Updated: Nov 20, 2022
When we make the decision to bring a dog or young puppy into our family we envision long, relaxing walks in the countryside. Unfortunately reality can be a lot different. Instead of peaceful walks to the park you end up getting dragged down the road, which can not only be frustrating for us humans but also dangerous! After a walk you could start suffering from a sore shoulder, back or worse if your dog managed to pull you to the ground.
Let's take a look at three ways to reduce lead pulling
Having the right lead walking equipment will make a huge difference. I like to use a front clip harness. This can reduce the pulling slightly and give you a bit more control. Using a harness takes the pressure off your dog's neck. If your dog is an extreme puller and the lead is attached to their neck this can cause some serious damage. Pulled neck muscles, shoulder problems or thyroid issues when your dog is older.
Our human logic would like to think that if our dog's are in pain, having the lead attached to their necks will stop them pulling! However our dogs can't make that connection. They just learn that in order to reduce the pain they should pull their human faster towards the park where they get let off lead which will stop the pain on their neck!
As well as getting a comfortable harness with a back and front clip harness, I would also recommend getting a longer flat lead. A lead that is about 2 meters long. Less tension on the lead will help towards reducing lead pulling. When your lead is short and tight your dog will feel restricted and their natural reaction is to pull away.
The last bit of equipment but also one of the most important is a treat bag. When we teach our dogs to walk on a loose lead we want to reward them when they are in the right position. This would ideally be walking calmly next to you with a slack lead. This is where a treat bag comes in handy. The last thing you want is crumbs left in your jacket pockets or rustling in a plastic bag to try and get the treat out. In order to reward our dogs at the correct time we need to be quick with the rewards. Having an easy access treat bag will make such a difference in your training, trust me!
2. Slow the walk down
It may sound odd to slow the walk down when your dog is trying to walk down the road at 100 miles an hour but by slowing your pace down and letting your dog "stop to smell the roses" you will start to notice a big difference to your walks. Oftern when we take our dogs out for a walk we feel that we have to walk around the block every time, even if we only have 20 minutes to get around before we start work. This then makes us feel rushed. Every time our dog stops to sniff, we pull them away, hurrying them along. Our dogs then start to feel stressed and rushed and before you know it the whole walk ends up being stressful for both of you.
Try for the next two weeks to let your dog stop and sniff. Be conscious of the pace you are walking and slow it right down to a stroll. If you only have 20 minutes then don't worry about getting all the way round. Walk half way then turn around and walk back home, preferably on the other side of the road so that your dog has new smells to investigate.
Teaching your dog to walk on a loose lead can take time and a lot of patience. The overall idea is to communicate to your dog that a loose lead means tasty treats and access to more sniffing. The other part is teaching them that pulling equals you stop and you can't have access to the things you want.
If your dog pulls you all the way to the park and as soon as they get to the park their lead is un-clipped and off they go then your dog will carry on pulling because for them the pulling is reinforced by having access to the park.
How do you teach loose lead walking?
Always start your training in the house. Teach your dog that if they walk next to you, you will give them a tasty small reward. Your dog will likely catch on quickly because there are no other distractions in the house and it is a lot easier for them to focus just on you and what they need to be doing. Once your dog is reliably walking by your side in the house you can start taking the training outside. You will properly need to reward highly to start off with, every 1-2 steps then start to increase the amount of steps between each reward.