Good leash training is something millions of dog owners struggle with.
Believe it or not, it’s also a major factor in why there are so many dogs in rescue centers.
Not being able to properly control your dog while you’re out walking can cause embarrassment and danger.
It can be painful too!
If you’ve ever had a dog just take off pull your shoulder out of its socket you’ll know what I mean!
Even after loose leash training in basic puppy obedience classes, millions of dog owners struggle with their dogs pulling on the lead. They get frustrated, often to the point that going for a walk is often avoided.
So what’s the answer?
Well, in this article we’re going to look at leash training and how to stop your dog pulling on the lead.
The result is that you can both go out for a walk, have fun together and enjoy spending time in each others company. Once your dog has mastered loose lead walking, you can teach other commands like heeling, and ‘watch me‘.
But before we get into how to teach your dog to stop pulling on the lead, we first need to understand WHY he does it.
Why Do Dogs Pull On the Lead?
Many behaviorists believe that a dog pulling on the lead is a sign of dominance, that he wants to be alpha, top dog or pack leader.
Victoria Stilwell, on the other hand, believes this to be false;
“…dogs love to be outside, and the walk is a stimulating and exciting part of their day, so the desire to push ahead is very strong.
A leash, though vital for safety, can also be frustrating for a dog, because being ‘tied’ to a person essentially stops a dog’s ability to act naturally.”
Victoria Stilwell – Positively.com
If you’re a fan of Victoria’s training methods like we are, you can buy her book ‘Training Dogs Positively’ from amazon by clicking here.
Here’s the thing…
…Dogs and humans don’t make good walking partners.
Think about it.
Dogs have 4 legs whereas we only have two. They naturally walk at a quicker pace than we do.
They’re also stronger than we are so when you consider the excitement of being outside, pulling is going to happen.
With all that being said, our belief is that all dogs should be taught how to walk on a loose lead without being pulled, jerked, choked or shocked – yes, some people SHOCK their dogs!
All these methods can cause serious damage to your dog’s neck and throat.
3 Keys to Successful Leash Training
Before we get into the actual ‘how to’s’, let’s first start with 3 keys to successful leash training. These will make the whole experience easier, more comfortable and more fun for you and your dog.
After all, training should be fun!
Key #1: Invest in a No Pull Dog Harness
You might have noticed that when your dog has a lead around his neck or attached to his collar, he pulls a lot?
Well, this is caused by an opposition reflex known as Thigmotaxis which is an equal and opposite response to pressure.
Chances are you will have experienced it yourself when someone leans against. You lean back against them with the same amount or greater pressure to maintain a state of balance. So the feel of his lead or collar pulling against his neck actually causes him to push forward which makes the problem even worse.
You pull him back, he pushes forward.
By investing in a correctly fitting, no pull harness where the lead connects to a clip on the chest strap, your dog won’t feel the need to pull as much and if he does, you keep control because he will circle around to you.
We have reviewed the best no pull dog harnesses to make it easier for you to choose one.
Key #2: Exercise Your Dog BEFORE Going For a Walk
Dogs – especially puppies – have LOTS of energy.
If you try to leash training without exercising him and reducing his energy first, you’re going to have a hard time. Dogs with pent up energy cannot focus and they won’t listen to you.
Lead walking can’t be classed as exercise for your dog. Us humans don’t walk fast enough and we’re too boring because we walk in straight lines and don’t follow our noses.
So it’s a good idea to have a run a good run around the back garden, play a game of fetch, tog o’ war, or get them to chase one of these Flirt Poles, by Squishy Face (they’re awesome!) to reduce their energy levels.
Once your dog has spent some energy he will be able to concentrate more on you and what you want him to do more easily.
Key #3: Learn the Correct Leash Training Methods to Start With
Basic puppy training classes are all well and good but quite often they just aren’t enough. Very often more intense training is needed and by concentrating on a single skill you and your dog will learn much more quickly.
We’re also big advocates of positive reinforcement and rewarding the dog for behaving as we want them to. We don’t believe in getting frustrated and yanking, pulling and jerking the lead. Or telling them off when they don’t co-operate.
Start off lead training indoors so there are fewer distractions. Once he’s ‘got it’ take him out into the garden, this will be more difficult for your dog as there are more distractions. When he’s got it in the garden, it’s time to take him to the park or around the area you live in.
Also, keep training session short and fun and always end them with plenty of praise and fuss – even if they didn’t do so well!
How to Train Your Dog to Walk on a Loose Leash, Starting Indoors
Once your dog is listening to you it’s time to switch things up and become a bit more unpredictable. This will force him to listen to and follow you because he doesn’t know where you’re headed next.
And that’s pretty much all there is to it.
It’s a simple training method but just because it’s simple doesn’t mean it’s easy!
The key is to be consistent and be as stubborn as he is – every time he picks up the pace, issue the ‘lets’ go’ cue and change direction. It’s easy to let him get away with it sometimes but this will just cause confusion and your dog won’t know what you expect of him.
Consistency is so, so important!
Taking it Outside
Frequently Asked Questions
Leash training can be really challenging. It takes patience, consistency, determination, and some more patience.
Some dogs might pick it up pretty quickly while others can take a long time. If you’re struggling, here are some frequently asked questions;
“My Dog Walks Perfectly When Until He See’s Another Dog, Then He Pulls Like Crazy. How Do I Stop Him From Doing It?”
If your dog pulls heavily to greet other dogs, it’s not only embarrassing for you but the other dog’s owners can sometimes take exception to it.
Ideally, you want your dog to get used to meeting unfamiliar dogs calmly and there are a few ways this can be done;
- Use the training technique we’ve discussed. Turn around and walk away from the other dog. This will create some distance and give you time to get your dog to focus on you. Again, he needs to know that he doesn’t get where he wants by pulling. Once the lead is loose and he’s focused on you, try again.
- Instead of just walking face to face with another dog, try following them for a distance first. This is much less confrontational and you can also work on getting him to focus on you while you’re following. If he pulls, revert to the training technique above.
- Take a toy with you to give him something else to focus on and play with him. A rope toy is ideal for this – be more interesting to him than the other dog.
Dog obedience classes are ideal in this situation because this kind of training can be done using other dogs in a controlled environment.
Or, if you have a friend that has a really well-behaved dog, ask them for help and use their dog in these exercises.
He’s a video you might find useful: