How to Teach Your Dog Not to Pull on a Leash
What Makes a Dog Lunge and Pull?
Your dog may want to get to something, like trash on the ground or say hi another dog. You may be refusing to go where he wants or maybe you're just too slow. Dogs are awfully strong, he may manage to drag you gradually over to where he's going. Once he's learned that's the way to get what he wants, he may keep doing it even if pulling hurts and chokes him. Dogs can be very determined!
Or, he may be frightened. He could be trying to run away from something scary, or he may be lunging at it to try and scare it away. What we call "aggression" in dogs very often starts with fear. They try to intimidate the scary dog or person by leaping, barking, and raising hackles.
What Can I Do to Stop the Pulling?
Most people walk with a basic flat collar, which is the most basic equipment you need to attach a leash, identification, and rabies tag. While not designed to hurt the dog, if the handler and the dog are untrained, jerks from either end of the leash can choke the dog and hurt his throat. This won't necessarily slow him down, either; dogs often seem to think that what they are chasing is what causes them to choke, so they try harder.
There are two basic philosophies behind the methods used to stop pulling.
- One is to avoid hurting the dog.
- The other is to hurt the dog more.
How Can I Avoid Hurting My Dog?
The very best way teach your dog not to pull is to learn loose-leash walking This means that he stays close to you so that the leash is slack. Basically the leash is just there as an emergency backup.
In the video below, Victoria Stillwell uses the reverse direction method to teach a puppy how to walk with the leash loose. Note that her focus is on persuading the dog to want to be near her. She doesn't jerk the leash or pull on the puppy.
Training Loose Leash Walking
Are there other training methods?
- Sure! Almost as many as there are trainers! Consider searching for force-free training videos. Pick out ideas that appeal to you and give them a try. There are many available on Facebook.
- Do you have a determined puller and do-it-yourself training doesn't work? You can locate an ethical and professional dog trainer at this site: Pet Professional Guild
Is There an Easier Way?
One thing that may get you some quick relief is a harness. It distributes the force so that your dog isn't leaning his weight into his throat. This is much safer for him and by making him less fearful, excited, or nervous, it may reduce pulling pretty quickly.
Even if you're still having to train to reduce pulling, a harness is a safer way to attach the leash. Think about it--what happens if you trip? If your dog steps on the leash? If he's attacked by a loose dog and you have to haul him away? Pulling on his torso is so much safer than on his neck!
Be sure to use your harness safely!
- Don't put it on until time for a walk. Some dogs will chew their harness if they're left lying around in it.
- Don't use a harness while playing in the dog park—another dog could get caught in it, and then both will panic.
- Don't get a harness that's designed to tighten when the dog pulls. The goal is not to hurt or frighten the dog.
When I moved to the city with my country dog, we didn't know much about leash walking, and he didn't know anything about the city. He was frightened of so many things: trucks, the postman, loud cars, strangers looking at him, etc.
Some things Badger would try to run from and others, like trucks and the postman, he would try to chase away. If we were walking and encountered something something he was afraid of, he might leap at it and bark. I would set my feet and grab the leash in both hands, bracing myself for 90 pounds of dog hitting the collar. He would slam into it, choking and growling, as I pulled him away.
Each time he hit the collar, his fear would only get worse. It seemed as though he thought the trucks and postmen were strangling him and he tried harder to scare them away. And his fears grew and spread to new objects: loud cars, motorcycles, aggressive dogs. I had no way of predicting them or preparing him. Even worse, he was developing a chronic cough that worried me.
I researched solutions to taking the pressure off his throat and learned about . The leash attaches at the center of the dog's chest, so when he pulls, he turns himself slightly away from the direction he wants to go. And if you have to pull him away from something, you're leading him straight forward without pulling on his neck. front-clip harnesses
I measured and fitted Badger, carefully following instructions. Then we went out to look for a truck! A white van came past us and Badger leaped. He hit the harness and looked at me in surprise--the impact was across his chest, not his throat, and he hadn't choked a bit. After two or three more encounters, I could see his tension start to dissolve. Gradually the lunging grew less intense. And in a few months he was ignoring passing vehicles and even postal workers. Best of all, that nasty cough has vanished.
If you have a Houdini dog who wriggles out of his harness or if you take your dog on hikes and other activities, the Ruffwear brand comes highly recommended.
It clips on the top and has multiple points of adjustment to achieve a perfect fit. With three straps circling the body and one passing between the front legs it's awfully difficult to escape from.
The chest and bands are padded to prevent chafing and there's a handle on top so you can help your dog over rough bits of trail. And users say that their dogs pull less while wearing it.
To use shock as an effective dog training method you will need:
- A thorough understanding of canine behavior.
- A thorough understanding of learning theory.
- Impeccable timing.
And if you have those three things, you don't need a shock collar.— Dr. Ian Dunbar
What If I'd Rather Hurt My Dog?
If you want to hurt your dog, there are lots of delightful "tools", as some folks call them, to do the job. They'll get your dog into an instant state of fearful attentiveness.
If you haven't guessed it, the following is meant to be sarcastic.
Luckily, dogs are very enthusiastic and not terribly bright, so many of them won't show resentment (towards you, anyway) and may not even figure out what's hurting them. If he does become aggressive, there's plenty of other things to use to hurt him worse, so that's okay!
I mean, who wants to bother with all that practice and patience nonsense? Why give the dog treats when you can give him a good jolt or jab?
- Choke chain: The good ol' choker is a classic. It works very simply to cut off the dog's air supply until he does what you want. If he can't figure it out, you just keep jerking until he learns how to avoid being suffocated. Fun for the whole family.
- Prong collar: Sometimes called a "pinch" collar, this network of inward-facing, blunt steel spikes keeps your dog on tippy-toe with apprehension. If he pulls, he gets jabbed. If he does something you don't like, you just jerk it and he gets jabbed. If he trips or steps on the leash, he gets really jabbed.
- Shock collar: But what if he's still dragging you on the prong, as many do? How can you really hurt him? Why, electric shock! It's okay because the lowest setting is just an itty-bitty tingle. But most shockers (or "e-collars" as we affectionately call them) have 9 more settings. And you have the control in your sweaty palm just at the moment you get most frustrated and really want to punish him. And nobody will know, so that's just hunky-dory.
Note: You'll notice that I didn't insert any links for these painful collars . . . I'm not going to peddle dog-torturing junk to you. So scroll back up the page, learn how to train, and buy some safe equipment!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
© 2014 Valerie Proctor Davis