How to Train a Dog Not to Pull

Dogs pull on the lead because:

  • They lack enough exercise and/or mental stimulation.
  • They want to go explore/sniff/pee/greet/you-name-it faster.
  • Pulling has been rewarding to them (they have gotten to where they want by pulling, even once) so they repeat it.
  • They have not been shown what’s in it for them not to pull.

When dogs go outside on their own without restricting leashes how often do they walk at a slow human pace on a straight line? That’s right, nearly never. They bounce, zic zac, trot, dash, stop… That’s normal for them.

Surely they will do that with a leash attached as well unless they know any better.

There are tons of methods to teach a dog polite leash manners. How do you know which one suits you and your dog?

Let's get one thing out of the way. Aversive, correction based methods are outdated, not necessary and potentially harmful to your dog. Nowadays, we know better, much better.

Relaxed lose leash walking requires:

  • Confidence from dog and person.
  • Trust between dog and person.
  • Dog chooses to follow person because all good things in life come from the person. 
  • Practice, practice, practice and a lot of reinforcement.

Every dog is different so not necessarily every method suits every dog. Here are a couple of videos of very different methods and approaches to teach a dog to walk nicely on a lead without pulling.

1. The most straight forward way by Homeskooling 4 dogs

This video is very sensible and hands-on. The trainer doesn’t make lose leash walking seem like rocket science unlike some other trainers. He uses a real untrained shelter dog to demonstrate.

First, he connects with the dog unleashed by playing with him and letting the dog sniff and get to know him.

On the walk, he doesn’t use food or toys as rewards. Instead, he uses getting to move forward as a reward. This is especially useful with dogs which you don’t know that well. They might have food intolerances and allergies or they might get too aroused by toys.

The objective, as he puts it, is: “walking should look like two friends holding hands”.

2. Add versability by Instinct Dog Behavior & Training

Here is a completely different approach utilising food as a reward.

A word or warning: this video uses a harness which has movement restricting strap across the shoulders. That kind of harness is not healthy to use as it shortens the gait unnaturally. Always use a harness which doesn’t restrict the shoulder (or any other) movement.

There also appears a head collar which may be dangerous with some dogs and should be used only if you know exactly how to use it.

They make the leash holding a bit of rocket science but other than these things, the video is very educational.

Now the good things about this video. Whereas the previous trainer practiced on a sidewalk, this trainer first practises walking in circles and figure 8. She rewards the dog for attention. When the dog knows the rules, the idea is to add a cue for free sniffy time and when to walk next to the person.

Food for thought

What are your expectations and wishes for the walk? What are the dog’s expectations and wishes for the walk? Do they meet? Do you consider your walk physical exercise? Does the dog enjoy this type of physical exercise?

While it’s important for any dog to have the skill to walk on a regular length leash without pulling and bouncing around, think about walks from the dog’s point of view. Out and about, dogs mainly want to sniff, potty, and explore. Can you make your walks rewarding for both of you?

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