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Pulling on leash

One of the most common frustrations with dog owners is their dog pulling on a leash during a walk.

This post will focus on walking with a loose leash, not the competitive walking exercise from obedience. In my opinion this is the most pleasant way to walk your dog, both for you and your dog.

In contradiction of what’s commonly thought, a dog doesn’t pull to show his dominance. The reason why is actually pretty logical.

Let’s take a look at why your dog pulls before we work on a solution.

Why does my dog pull on a leash?

Walking is a very stimulating and pleasant experience for your dog. Because of all the smells and impressions he receives, he’s often very excited when you go on a walk. Because of this enthusiasm, the urge to move forward is often very present. Because the walking pace of humans is considerably slower than that of most dogs, we really aren’t the most ideal walking partner. This of course also results in pulling.

Teaching a dog to walk in a calm state next to his owner while in reality all he wants to do is run around, asks for a lot of self control of the dog. He will need to control his urge to run around to be able to walk at the pace of his human. That’s not as easy for each dog.

Still it’s pretty important to teach your dog how to walk alongside you to make sure the walk is a pleasant experience for everyone.

How to teach your dog not to pull the leash?

  • If you do not have the physical capabilities to manage your dog, there are dog-friendly harnesses that might still make it possible for you to walk your dog.

  • Be consistent: All too often I see dog owners only having the energy to train their dog for a few feet before giving in to the pulling of the dog. When you’re not consistent, your dog won’t understand what you expect of him.

  • Often pulling doesn’t stop because the dog realises that as long as he keeps pulling, his owner will follow. So make sure not to give in into the pulling behaviour of your dog. Most of the time this will make the dog realize he doesn’t get where he wants by pulling.

  • At the moment your dog pulls, remain stationary until he returns to you. If this doesn’t happen spontaneously, lure your dog back to you with an enthusiastic voice. Only continue walking once the leash is loose.

  • Another method is to turn around in the opposite direction once the dog starts pulling. Only when he walks beside you once again, you return in the direction you were originally walking. You do not need to pull the leash. By giving a command you can alert your dog you are going to change direction. Another way to avoid pulling on the leash, is luring your dog during your turn by using an enthusiastic voice. It may take several turning movements for your dog to understand, but eventually he will learn pulling won’t get him where he wants to be.

  • Lastly, make sure to reward your dog whenever he makes the decision to walk calmly alongside you. Each time he walks next to you, you can reward him with your voice, some play time or a treat.

  • Once you and your dog are getting more in tune to each other and he listens pretty well. you can make an exercise out of this. By turning in different ways (45° left, 180° right, making a figure 8,...) you teach your dog to keep his attention on you. Make sure to reward your dog during exercises like this.

  • A dog that’s already a bit fatigued will be more eager to walk beside you. Because of this, it comes in handy to fatigue your dog before the walk. And also in this case, make sure to reward him when he walks next to you. This way he will start to understand you want him to walk next to you.

It’s important to keep in mind that you need to remain consistent to teach this behaviour. You should try to incorporate more than one of the tips above for optimal results. One dog might react better to one method while another might dislike that one. By combining these techniques, you give your dog multiple impulses to learn.

If problems concerning leash walking remain, you can always contact a dog trainer near you.

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