it is to make a promise to yourself and your dog that he will never again get anywhere by pulling on his collar. Period!

When your dog starts to pull (the leash line from his collar to your hand is taut), stop, call his name, and back up a few steps until he returns to you–or at least moves in your direction. You can then reward him by moving forward again or by turning around and going in a new direction. Give him a few small treats for returning to you and don’t forget to praise him.

This takes patience, and lots of it. For the first couple of weeks your dog is likely to pull every step or two, as he has always done, but this time it’s going to get him nowhere. That means you may not get very far on your walks, and you may even cover the same half block over and over again as you back up, ask him to focus, turn, and walk in a new direction. Remember to keep praising your dog as he gets better at walking by your side: “Yay! You’ve gone nine steps without pulling! Good boy, here’s a treat!”

A couple of tips: when you train, use a regular flat-buckle collar and a four to six foot leash, thin enough to hold comfortably in your hand. Do not use a “flexi” leash–they actually train dogs to pull by teaching them that tension on their necks gets them farther.

And keep a log to track your progress. Did you get two steps this time without pulling? Ten steps? A half a block? Progress feels slow at first, but keeping a log will show you how far you’ve really come (and help you to notice when you’ve forgotten to train). Practice really does make perfect.

You won’t be covering a great distance during loose-leash walking training, but it’s important that your dog still get plenty of exercise. I recommend fitting him with a no-pull harness and using it when you want to take him out for a run or playful romp. Use the harness instead of the leash so he knows the rules are different–he’s free to run, chase a tennis ball, sniff a tree (or whatever) when he’s wearing his harness.

However, the minute his leash gets clipped back on to his regular collar, you’re back to the no pulling rule–and that rule can’t be broken. Consistency, practice, and praise will get you where you want to be.

Marjie Alonso is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer in Somerville, Massachusetts, and the Training Director for theNew England Dog Training Club.  Read more about Marjie Alonso in the DogTime expert center…

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