Leash pulling.... This one thing can make your dogs walk such a torture for you, right?
Fact is that the natural walking speed of dogs is more than double than that from humans. That’s where the first problem starts. Then also, some dogs want to follow their nose to explore some things how nature tells them to do. We on the other hand need to have control over our on leashed dogs and want to enjoy our walks. So we need to train our dogs not to pull. In some cases, that requires some serious impulse control for some dogs and is hard work for them.
To enjoy a walk properly with a nice loose leash, both, the dog and the owner have to make things work.
Let’s start with the training part of the dog and we’ll get to you later!
One important thing your dog has to learn is, that he can never move forward if he pulls. So you need to be 110% consistent in your expectations of your dog to not be pulling.
If you have a puller, in the beginning that means, as soon as you put a leash on your dog, you are training your dog, every single step of the way and are making sure that he can not pull. That’s where most people fail. Sometimes we just would like to go for a casual stroll without having to constantly either stop, change direction, lure with food or correct the dog for not pulling. So in those occasions, when people don’t feel like training but casually want to stroll along, they simply accept the pulling. What this does, it gives the dog the message that sometimes he can pull and sometimes he can’t. This makes absolutely no sense to your dog so he will decide that if he feels like walking faster than you, he will pull and he may or may not move forward faster to where he wants to go.
Another problem that this can cause is desensitization to the leash pressure. Often times I meet dogs that are totally desensitized against any leash pressure. Most of the time, these are dogs that have been strongly pulling for several years. So if you have a dog that’s pulling on the leash that is still young I would recommend that you are starting training asap to stop that. Once a dog has learned that pulling gets him somewhere, it’s much harder to solve no matter the training tool.
Now what if you just want to do a casual stroll? Is that even possible with a dog that is pulling heavily? In those instances where you just don’t feel like training your dog on your walk, there are management tools that can assist you. A management tools is a training tool that will reduce the pulling without you having to intervene too much it will however in most cases not teach the dog to not pull at all when on a regular collar. Many people choose management tools as a long term solution and are very happy about the results.
Here is a suggestion of management tools: Head Halter (Halti), Prong Collar, Cani Collar, Front Clip Harness / Freedom Harness or other “No Pull” Harnesses
It is very important to acknowledge that the dog needs to be conditioned to these management tools, so that you are not hurting or damaging your dog in any way. All of these are training tools only and each and every single one of them can cause damage to your dog if not used properly and if in the wrong hands. If you are unsure on how to properly condition your dog to one of these tools, or which tool is the best for your dog AND for you, please contact a pet professional for advice. But as it says, it’s a management tool that you may or may not use forever… that is your choice in the end.
Now let’s look at the other part!
One of the biggest secrets to solve leash pulling is YOU! Yes you may be the reason your dog is still pulling even though he knows how to properly heel.
Once your dog has mastered the basics of adjusting to your speed, meaning basically he knows how to but sometimes his own mind gets him in the way, there other factors that come into play that only you have control of.
Your body language can make a huge difference between a tense and a loose leash. If you are not relaxed neither will your dog be. Whenever you are walking your dog, your body should be totally relaxed, your hand should only loosely have to hold on to the leash (enough that your dog can’t escape of course) your arm should be straight and swinging naturally. There should be no tension coming from your body that transfers into leash. I you might have heard that your energy goes right through the leash? Yup, it’s true! Dog’s feel the tension in your body, even if it’s coming from your mind.
Many clients I encounter are holding on tightly to the leash and are constantly pulling up their arm slightly at all the times because that’s what they are used to with their dog because of the previous constant pulling. They always had to hold their dog back. I have to repeatedly tell them to relax their body and their arm and hand, and with them the dog will relax and often times stop pulling. I’m not saying that will solve all of your pulling problems. But it’s a big part of it.
Structure throughout the walk. A walk should be something between you and the dog. Not just THE DOG. It should be something that you do together. You are on a mission of exercise together. That means you walk “together”. Your dog shouldn’t be stopping to sniff or lift his leg whenever he wants and whenever his nose tells him to. You should be the one that makes up the rules of the walk. There is “together” time and there is “dog” time. The “together” time should always be about 2/3 of the walk where the other 1/3 can be dog time. In the dog’s time, you can stop where YOU want and let him sniff for a while do his business etc. and then when he’s done you move on. If you let your dog pull you over to this tree and that fire hydrant or the dog over there, he learns again that by pulling towards what he wants, he will move to where he wants. So you are allowing pulling and are not 100% consistent.
And there it comes….
Consistency. Aahhhh, aren’t you tired of hearing dog trainers ramble about this all the time? Well, it’s because it’s sooooooooooooooo important! I think we are sometimes annoyed ourselves telling it every body over and over again. But without 100% consistency you may never reach your goal to your full satisfaction. So if you are expecting your dog not to pull, be consistent about your expectations.
Now it’s on you! You know how you play a part in this loose leash walking thing. If you need assistance, we trainers are happy to help you! Happy Training!
About the author:
Simone Krebser - CPDT: Owner and head dog trainer of K9 Possible Dog Training serving the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia from Osoyoos to Penticton and Kelowna with result based dog training. Certified dog trainer, certified pet first aid instructor, member of the IACP, dog crazy and chocolate/cheese addict. “My life revolves around dog’s day in and out and I wouldn’t have it any other way. It is my goal to help enhance the lives of as many dogs (and their owners) as possible. Your dog is my priority and I’m as committed to your dog as you are. But I can only help those who sincerely want to help their dogs and not only themselves.”