Pretty much every dog can expect to spend some time walking on the end of the leash–which means we don’t always realize how unnatural this behavior is. Given your dog’s natural inclination to move in circles, browse through smells, and change their pace as they please, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that they pull on the leash. You and your dog share what’s known as the oppositional reflex: when you feel pressure on the leash, you resist it. Walks turn into a battle of wills–and if your dog is large and strong, you might not feel safe taking them out. If your dog likes to pull, train your dog to follow your lead.
Tips on training your dog to stop pulling
- Use the right equipment. If your dog is a strong puller, a front-clip harness helps redirect their strength to the side and reduces the amount of pressure placed on your shoulder.
- Avoid aversive training equipment or methods. Prong collars, choke collars, and shock collars all rely on applying positive punishment to stop pulling. In the long run, your dog may associate the unpleasant sensations with what they encounter on a walk and develop reactivity or anxiety.
- Start indoors. Teach your dog the basics in as quiet and distraction-free of an environment as possible before taking them outside to work.
- Burn off some energy before a training walk. If your dog is boiling over with energy, you’ll have to work much harder to capture their attention. Set both of you up for success by playing with or conducting short training sessions to take the edge off and get them primed to learn.
- Feed your dog their meals during a walk. A hungry dog is a motivated dog.
- Front-clip or No Pull harness
- Treat and treat pouch
- Clicker (if using)
- Waist leash (if needed)
Note: Be careful pairing H-shape front-clip harnesses with martingales, as they can place stress on your dog’s shoulders as they pull. If you want to use both a harness and martingale together, look for harnesses that form a Y-shape over the chest.
Always remember that the long-term goal is to train your dog to choose not to pull. Training equipment helps you show your dog what you want, but should never be relied on in lieu of actual training.
Why you shouldn't let your dog pull on the leash
Leash pulling might not seem like a big deal to ignore, especially if you have a smaller dog. However, the constant pressure of the collar on a dog’s neck can lead to throat injuries or other long-term health issues. Furthermore, walks should be a pleasant and relaxing time for both you and your dog, giving you an opportunity to bond with each other–not be at constant odds.
Gentle Beast offers online training courses led by pet behavior expert Alex Sessa, CPDT-KA. Our Leash Walking workshops help you train your dog to walk nicely beside you and put an end to the question of “who’s walking who.’