Monday, September 15, 2014

How To Get Your Dog To Finally STOP Pulling On Leash

As the mother of a Siberian Husky, a breed that was meant to PULL, I know a thing or two about dogs pulling on leash!  Dogs practically dragging their owners down the block during walks is one of the most challenging behaviors. 

If there's tight tension on the leash and your dog is way out in front of you, you're not walking your dog, your dog is walking you!
Sadly, many owners stop walking their dogs altogether because they don't want to deal with being dragged down the block on walks.  I can relate, I went through a very challenging time getting Icy to finally stop pulling me halfway across the county during our walks!  Now I can honestly say that walking Icy is the joyful experience I always hoped it would be!  It took time and a lot of persistence, but it really paid off.  Here's how I got her to finally stop pulling on leash.

Your dog should be close to your side with a loose leash, not way out in front pulling you along with tension on the leash
First off,  begin training your dog to walk nicely on leash separately from potty walks.  If you try to train while also getting your dog to do his business, it usually doesn't work very well.  Set aside the extra training and walking time to focus solely on teaching your dog not to pull on leash.

PSYCHE YOUR DOG OUT
Curtailing leash pulling starts before you even reach for the leash or say the words "Wanna go for a walk"?  If your dog is in an excited state jumping up & down, spinning, or lunging toward the door as soon as he knows a walk is forthcoming, you'll have a tough time getting him to calm down once you're out the door.  His excitement will escalate and result in him walking you!

Quietly reach for your dog's leash & harness.  When your dog starts getting excited simply stand still without talking to or touching him. If he jumps up on you, turn your back on him. Wait a few minutes. Your dog should eventually sit down, which is a dog's default behavior when they don't know what else to do. Don't put the leash or harness on until your dog is calm.  If he hasn't sat down, put him in a sit and put the leash & harness on.  If he starts jumping around all excited again, firmly say "Ah, Ah!" and put the leash & harness away.  You may need to repeat the exercise several times before he learns that excited behavior means no walk, but a calm sit gets you to put the leash on.  If needed, put his leash on and let him walk around the house with it on in order to reduce excitement associated with the leash.  Don't give treats during this time, save the treats to reward later for walking without pulling.  Calm behavior is a very important first step.

Once the leash & harness are on, make your dog sit and wait at the door before you open it.  Go out the door first, then invite your dog to go through behind you.  If he's crowding you at the door, step in front of him and give the Sit/Wait command so he knows you own the entryway, the door, and ultimately the walk.  Don't get into a tugging match if he's resisting you at the door, simply close the door and wait until he acquiesces.  Walk away and try again later if needed.

USE THE RIGHT TOOLS
Like anything else worth doing, you need the right tools to get it done.  There are several effective tools that will help with your training.

A Head Halter is a type of collar that wraps around the dog's muzzle.  It gives you more control over his head; if you control the dog's head and nose you can better control where he goes.

You can find head halters at PetSmart and other pet supply stores.  Martha Stewart, Great Choice and other companies make head halters.
We used a head halter when Icy was a puppy, and later switched to a No Pull Harness. This is not the same as most of the harnesses you see hanging on the racks at the pet store.  You specifically need a no pull harness.  It typically has a ring in the front at the dog's chest, not on the top at the dog's back.  This type of harness has straps just behind the front legs that create pressure if the dog pulls, discouraging pulling.  Bring your dog to a pet supply store and ask them to help you find a no pull harness.  They should be able to help you select the right size and adjust the harness on your dog for you.  A regular harness can actually encourage pulling!

There are a few different kinds of no pull harnesses.  We use the one pictured here, by Easy Walk.  It made a huge difference on our walks.
Another helpful tool is to have your dog wear a doggie Backpack on walks.  Bring your dog to a pet supply store and ask them to help you choose one, and find the right size for him.  They can also help you determine how much weight your dog can safely carry in the backpack; usually no more than 10% of the dog's body weight.  We've used hand weights in the pack, but some people use canned food such as tuna or pet food as weights.

LET'S GO FOR A WALK!
Now that your dog is calm and you've got the right tools, you're ready to go for a walk!

It might be helpful to start the training in the yard where there are fewer distractions.  Once you've got it down in the yard, then hit the streets.  Remember to start with your dog in a calm state, make sure you go out first and that he waits at the door for you to escort him out.  Once you cross the doorway, stay in front of him.  When he tries to lunge ahead of you, STOP.  Stand still until he stops pulling or sits down.  Call him back to your side.  You'll do this many times, be patient and don't give up!  Know that the first day you may not even make it out of the driveway.  That's ok, it's the training and behavior, not the walk itself that's important.

When your dog walks properly next to you, praise and treat him.  Don't treat if he's lunging ahead.  The goal is to get him to stay by your side and focus on you.   Treat every few steps at first to get & keep his focus on you.  When he lunges ahead, say "Ah, Ah!" firmly and STOP. Your goal is to teach him that he goes nowhere if he's pulling.  The more he walks nicely by your side the further he gets to walk and the more treats & fun he has.

Another way to gain his focus, in addition to stopping, is to change direction quickly and often.  As you're walking down the street, as soon as you see tension start on the leash immediately turn and walk in the opposite direction.  Your dog will need to focus on you in order to keep up with your changes in direction!

Everyone in the household who walks the dog should follow this process.  If everyone isn't consistent it will be much harder to change the behavior.


Walking together is a pleasure when your dog isn't dragging you halfway across the county!
 Leave us a comment and tell us how your dog walks on leash.  Have you had to overcome any leash walking challenges?

12 comments:

  1. Great tips! I especially like number one. I guess I've never thought much about getting them all excited, but it makes a lot of sense to avoid that with a puller. My dog will pull sometimes, but she's pretty good most of the time.

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    1. Glad you like the tips! Excited behavior definitely won't make for a calm walk without pulling. Thanks for visiting the blog, Ann!

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  2. Some great tips. luckily, my guys aren't pullers, but we see lots of dogs that are. Patience is so important.

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    1. You are lucky you don't have leash pullers, it's such a challenge. Patience is definitely a virtue with all things dog! Thanks for stopping by!

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  3. I'm blessed to not have a puller with Harley. We do lunge however at motorcycles, and bicycles. I'm working on that now!

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    1. It's great that Harley isn't a puller. Catching the lunging behavior just before it starts is the key but it's not easy! Thanks for visiting the blog!

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  4. Love your tips. Thanks for sharing!
    ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!

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    1. Thanks Jenna! Huskies & pulling kind of go together don't they - BOL! Thanks for stopping by!

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  5. It is sad that many dogs that pull their owners and the owners don't know how to get this under control, well, the pet parents gives up and the dog no longer goes on walks. This is not only bad for their health but can also cause depression in dogs. Great post to help people get control and get back to walking their dogs.

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    1. You are absolutely right, it's important to work hard to get the behavior under control. Walking is a critical activity for dogs and an important bonding activity for dog & owner. Thanks for your comments on this, Suzanne!

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  6. Good tips! Love head collars. They are great for pullers.

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    1. Thanks! I agree, they really help a lot. Thanks for stopping by Shannon!

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