Ever desperately wondered how to stop your dog pulling on the lead? Perhaps after happily leaving the house for a gentle stroll, only to have your arm dislocated? We realise it’s not always that bad. At worst, many of us just look silly to bystanders as our perky pup pulls us who-knows-where.
Kind of like we’re the pet, and they’re the parent. When in fact, learning to stop your dog pulling on the lead isn’t just a lifesaver for you. It’s also a great comfort to pup. Because in the same way kids feel safe with their parents in control, dogs do too.
Without further ado, find out steps to stop your dog pulling on the lead.
Why do dogs pull on the lead?
People sometimes believe dogs pull their lead as a form of dominance; to be the leader of the pack, so to speak. Others think dogs should only walk behind their owner. They believe if your dog walks ahead they’re displaying alpha behaviour to you and being disrespectful.
If you’re wondering, none of this is true.
Reasons why they pull
Dogs pull on their lead because they’re excited. And, because they’re strong (even the little guys), so pulling seems to work… Between you and me, if we had a sense of smell like dogs we’d probably also go round following our noses. Dogs smell 40 times better than we do (many scientists in fact believe they dogs smell is a million times better than humans).
What’s clear is that smell is fun for dogs, and they’ll never run out of exciting smells/reasons to tug on their leash. By doing so, they’re ‘rewarded’ by having their sensory experience fulfilled. And, as a result, until we intentionally change this behaviour we’re inadvertently rewarding it. Rewarding any behaviour instills it deeper, and so a habit develops.
This may sound familiar to those with kids because kids try out different behaviours too – including ‘bad’ ones. Like, for example, nagging to get a sugary treat at an inopportune time (read: ‘before dinner’).
Although we could (and sometimes do) give in to nagging, doing so ultimately reinforces the behaviour. Now back to dogs, if we want them to stop tugging on that leash, we need a game plan. More on this below.
Another reason dogs pull on the lead is that they’re faster than we are. They have four legs, we have two. It’s basic maths. They’re also more energetic. Very few pet parents could hope to compete with a dog’s speed or energy levels. Let’s just say a dog whose owner is a professional athlete lucked out.
To stop your dog pulling on the lead you must actively teach them to walk alongside you. Yep, that’s right, not behind or in front, but next to. After all, dogs are our best friends, which naturally means we both respect one another.
How to stop your dog pulling on the lead
There are several techniques to stop your dog pulling on the lead. And they all boil down to the same action: Rewarding your pup for being onside.
Read why positive reinforcement for dog training is proving to be so successful.
3 ways to stop your dog pulling on the lead
If you’re starting when your pooch is a puppy, even better as this gives you the chance to get it right from the get-go. Read how to teach your puppy to walk on a lead.
1. Be a tree
Option one is “being a tree.” Each time pup pulls the lead, stop walking and stand still. Don’t budge until he or she faces or comes to you. Then, give them a treat and start walking again.
A treat could be patting, praising or a snack. Just be mindful of too many fatty snacks that can lead to obesity, which can lead to diabetes in dogs.
It’s important not to actively pull them towards you. Just stand your ground so they can’t go anywhere. Sometimes your pooch will be overexcited and will go on straining the lead. In this case, try out another method.
2. Teach your dog to follow
Another method is teaching your dog to stay alongside you before they start to pull their lead. You can even start this training without using the lead.
Show your dog a treat then walk a few steps away. When they come to you (which most dogs will), wait for them to sit quietly then give them the treat. Consider pairing this with a command such as ‘heel’.
Once you’ve successfully completed this routine a few times, it’s time to try it out again with your pup on the leash. Gradually increase the number of steps you take and the amount of time before giving the treat.
You can also move on to doing turns, so your dog gets used to changing direction. Practice in different locations so he or she gets becomes adept at staying at your side no matter where you are.
3. Get the right gear
Training is your best bet; however, you can make the process easier with the right dog walking gear.
Use an anti-pull harness rather than a collar and leash. This helps on two fronts. Firstly, it reduces your dog’s ability to pull and, secondly, it reduces the chance of them being injured.
If, for example, you have a dog breed that’s prone to IVDD it’s crucial to reduce the amount of pressure on their neck vertebrae. A harness is far safer than a collar and leash in this regard. Read about IVDD in Dachshunds and other dogs.
Tips for walking a dog on the lead
Bear in mind that all dogs, including yours, are unique. This is why not every method will work for every dog. A good place to start is by trying out each method for a decent amount of time each.
Whichever training method suits your pup best, keep the following in mind:
- Remove distractions. Reduce distractions by starting your walk somewhere fairly boring in your dog’s eyes so they can focus on you, not their surroundings. Walking around your home or somewhere pooch is used to are good options.
- Keep positions consistent. Whether your dog walks slightly ahead of you, or on your right or left isn’t as important as keeping the position consistent.
- Schedule in practice. Be sure to set aside ample time to carry out your plan – i.e.: setting clear boundaries. Early on, this could mean your 10-minute walk turns into half an hour as you get your dog used to new rules. That’s ok, so long as you have enough time to avoid being stressed.
Dog insurance for a safe and sound hound
Speaking of IVDD, did you know pet insurance covers medical treatment for hereditary illnesses if you get your plan before these develop? This boils down to the sooner you get dog insurance (or cat insurance) the better!
Pet insurance can cover a wide range of treatments, including hospitalisation, prescription medication and vet visits. Why wait – get a quote today. And when you purchase online, you get one month free. T&Cs apply.