Tips & Training
7 Simple Tips to Stop Leash Pulling
Does your dog always take you for a walk? Learn these 7 easy-to-follow tips to stop your dog pulling on the lead.
Photography: Katy & Shell
Note from the Editors:
Many people think Ziggy was named after Bowie’s flashy alter-ego, Ziggy Stardust. Sadly the truth is far less rock-and-roll!
Ziggy was a zig-zagger from the get-go – our walks involved him darting from one side of the path to the other, with a level of enthusiasm our shoulder joints weren’t prepared for.
Thankfully Ziggy grew out of his zig-zagging phase, but his tendency to pull on his leash? Not so much. As walking on a leash should be something we enjoy doing together, recently we decided to correct his pulling for good.
By following these 7 simple tips by professional dog trainer Steffi Trott, owner and founder of SpiritDog Training, we’ve seen a big improvement in Ziggy’s walking and pulling on the lead (now, if someone could just tell Ziggy the neighbourhood cats are not out to get him…!)
If your dog is a puller and you’d like to make your walks together a fun and stress-free experience, read Steffi’s 7 easy-to-follow tips below to stop your dog pulling on the lead for good.
#1 Use the right leash
Teaching your dog to walk well on leash starts with using the right leash. Do not use retractable leashes for dogs that pull – because they teach your dog that by pulling, he gets to go where he wants! You should also not use an extra short leash. Some pet stores sell leashes as short as 3 feet. This length makes it impossible for the dog to not pull.
The best leash for leash walking practice is a standard 6 foot leash.
#2 Don’t practice with a wound-up dog
In order to do well during your walks, your dog should not be too wound up. If he has been waiting in his crate for you to come home all day, he needs some time to run and romp before going on a walk. Whenever possible, give your pup some other form of exercise first, such as playing fetch in the yard, letting him run around with a doggy friend or playing a game of tug.
#3 Grab some treats
Dogs learn best by being rewarded for what they are doing right (rather than being reprimanded for doing things wrong). If you are struggling with your dog’s leash manners, you should always leave the house with treats. You can give some to your dog as soon as you step outside the door – that way he will know that you have something great to offer in exchange for good manners!
The more often you reward your dog for standing by your side, the better. You can even do this inside your house – just 5 minutes spent giving your dog treats for being next to you in your living room will go a long way towards building value for this behavior.
#4 Turn (and turn and turn and turn …)
If your dog is pulling while walking, the best thing you can do is to turn around. A dog who pulls does so because he wants to keep on going and going and going. And the best way to interrupt and correct this behavior is to not allow him to keep on going when he tugs on the leash.
In the beginning, this might mean that you are turning around essentially the entire time. Perhaps you do not actually make it further than 30 feet in each direction before having to turn again! That is completely normal. Be consistent – the better you react to pulling with turning, the faster your dog will understand that pulling does not work anymore.
#5 Practice often
Leash pulling is a very ingrained behavior for many dogs. If your pup has pulled on the leash for weeks, months or even years; do not expect this to be changed in a single training session. You need to make up for all the times your dog rehearsed the bad behavior by proving many training sessions of practicing good leash manners.
The more often you can train, the faster your dog will become better. The length of training does not matter as much as the frequency. It is much more effective to train 2-3 times a day for 10 minutes each time than to train once a week for 2 hours.
#6 Work with one dog at a time
If you have several dogs, do not try to teach them to walk well on a leash all at once. This is going to fail! It is impossible to train two, three or even four dogs well at the same time. When you are working with a pup, he needs your full attention in order to give his best. You can either train several dogs one after the other, or you can ask a family member or friend to work with one dog as you are training the other.
Once your pups can walk well individually, you can take them on walks together again.
#7 Watch out for unrelated behavioral issues
Sometimes leash walking is confused with other behavioral problems such as reactivity or anxiety. If your dog only pulls the leash in specific circumstances (such as when he sees other dogs that he lunges at, or when he hears sounds that freak him out), chances are leash walking training alone will not help with this.
Dogs can pull on leash when they are stressed, scared, aggressive or anxious. These issues can develop into difficult problems rapidly. If you observe that your dog is pulling on leash and getting very worked up, you should consult a professional dog trainer to prevent further progression of these issues.
3 stylish no-pull harnesses we love
These easy-walk, no pull dog harnesses are not only effective ways to teach your dog to walk on a leash, they offer much better comfort and control for both dog and owner. Bonus points for being ultra-chic too!
- Tiggy Leather Dog Harness (Non-Pull Design) by Nice Digs
- Newtown OG No-Pull Harness by Stylish Hound
- Black Mosaic Hemp Harness by Mog & Bone
We hope the above tips will help you get started today to transform your dog’s ‘enthusiastic’ walking habits. Remember to have fun and practice, practice, practice!
About Spirit Dog Training
Steffi Trott is the owner and founder of SpiritDog Training. Originally training dogs in-person, she added online training in 2018 to her business. Steffi strives to provide game-based, positive training solutions for owners and their dogs, including helping dog parents every day to fix their dogs’ poor leash manners and make walks a joy for everyone.
When she is not training other owners’ dogs she competes in dog agility or hikes in the New Mexico and Colorado wilderness with her own 4 dogs.
Find Spirit Dog Training:
Photography: Katy & Shell