How to stop your dog pulling on lead.
To stop your dog pulling on lead, you DO NOT need:
-To punish them
- A head collar
- A choke chain
- An anti-pull harness
- To teach them who is the boss
What you DO need:
- Tasty treats
- A fixed lenth lead (ideally a training lead such as the Halti lead with two clips).
- A flat, non tightening collar
- I would also recommend a well fitting harness, with a back clip.
First things first we have to decide what our goal is. I do not teach any dogs I work with (or my own dogs) 'heel'. Heel is typically where the dog is required to walk very close to the person's leg, usually always on the same side, without walking ahead or behind. Now if you are doing competitve obedience, then fine, you do you. However for day to day dog walks I really hate seeing dogs walking to heel.
If your dog is glued to your leg they can't sniff, they can't rummage about in the undergrowth, they can't say hi to other dogs or people, they can't go to the toilet etc etc.
Instead I teach 'loose lead' (as do many other trainers). The aim of the game is simply that your dog is not pulling, so the lead is loose. I don't mind if they walk on my right, or my left, or if they occassonally switch sides. I don't mind if they walk ahead of me or behind. I like to be able to move them from one side to the other (for example I always walk between my dogs and the road when on a pavement).
Not only is this much easier to teach, it also allows your dog to do dog stuff and enjoy it's walk more, whilst also making the walk more enjoyable for you as you aren't being dragged off in to the distance.
Things to remember:
- Most dog's naturally walk faster than most people. They aren't trying to be dominant, or take over the world, they just like a brisk walk so will often be ahead of you.
- Give your dog chance to look around, sniff and enjoy their walk.
- If you want to do a power walk with no sniffing breaks, do that on your own time, not your dog's walk time.
- This is a tricky skill for many dogs and it will take practice. Start with short sessions in areas where they are less likely to pull (not on the way to their favourite place).
You don't need to say anything. I teach loose lead without a verbal cue (usually saying 'heel' is the cue/command). Instead I choose to use a method which makes the position of the lead the cue. This is why I recommend a double ended training lead along with a collar and harness. When you aren't training you have the lead clipped just to the harness. When you want your dog to start walking without pulling, move one of the clips to the collar. So there is one clip on the back of the harness, and one of the collar. This will become the signal which tells your dog that they will get rewarded for not pulling. When you have finished the training session simply unclip the lead from the collar and the dog can now go back to doing their own thing.
Reward your dog with a treat whenever their lead is loose. To start with give a treat every couple of steps. If they pull, just slow down and wait for them to look back, call them back to you and take a step or two forward before rewarding. Start with only about 30 seconds of loose lead at a time, before moving your lead to signal the end of the session.
Gradually you will be able to reduce the frequency of rewards, and increase the length of your training sessions (not both at the same time, change one variable at a time).
But I want my dog to not pull at all, why would I only do short sessions? This is a common question. Eventually your dog will be able to walk with a loose lead (almost) all the time. But whilst they are learning you need to keep sessions short and accept that outside of training they will still probably pull (although this will likely start to reduce too).
But I don't want to give my dog treats all the time. First of all I would ask why not? They don't need to be on top of your dog's daily food allowance, they can form part of it. But more importantly you don't actually need to (although you can if you like). The treats are an essential part of learning. But once your dog understands what they are being asked to do, and as long as the rate of rewards is slowly reduced you should still find your dog doesn't pull even if there aren't any treats on offer.
Why can't I just put a head collar on? Lots of dogs stop pulling if they are wearing a head collar. But lots of dogs also hate wearing them. They also tend to pull just as much when they aren't wearing them. Halters and head collars do not teach the dog what is expected of them, they simply discourage the pulling without giving instructions on what you would like them to do instead. Many dogs actually show behavioural suppression whilst wearing head collars due to fear.
If you are adament you want to use a head collar, and I do appreciate that in a few rare cases they are the best option, then please introduce them slowly and positively. Do not just stick them on and wait for your dog to stop panicking / trying to pull them off.
If you are struggling and walks are not enjoyable for you or your dog please seek expert help and support. It's far better to seek help for something small than wait until the problem is much bigger and harder to overcome.
Get out there, get training & most of all, have fun!