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How Do I Teach My Dog To Stop Pulling On His Leash?

By: Jeff Noce, Voyce President

Every week, I invite Voyce blog readers to submit any questions or comments they have about health or behavioral concerns. Because of the great response, each month I address at least one question in more detail.

If you have a question or topic you’d like me to cover, please send an email to askjeff@mydogsvoyce.com.

Question

I would love to take my dog for a walk more often, but he’s so strong that he practically drags me along behind him. The other day, he saw a squirrel and I actually thought he was going to pull me down trying to chase it! I know he needs the exercise but because of this, walks aren’t much fun. Can you help?

Answer

When I had my professional dog training business, pulling on the leash was one of the most common concerns I heard from dog parents. But it’s an issue that can be fixed with consistent training and, in some cases, the right tools.

First, it’s important to realize that pulling comes naturally to your dog. After all, walks are exciting! So many things to sniff and investigate. For most pups, a simple stroll around the block is like going to Disney Land.

The problem is that we humans are just incredibly slow compared to them. Like a kid dashing for the roller coaster, they would much prefer to run to the next tree or fire hydrant. So is it any wonder that they try to hurry us along by pulling on the leash?  

Frustration also sets in for owners because dogs can suddenly seem to lose their hearing when out on a walk. Getting their attention can be almost impossible when they’re nose-deep in a new smell. They’re not doing it to be deliberately disobedient. It’s a little like being engrossed in a great book and blocking everything out around you.

So the most important part of training your dog to walk loosely on a leash is to become a little more unpredictable and a lot more interesting. By doing this, he really has no choice but to pay attention.

This is a lot simpler than you might think. When he begins to pull, suddenly change direction and, in a happy voice, say, “Let’s go!” or “With me!” As long as the leash is loose, praise him and offer treats for being such a great dog.

Once he begins pulling again, repeat the direction change and cue. Remember to never yank on the leash, and always keep the training session fun and happy. If you or your dog begin to feel frustrated, it’s time to head home.

After he starts to listen and respond to you when you give the cue, you can take it up a notch by doing something new like walking in a zig-zag or making a wide circle. Be sure to praise and reward any time your dog walks near you or beside you with a slack leash.

Because it sounds like your dog is an exceptionally strong puller, you may want to look into a harness that has a front chest leash attachment. These harnesses gently steer your dog’s body toward you whenever he starts to pull, making it difficult for him to forge ahead. Popular brands include the Easy Walk Harness by PetSafe and the SENSE-ible Harness by Softouch Concepts.

Some pet parents prefer head collars, like the Halti, but these can be a little more challenging for dogs to adjust to. If you decide to go this route, make sure it’s properly fitted and that you take the time to condition your dog to the sensation.

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Posted on Mar 31, 2016 by VOYCE Behavior & Training