Dogs pulling on the lead is one of the most common problems that owners come to us with and can be a real source of frustration. In this blog we look at how to stop a dog pulling on lead.
Why do dogs pull?
Dogs aren’t born with a desire to pull. Think back to the very first time you put a lead on your tiny puppy I bet it didn’t shoot to the end of the lead and try to pull you along.
Pulling on the lead is a learned behaviour that is generally paired with a lack of self-control in our dogs.
It all starts when we first start taking our pups out on their puppy walks and allow them to walk with pressure on their leads. These are formative times in a puppy’s development, so it is important that we start them off on the right paw when it comes to loose lead walking.
Understanding that moving forwards is in itself a reward can be a crucial learning point. If we allow the dog to move forward with tension on the lead we inadvertently reward the behaviour.
Another thing we often see with dogs that pull on the lead is that owners have poisoned the command “heel”. The command has never been taught to the dog to mean stand/walk by my side. In fact, people accidently pair it with the wrong position as the owners generally only say it when the dog is out in front of them before they are pulled back to the owner.
How to conquer pulling on the lead
- Start as you mean to go on. It is never too early to teach a pup how to walk correctly on a lead.
- Start with just standing still and rewarding the pup in the heel position, but make sure the lead is loose! You would be amazed at how many people put tension on the lead when treating their pup. The tension then becomes valuable and a pup will seek it out.
- When starting to walk start easy with just 4-5 steps walking nicely on a loose lead and reward – we need to build the reward history so set the dog up to succeed.
- Don’t add in any command until the dog is reliably in the right place.
- Whenever there is tension stop and reset (don’t reward the reset) or change direction
- Stop doing destination walks (walks to the park or other place your dog gets let off) until you start to master walking on a loose lead. When we go to the same place every day our dogs learn that the quicker we get there the quicker the lead comes off and the fun starts. This will not help your loose lead walking.
- Do not let your dog off until you have a couple of minutes focus walking on a loose lead. If we let out dogs off when they are pulling guess what they will do more of?
- CONSISTENCY! I cannot stress this enough! You are better off not doing lead work than allowing your dog to do lead work badly. If you do not have the time to practise lead walking properly drive somewhere and let your dog have a run. It is unfair to demand loose lead walking one day but accept it the next. Be a consistent leader.
If you would like to learn how to get your dog to consistently walk nicely on lead then get in touch or look out for our new online course “Pulling to Perfect” (coming soon)