What’s so bad about your dog pulling on their leash?
Imagine the excitement your furry friend feels just knowing that they get to go explore the world, sniff the grass, roll in the leaves and pee on all of those trees! Is it any wonder that your pooch pulls you all around the neighborhood?
Leash and lead pulling can be more than just a pain for you, it can be painful and dangerous for your pup! In a study of 400 dogs by Anders Hallgren published in “Animal Behaviour Consultants Newsletter” in 1992, he found that “Pulling and jerking on the leash affect especially the neck and throat in the dog. As expected, there was no correlation between leash handling and thoracic/lumbar defects. However, one of the clearest correlations in the whole study was between cervical (neck) damages and ‘jerk and pull’. 91% of the dogs who had neck injuries had also been exposed to jerking on the leash by the owner or been allowed to pull hard on the leash for long periods of time.”
Ok, that’s awful. So tell me how to get a dog to stop pulling on their leash!
So the question is how do we stop it? As a former professional dog walker and head of operations for a large pet care company in Canada I have had the privilege of walking hundreds of different styles of dogs using everything from Collar-leash Combo, a Gentle Leader, Hands Free Dog Leash to the No-Pull Dog Harness, and I can say from experience that the best way that I have found to stop dogs from pulling doesn’t have nearly as much to do with the leash you use as it does with the consistency and repetition of the exact same series of events every single time your pup gets all pulley on you.
It makes your walks a little bit slower and a little tedious, but after consistent repetitive action; almost every single dog I ever walked who had a pulled on their leashes eventually calmed down and understood that slack on the leash was the best thing for both of us. Remember that until your pup is trained, the walk isn’t for you, it is for them.
Guide: How to get a dog to stop pulling on their leash!
Start with a short leash
This is a key part of the process because if you have a long leash and you allow your pup to bolt full speed to the end of it, neck injuries or trachea injuries may occur. Dogs can even get whiplash! Having a short leash also increases the amount of times you repeat your stop/go process by decreasing the time it takes for your dog to reach the end of their leash.
Stop every time your dog pulls on leash
This is where consistency comes into play! Every single time your pup starts to pull, you must stop, bring the dog’s attention towards you, relax their energy level and then continue with your walk until the next time your dog pulls on the leash. When I stop, I like getting down onto one knee, looking the dog in the eyes and saying calming words like “you don’t need to pull to have fun”.
Gradually lengthen the leash as slack times increase
Once your hound stops hounding you to go faster and pull harder on their short leash, you can start to let the leash out a little bit at a time. This longer leash strategy brings on a whole new host of potential distractions for rover. Instead of just focusing on walking by your side, now there are new sights, smells and a larger wandering area to confuse their decision making process and they might just forget that they are on a leash. If they start pulling excessively again, keep shortening the leash after every stop to make sure they stay focused and behave correctly.
Positive reinforcement and rewards when there are lapses of no pulling
After your beloved fur baby starts to get the hang of walking with slack on the line, they might get lost in a world of smells and overwhelms and they just might forget that they are on a leash while still staying within their “slack zone”. This is great and should be rewarded! Everyone rewards their dogs differently but I found that by keeping treats, like Fruitables Crunchy Dog Treats or bacon, in my pocket to reward my pups for their good behavior allowed me to control their energy when they started to pull. After anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of weeks; they simply understood how they could best walk in my presence.
Another reward for good leash behavior is time free from the leash! It is also important for dogs to have moments of pure freedom which is why many cities have been building more and more off leash parks. While some of them are fully fenced in, others have access to roadways so we always be careful and either explore the park on leash before “releasing the hounds” or ensure that your pups have great recall and will come to you when called.
Now that you know how to get a dog to stop pulling on a leash…
Here are my personal experience with specialty collars, leashes and harnesses.
A No-Pull Dog Harness: The dogs still pull, but pulling doesn’t choke them. Click to buy the Char’s Choice No-Pull Dog Harness from Amazon!
Hands free dog leash: Dog still pulls. Great if you have multiple dogs, or a very large dog and you are small. Click to buy Mighty Paw Hands Free Dog Leash from Amazon!
Gentle Leader: Dog won’t pull as much because it is very uncomfortable to pull. I don’t like using discomfort to train because once the discomfort goes away, they are right back to pulling. Click to buy the PetSafe Gentle Leader from Amazon!
Regular Leash: Dog will pull, it can be hard on their trachea if they are stubborn. A little hard to control the length without having both hands used to shorten. Requires more hand strength. Click to buy the Itery Pet Durable Dog Leash from Amazon!
Retractable Leash: Dog will pull, it is easier to release them to put less pressure on their trachea. This is my personal favorite as it allows me to increase or decrease the zone they are allowed to wander in at my will. Click to buy the Flexi Explore Retractable Dog Leash from Amazon (This dog leash is nearly indestructible!)
Whether you choose to use a regular Collar-leash Combo, a Gentle Leader, Hands Free Dog Leash, or a No-Pull Dog Harness, the best way to stop your dog pulling on their leash when they are out for a walk is consistent training.
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Sources used in article “how to get a dog to stop pulling on a leash”:
Essay Cited: Hallgren , Animal Behavior Consultants Newsletter July, 1992, V.9 No.2
Photo source: stocksnap.io