How To Stop Your Dog From Pulling On It’s Leash
One of the most common complaints or issues that pet parents face whenever walking their dogs is the tendency of the pet to pull on its leash. This is quite understandable because of the “opposition reflex” that is strong in dogs. There is also the feeling that pet parents are restricting the dog’s movements and, hence, impeding on its freedom. If you are in such a predicament, you no longer have to fret. We are here to share with you how you can stop your pet dog from tugging or pulling on its leash.
Pick the Right Tools
To stop your dog from pulling or tugging on its leash, you need to have the right tools for the job.
- Correct Canine Harness System
Choosing the right dog harness system matters a lot when it comes to correcting the lead-pulling behavior of dogs. One very important concept here is the “opposition reflex” we mentioned in the beginning of this article.
The opposition reflex comes from the word “oppose”. It should be self-explanatory, but we’ll try to explain it anyway. If there is pressure coming from one direction, the natural reaction is to go against this direction. As such, if the pressure is from the front moving towards the back, the tendency is the organism to move forward.
When picking a dog harness system, it is best to get one with a leash attachment point located at the front. This harness design may not prevent your dog from pulling, but it sure can dissuade it from doing so. The secret is simple. If the dog pulls on its lead, it will rotate its behind towards the front. This is not a natural way to “pull” or move forward.
Do not get a harness with the leash attachment point at the back. If it pulls, it also pulls on the chest plate. The movement of the chest plate is backwards. Hence, by virtue of the opposition reflex, the dog will tug on the leash with greater force.
- Correct Length of Leash
Always pick a leash that is no longer than 4 feet in length. This gives you better control of the movement of your dog. You will also be able to see the changes in the lead’s length if the dog begins to pull. Stay away from retractable dog leashes. They may look fancy and sophisticated, but these often come with thin cords.
- Yummy Dog Treats
Dog treats are great tools to use as rewards for dogs during training. The trick here is to use treats to reinforce the behavior that you want from your dog. Whenever you see that behavior you expect, you give the dog its tasty treat. For this to be more meaningful, the treat should not be the dog’s ordinary kibble. It has to be something special. Slices of cooked chicken, beef, or turkey should be a real treat.
Practice in an Area that is Free of Distractions
A pet owner has to keep in mind that one of the reasons dogs tug on their leash is if they see something very interesting. They have the curiosity levels of a preschooler that they want to go straight to whatever caught their attention and investigate. They pull whenever they are presented with the opportunity to explore something worthwhile. Do not give them this chance. Otherwise, you will never be able to address the issue of lead-pulling. Remember that the outside environment offers a lot of opportunities for exploration.
It is also for this reason that you should start addressing your dog’s tendency to pull in a safe and distraction-free place. It is important to minimize distractions. The more that that a dog sees, hears, or smells during training, the more it will be difficult to maintain its focus on the training.
The best place to train your dog is in a big room in your house. You can remove or control potential distractions. The backyard will also be a good place to conduct your training. Make sure to manage any distraction, however. You can train your pet at the dog park, provided there are no other dogs around.
Keep Your Dog’s Attention on You
The key to walking a pet dog without ever pulling on its lead is to keep its focus and attention on you. We mentioned that the outdoors can offer many interesting opportunities. Hence, you must be prepared to offer your dog more interesting things.
This is where having a treat-filled pouch on your belt comes in. Having ready access to yummy treats allows you to turn yourself into a very “interesting” person. The key here is to reward the dog with a treat every time it walks with you and at your pace. This teaches the dog that walking at your pace beside you, will ensure it a delicious treat.
Start walking with your dog by your side. Walk at a comfortable pace. Always think that this is your walk and you are only taking your dog along. Hence, you should take charge.
The pattern here is easy to follow. After every several steps, you issue a verbal cue or you use a clicker. Soon after marking the behavior, reward the dog with the delicious treat. For example, you can walk about 5 to 8 steps before saying “yes” or activating the training clicker. Right after doing so, reward your dog.
But why 5 to 8 steps? Well, this is your dog’s first time. It is best to keep it interested in the walk by offering more frequent treats. If not, your dog’s attention can shift to what the environment has to offer. You can always increase the number of steps taken before giving a treat. This happens in a gradual manner, however.
When walking, watch the tension on the leash. It should be loose. The ideal form is that the leash will somehow form a curve from its tip at the dog harness to the handle. This means it is never in a straight line.
If you sense that the leash is already tightening or that the “curve” is becoming smaller and straighter, stop walking. Do not pull on the lead. If your dog stops, too, stand your ground. Do not move. Wait for your dog to come back to you at your side. You may also call its name so that it knows what you want it to do. Show your pet the yummy treat. This will entice it to return to your side.
Once the pet is by your side, mark the behavior and reward. You are now ready to resume your walk.
Give treats only if your dog is walking beside you or if the leash is loose. If the dog pulls, stop walking. Call it back and give the treat only when it is already beside you. Do not go to your dog. Let it come to you.
Play a Game: The Penalty Yards
If your goal is to keep your pet walking beside you all the time, then you can play the Penalty Yards game. It is like a game of football, advancing the ball towards the goal post. The only difference is that you do not get to restart the “play” at the line where the ball stopped.
To play this game. Place a dog treat some 20 feet from an imaginary starting line. It should be far enough to allow for some walking distance, but not too far that your dog won’t see the yummy treat. From the “line of scrimmage”, walk with your dog at a comfortable pace.
If the dog tugs on the leash, you stop and walk your dog back to the starting line. Restart the entire game. Every time your dog pulls on the lead, you stop and return to the “line of scrimmage”. Do not stop and then resume the walk right there and then.
You are teaching your dog to walk beside you. If it wants to reach the goal (the treat), then it should walk beside you. If you resume on the same position where you stopped, your dog will not mind. At least, it is now closer to the treat than you when you started.
As such, if it pulls, then you have to stop and return to the starting line. It is its penalty for pulling on the lead.
Play a Game: Follow Me
While walking, you can incorporate a few games. One great game is the Follow Me game. This is easy.
With your dog walking by your side, come to a complete stop. Your dog should stop as well. Now move a few steps backwards until the leash is taut enough. If you trained your dog well enough, its reaction will be to turn and walk towards you. It will settle beside you. Mark the behavior and give its treat the moment your dog reaches you.
This is a neat trick to incorporate, but only when your dog has already mastered the basics of walking beside you.
Teaching your dog to not pull on its lead is not easy. However, with patience and these tips, you can enjoy more comfortable walks with your pet.