Imagine this, you're out walking, and your dog runs away tugging at your leash, causing them to strain their neck. What do you do?
This is a common behavior many dog owners face when they're taking them out for the first walk. The truth is, it takes some time and practice to get your dog used to not tugging and walking with you.
Today, we're here to make your lives easier by giving you top tips on how to stop your dog from pulling on a leash. But before we give you techniques, you need to know the following:
Why do dogs pull on a leash?
Most of the time, you'll find dogs will tug on a leash as they are excited to explore new surroundings. After all, dogs have primal instincts to hunt and search for their prey, which is why they like to go to new places.
Alongside new surroundings, they become excited by new odors, new people, and new animals.
On a further note, if your dog enjoys walking, you may find they will tug to initiate the walk or to suggest they want to be walked. Another reason is if they aren't used to walking that often, they could become scared and anxious, tugging to escape.
How can you stop a dog pulling on leash?
To stop a dog from pulling on a leash involves a lot of trial and error. The tips and tricks we state here may work for you or may not. It depends on your preferences and what your dog's personality is like. If it doesn't work at first, keep trying; you'll eventually get it right. To help you succeed, you may want to try the following tricks:
1. Use positive reinforcement
Have you heard of the operant conditioning method, positive reinforcement? If not, this is a behavioral method invented by a famous American psychologist B.F Skinner.
According to Simply Psychology, when good behavior occurs, it is rewarded. Nowadays, this technique does not just apply to humans, but dogs too. This is why you could use it for your dog.
When you're walking your dog, and it does not pull forward on its leash, i.e., it walks with a loose leash, you should reward it. Great rewards for your dog could be treats and toys, to use as an incentive to walk more with a loose leash.
2. Conduct obedience training
Another method to teach your dog not to pull on a leash is by using commands. Now, if your dog is not already trained, you should take it to obedience classes or teach it yourself.
First of all, an important command for them to learn is “steady” or “heel.” If they do choose to pull, this will stop them as they will know they are doing wrong.
In this situation, you should start training your dog in an outside environment like a park, yard, garden, or in an obedience class. Once your dog has learned the basic commands, you should get your dog to become familiar with walking by the side of you on a leash.
If your dog pulls ahead, use one of the commands to stop it from doing that action. Then when it begins to walk with a loose leash, use positive reinforcement.
3. Try not to use a neck collar
No doubt, we're sure you've seen many dogs walking around attached to a neck collar.
The truth is, neck collars aren't always the most beneficial for your dog to wear. When you try to pull a dog backward from walking forward using a neck collar, it might cause them to resist.
Most of the time, they will try harder to pull forward, and it may harm their neck. In particular, it can cause injuries to their trachea and neck.
4. Use a head halter
A head halter is a supportive strap, which will surround the muzzle, allowing your dog's nose and mouth to fit through. The reason a head halter is great for walking is that when it pulls forward, it won't restrain its neck; what will happen is that your dog's head will turn back towards you.
Once this happens, you can stop your dog and begin training it where you left off. Also, if you choose to pull your dog up and forward by using a head halter, it will automatically sit down. If you're using a head halter for the first time, make sure your dog becomes acquainted with the head halter first.
This means allowing them to fully investigate it by sniffing it and getting used to the clip's sound.
Another technique you can try is that if your dog shoots ahead and tries to pull the leash, stop where you are. When you stop, the dog won't be able to go any further, and you're not pulling them from your side either. Once you have stopped, get a tasty treat or food and lure them to walk back to your side. Then try again. If they walk successfully, use a treat again as positive reinforcement.
6. Use a chest led harness
As mentioned earlier, collars can be dangerous for dogs and can cause neck injuries. One great way to avoid them from pulling and injury is by using a chest led harness.
A chest-led harness evenly allocates the weight around your dog's body compared to a collar. Which means when your dog pulls on a lead, their body will turn around instead of going forward and putting themselves at risk of injury.
7. Raise your voice
Simply by having a loud, friendly, and encouraging voice, you can prompt your dog to come forward. If you run forward and encourage your dog, they will join you on their loose leash and most likely not pull on it as you're going forwards.
8. Be unpredictable
Once your dog has learned basic commands, it's best to be unpredictable to reduce the chances of it pulling on the leash. If you choose to be unpredictable, your dog will have to be attentive and listen to you all the time.
This means you can turn the other way, do a circle of eight, tell your dog to sit, or anything unusual. If they do it, then reward them with a treat.
Your dog might not be pulling
We understand you've come to this article looking for advice on your dog pulling on a leash. Do be cautious also, as your dog may not be pulling either. If you find your dog lunging and pulling or barking while they pull, it could mean something different.
Instead of them being excited, they could be frustrated or scared at something nearby. In this instance, have a look around you to see if anything is intimidating close by. If there is, you can always give them treats, turning it into a positive experience.
Most of the time, dogs pull on a leash because they're excited to explore new places, new scents, and sights. Another reason is that they're incredibly eager to go on a walk and want to initiate it.
Handy ways of stopping this is by teaching them simple obedience tricks. Similarly, when they learn to walk on a loose leash, use positive reinforcement and reward them with a treat. Try to avoid using collars as they can cause neck injuries, and use a chest led harness or head halter instead.
Be careful if your dog starts pulling, lunging, and barking. If your dog does this, they could be scared of another animal or vehicle passing by. To stop this behavior, we recommend giving it a treat to calm down.
Alex Wrigley is a professional writer and blogger who loves travel, technology and dogs. She is originally from the UK but currently lives in Nepal with her three dogs: two pugs and a golden retriever.