How to Stop Leash Pulling
If your walks with your dog resemble more of a dog sled race, where you’re the sled, then your dog has a leash pulling problem. There are a lot of reasons why your dog may be struggling with this. They may have too much energy or low self-control, or they may be very focused on whatever their trigger is. Your dog might also be struggling with fear or anxiety. Another reason could be that not pulling was never included in their training. As you can see there is a handful of potential reasons your dog is having trouble on walks.
No matter the reason, it’s fixable! Here are a few reminders before we continue: If your dog has specific triggers that cause them to pull, you’ll need to train them in the presence of the stimulant. However, if it’s anxiety to blame, you’ll need to work with that before you can address the pulling! We have another article about calming your anxious pets. Feel free to check it out here.
Check Your Equipment
Equipment is the most manageable problem to fix. Your dog pulling on walks could be because of the type of harness that you are using. A reliable solution is a gentle leader. The design keeps your dog safe and should help them stop pulling by putting pressure on their face instead of their neck or chest. It even comes with a back clip harness that you can hook to their collar. If that gentle leader does not work, you can always use a prong collar. While scary looking, I assure you they are perfectly safe to use as long as they are applied correctly. They are safer to use than flat collars since they protect their throat by evenly applying pressure around the neck. Consult your vet for suggestions based on your dog’s breed. As for leashes, retractable or rubber leashes can be a problem. These leads can teach your dog that there should be tight pressure and encourage them to pull more, and you don’t want that! Choose a leash that has little to no give instead.
Another possibility is that your dog is too energetic to stay calm, and they need to release some of that excess energy before the walk. Have a play session with your pup before heading out on your walk. You might be surprised by how much of a difference it makes in your dog's pulling. Ideally, your four-legged friend will want to walk at the same speed as you and will be a little calmer.
What motivates your dog? It may change from day-to-day. If they like to play while walking, you can bring toys along with you. If they are cuddly and affectionate all the time, give them lots of attention and praise when they are behaving as you want! Make sure to bring some small treats too, if that's a motivating factor.
As with all training, consistency is critical, especially with dog training. Pulling against a collar, even the safe ones, can cause damage if they pull too often or too hard. You want to make sure that your dog stops the pulling habit as quickly as possible. If they start to tug, then you need to stop all movement immediately. Giving in, even if it is only once, will be a considerable setback in your efforts. It is for everyone's benefit that you do not allow your dog to pull you!
Just remember, you’ll need a healthy supply of patience too. If this behavior has been going on for a long time, it will take a lot of patience to match. For an in-depth breakdown of specific techniques based on your dog’s unique situation, check out this article. With any luck, after a bit of training, you shouldn’t be coming home from your walk with sore arms anymore!