I don’t know about you, but I really do not like to walk dogs that pull on leash. I find that when this happens the walk just lost its relaxing quality. Perhaps other people do not feel the same about their dogs walking on a loose leash. Dogs pulling on a leash is so ubiquitous that I joke with myself that I will pay every person that I see walking with a dog on a loose leash. “I can do this,” I tell myself, because I will not be making a big investment…
So why exactly do dogs pull on leash?
There are several factors that contribute to this behavior. I am listing them here and not necessarily in order of importance.
1. Not pulling on leash is not part of dog’s natural (read genetic) make-up. There is no reason in their natural state not to pull, because they are no leashes stopping them
2. Restrain of any kind is aversive for animals in most circumstances. This goes back to having an opportunity to flee should they feel threatened.
3. Their center of gravity is just behind their front legs – so they are kind of already propelled forward.
4. Naturally they think that running or walking fast will get them where they want to go – who can blame them, right? See all the points above!
5. Okay, here is where you come in: NOBODY has taught them that walking on a loose leash pays big time, pulling stops the fun and it will take longer to get “there”. Another reason on the same vein as not being taught what to do is that someone (perhaps even one person) allows them to pull some of the time when on leash. Yep, even one person allowing some pulling will do the trick to teach your pup that pulling is a-okay. (sigh!)
Are you panicking already? Now, the truth is that while it is actually LOTS of work in the form of consistency and many, many repetitions of the dog walking without pulling, you can teach dogs not to pull.
If you are ready to take the plunge because you are motivated, tired of being jerked around, recovering from a dislocated shoulder, courtesy of your exuberant pup’s pulling habits I must congratulate you. Follow the training plan (I even made a video – link bellow, for you to watch the steps) below for this very easy technique to teach Fido to walk politely. If you really practice with consistency AND you make sure no one else is allowing him to pull, you will reach success.
When NOT working on the technique below you should walk your dog (clip the leash) to a FRONT clip harness. There are quite a few brands out there. The thing about a harness like this is that while it does not teach your dog not to pull, it will give you some relief by its mere design – which kind of turns the dog around when they pull.
The second reason I want you to have this tool, is because realistically speaking people do not take their precious pulling pup for a walk and are willing to work on anti-pulling exercises for the length of the walk. Of course, this is what professional trainers like myself do and why you must pay us the big bucks. LOL… Now back to the training plan:
The way you will use the collar and the front clip harness is as follows:
You will clip your dog’s leash to the FRONT clip harness when walking him. You will ONLY clip the leash to your dog’s flat collar – not a prong collar or a choke chain, when and only when you will be working on the training plan below. So yes, there will be some back and forth changing the leash so make sure you hold to your dog tight when unclipping.
If you are consistent in working with your dog on every walk even for a few minutes, eventually you will be able to spend more time training during the walks because you are being successful. Slowly you will see your dog is getting better and now the whole walk can be done on a loose leash.
Your choice at this point as to how you will walk your dog- on a harness or the flat collar. I repeat: no choke-chain collars or prong. Your dog deserves be-tt-errr.
Follow the steps below:
With a hungry pup and a flat collar…
Begin your training ideally in a non-distracting environment. Yes, this could be your living room, backyard etc. If beginning here, you can skip the harness for now since you will be working for short periods on this. Once you go outside for the real walk put on the front-clip harness and follow the directions above for when to clip to the harness and when to clip to the collar.
Your dog will do what he has done for a while now, reach the end of the leash making it taut.
As he does:
1. STOP MOVING FORWARD!!
2. Either call your dog to you by name, a fun sound or patting your leg
3. When your dog is moving towards you, begin taking a few steps backwards. Three is enough.
4. Once your dog has caught up with you, he is now next to you or at least the leash is not taut anymore
5. WAIT for at least 3 seconds (count in our head: Mississippi ONE…) since we want to avoid having your dog taking turns by pulling and not pulling, instead we just want him NOT pull. Or better said: to walk on a loose leash at all times…
6. Give your dog a treat
7. Continue moving forward.
8. Rinse and repeat for the length of time you will be training your pup to walk politely on a loose leash.
I cannot stress enough the benefit of practicing in a non-distracting environment so that you get the sequence correct and the mechanics. If you choose to take it on the road, do the training almost at the end of the walk instead of the beginning when your pup would have had the opportunity of some sniffing and reliving itself. As you both improve, you can begin to train earlier on your walk. Distractions are part of life and what makes the walk interesting for your dog, but they are what makes training much harder to implement. So, do not be too anxious in reaching your goals around distractions.
For those of you living in Santa Fe, NM area, reach out to me to discuss private training.