Any suggestions on how to get my dog to stop pulling on the leash when we walk?
Leash skills are one of the most important things we can teach our dogs. They need walks every day (and let’s face it, it wouldn’t hurt us, either). Pulling on the leash makes walking a chore, instead of something enjoyable we and our dogs can do together.
First, let’s discuss the type of leash you are using. It’s best to use a four to six foot nylon, rope or leather leash and to stay away from retractable leashes. Retractable leashes can break, and make controlling your dog tough. Next, choose a side of your body to walk him on. Choose the side that’s comfortable for you, but remember—every person who walks him needs to walk him on the same side. This provides consistency, and lets him know he must follow the rules for every walker.
When you walk, it’s important to hold the leash at a length that will keep him at your side, and not in front of you. Once you have him at your side, begin walking. If he starts to pull, stop walking, and put him in a sit at your side. As soon as he’s calm, give him the command “let’s go,” and start walking again. The moment he begins to pull, stop again, and put him in a sit. This process teaches him that in order to get what he wants (to walk), he must not pull. If he pulls, he doesn’t get to continue moving. It’s probably going to take you a while to finish your walk while walking like this, but stick to it! Don’t give in, or he will never learn he must play by your rules.
There are also some tools you can try that make walking a lot easier for both you, and your dog. The two I like to recommend to my clients are the Gentle Leader and Easy Walk Harness. Let’s start with the Gentle Leader.
The Gentle Leader is my favorite, but cannot be used on breeds that don’t have much of a muzzle, like Pugs and Old English Bulldogs. The Gentle Leader is essentially a horse bridle. It has a nose strap that goes around the nose of the dog, but is not a muzzle, so the dog can still eat, drink, yawn, and even bite. (Aggression is another topic, for another day). The nose loop attaches to the leash under the chin, and the neck strap buckles behind the ears. When the dog starts to pull, the neck strap creates gentle pressure behind the dog’s ears, which is uncomfortable, so he stops pulling, and comes back to your side. The Gentle Leader is a great option for most dogs. I just love it!
The Easy Walk harness is just like any other harness, except it attaches to the leash on the chest, rather than between the shoulders of the dog. Because it attaches on the chest, it creates gentle pressure behind the dog’s front legs when he begins to pull. This corrects him for you, and is slightly uncomfortable for him, so he will stop pulling. This harness is a great choice for breeds with short muzzles like Pugs and Old English Bulldogs.
Both the Gentle Leader and Easy Walk harness should be fit by a professional dog trainer to make sure they fit and work properly. Both can be purchased at Petco, Petsmart, Centinela Feed, or Amazon.
Hope one of these methods work for you and your dog, Jill! Good luck! WOOF!
Alexandra (Alex) Macias has been a certified Dog Trainer and Behavior Specialist since 2008, and is the owner of Alex Macias Dog training, a Long Beach-based dog training company. To ask Alexandra questions for a future article, leave them in the comments below, or email her firstname.lastname@example.org.