How to Stop Your Dog From Pulling on a Lead
Being a new dog owner may bring you anxiety about training your dog, including stopping them from pulling on a lead. Or you may have had your dog a while and want to stop this behaviour, either way there are ways to stop your dog from pulling when on a walk.
The most common method for preventing and stopping this behaviour utilises positive reinforcement with dog treats. We will cover this in more depth below.
Preventing this Behaviour
Getting a puppy or new dog is very exciting, it is tempting to let them pull on their lead because their excitement is just so adorable. But the best way to make sure your dog does not pull on their lead is to prevent them from learning this behaviour in the first place. It is especially important to get your puppy used to their lead as soon as possible, before taking them for their first walk, try to get your puppy used to being on the lead either inside the house or in your garden. Your best friend when training your puppy is, as with most training, going to be natural dog treats. Dogs are very food driven animals and a food-based reward can greatly help improve positive behaviours. Many studies have also shown that rewarding positive behaviour is a much more effective training technique than punishing negative behaviours.
So, how do you prevent this behaviour? When your dog begins to pull on its lead, which it will do as an excited puppy wanting to explore, shorten the lead and pull them back to walk at your side. When they walk at your side without pulling, reward them with a natural dog treat. Make sure to give them praise as well as when you phase out the treat for pure praise, they will associate praise with good memories of treats. However, when they pull try not to say anything or shout as your voice will make them think you are giving them attention. Instead, pull the lead back sharply and ignore them until they start walking without pulling. Then you are free to shower your pooch in loving praise.
A common reason that a dog will pull on its lead is because it has seen something exciting, such as another dog. Socialising your puppy at a young age is a very good idea as they will be used to seeing other dogs and will therefore be less likely to pull. Puppy training classes are very popular and use a lot of accredited training techniques. These classes will help you to socialise your puppy and also help get them properly lead trained. Just make sure you implement these techniques outside of the puppy class as well.
How do I stop this behaviour?
If your dog has already learnt this behaviour, perhaps from not being properly lead trained as a puppy, you can still stop them from pulling. It will be a little harder trying to get them to ‘unlearn’ pulling on a lead, but it involves a very similar process. Once again you will need lots of natural and healthy treats for your dog. Giving them these treats when they walk how you want them too and ignoring them when they are not behaving. After a short while when your dog starts pulling less, decrease the amount of time you give them a treat. This will slowly phase the behaviour out and make sure that they don’t purposefully pull so that they can stop and be rewarded with a treat.
Another method to try is to take away something they like when they start pulling. The best way to implement this is by stopping the walk completely when they start pulling on their lead. This may seem a lot more inconvenient and time consuming but it is more effective with dogs that have learnt it is okay to pull on their lead because it shows them that they are no longer allowed to get away with it. If you are to try this method, make sure to allot extra time for your walk so that you can take the time to properly train them.
Types of leads
Different dogs will react different to various types of leads and harnesses, so sometimes it can purely be a case of finding the right fit for your dog. There are various companies that have also manufactured ‘no-pull’ harnesses and leads which give you greater control. This can also greatly help prevent pulling, although it is not a substitute for proper lead training.
My own mother’s dog hated her collar, she would always pull to try and get it off her neck. We found that substituting her to a harness made her much happier on walks and she instantly pulled a lot less. There are also types of leads called shock absorber leads, when a dog tries to pull on one the lead will pull them back for you whilst reducing the amount of pull that you feel. This helps to train the dog to realise that pulling on the lead doesn’t have any benefit. Rewarding your dog with healthy treats for them also helps this reinforcement.
The two most used leads are standard nylon and extendable leads. There is a lot of debate as to which yields better walking behaviour. Some say that standard leads are better as you have more control whereas some say that extendable are better as the dog has more walking range and is therefore less likely to pull. It is up to you which type of lead you use but as long as you train your dog correctly you should not have an issue with either.
Should I punish my dog?
If your dog is pulling on their lead, it can be very frustrating and make the walk a miserable experience. That being said, you shouldn’t punish your dog. Pulling behaviours come from both being excited and from the unfamiliarity of the lead. If you punish your dog, for example by shouting or smacking, it can actually lead to bad behaviours in the future. If you punish your dog it is more likely to grow fearful and exhibit more undesirable behaviours, such as urinating indoors, so being patient and taking the time to properly lead train your dog is a much more effective method in the long run.
The best punishment for a dog is simply to ignore them. Whilst some dogs are afraid of shouting, others think that you are trying to join in their barking. Ignoring them produce the best responses in your dog without making them fearful of you or impacting their happiness.
I’ve tried all of these and my dog still pulls, what should I do?
If you have tried training your dog with treats and have tried different leads and harnesses, it is possible it is an underlying behavioural condition. In some cases of extreme pulling, it may be worth taking a trip to your vet to see if there are any behavioural or medical problems causing this. Or if you are simply struggling and are not able to get your dog to stop pulling on its lead, you can take your dog to puppy training classes or a professional dog trainer to try and alter these behaviours.
What type of treats should I use?
Since treats are a big part of lead training, you want to make sure that the treats you are giving them are natural and healthy for your dog. The treats we sell are air dried with no unhealthy additives, perfect for reinforcing good behaviours in your dog. You can also guarantee that your pooch is going to be a huge fan of these treats. Making sure to give your dog good quality treats is almost as important as the training. Whilst good quality treats won’t make them instantly better at walking than unhealthy treats, it will help prevent health issues in later life which can lead to more undesirable behaviours. Also remember to always supervise your pooch when giving them a treat.
Step by step training
To summarise everything we have talked about, here’s a quick step by step training method.
- When your dog pulls give a sharp tug on the lead pulling them back to your side.
- When they calmly walk at your side give them a healthy treat and shower them in praise.
- Repeat for any future pulling incidents.
- Slowly phase out the amount of treats you give, but still shower them in praise.
- Your dog should be a happy walking companion. Just remember to still occasionally give treats and praise to reinforce this behaviour for the long term.