How to train your dog not to pull on the lead
There’s nothing worse than a dog taking you for a walk and pulling on the leash. Not only is it uncomfortable for you, but it’s also uncomfortable and dangerous for your dog and it can make you dread taking your dog out for walks and do so less and less which confounds the problem and turns it into a catch 22 situation where neither you nor your dog can win.
Catch the problem early
If you have just recently got a dog or a puppy and you’re finding it difficult to walk them because they are straining at the leash, it’s important to catch the problem early as learned behaviour over a longer period of time is more difficult to correct.
Build a bond with your pet
Building a bond between yourself and your pet throughout the entire routine you have with your dog is vital as this will engender trust between you and your pet and enable you to positively re-enforce good behaviour. Shouting at your dog will simply make your dog nervous and fearful which will cause any negative issues your pet may have to loom larger.
Understand the behaviour in order to fix it.
It’s important to get inside the head of your dog and understand their behaviour so that you can help them in the best and fastest way possible. Pulling on the leash is a sign of enthusiasm, and it’s important to understand the reasons behind this. A walk is an opportunity for a dog to mark it’s territory and find out information about other dogs in the area, as such a walk is a stimulating part of a dog’s day. One issue which may encourage leash pulling is that your dog may not be getting enough exercise in the form of a regular walk. It could also be that your dog is having to wait too long between walks and has developed learned behaviour whereby once they’re on the leash they want to keep walking lest you change your mind and take them back home!
Use Short Regular Walks
Short regular walks will ensure that your puppy knows that they are going to get regular exercise without having to pull on the leash. Leash puling is not a sign that your dog wants to assert his authority as pack leader, more that your dog is feeling frustrated. Lunging at other dogs, is a sign that your dog is not socialised properly and often comes from fear where they react in defence in the hope that the cause of their fear (another dog) will retreat.
Positive re-enforcement is the only way to correct any behaviour and this means rewarding good behaviour and ignoring bad. Reversing unwanted behaviours such as leash puling will take time and therefore you need to ensure that you have sufficient time and patience in order to solve the problem in the longterm.
Walking your dog
When you take your dog for a walk, it should be a positive experience for both yourself and your pet right from the outset. If you are nervous or have a sense of dread or fear, you will unwittingly communicate that to your pet. So from the moment you rattle the leash and announce walkies to your pet, it’s important to be enthusiastic, firm and in control. This will help your pet have more confidence in you and pay attention to your commands. The chief command of heel which should ensure your dog walks nose to your heel at a pace which is suitable for your speed is the most common. Other commands such as sit and stay when you are at a junction are also a vital part of your dog’s knowledge and behaviour. So before you even take your dog out for a walk, it’s important to reinforce the sit and stay commands and reward your pet with praise and a treat in order to reinforce their behaviour. This means that when you are on your walk you will have more control over all.
Using a chest led leash is a great training aid and takes the pressure off the dog’s neck and gives you more control from the body of the dog. Using choke chains for puppy or dog training is no longer considered good practice mainly because it doesn’t alleviate pulling and it also causes real neck damage and leads to a truly miserable walk for both you and your pet without addressing the underlying issue.
The Heel Command
Commanding your dog to walk to heel is an ongoing process which must be learned. You should issue the command with confidence and expect your pet to react positively. Once they do reward them with enthusiastic praise. If you find that your pet is still puling on ahead, issue the command stop, sit and to reinforce it stand completely still. When the pet reacts positively you can reward with praise and a treat if you feel it necessary. Once the behaviour has been interrupted continue with the walk and run the same process each time.
If your pet still pulls on the leash, you can turn and take your dog in another direction using a positive command like “let’s go”. This will mean that your dog will have to work in partnership with you and listen because he never knows in which direction you will walk next. It will also help your pet to have a more positive walk on a more relaxed leash. Where possible, avoid yanking the lead and use vocal cues and treats to signal to your dog as this will enforce good behaviour positively rather than continue negatively reinforcing negative behaviour. Above all, you should look forward to walking your pet so that your dog can also positively look forward to their walks and quality time spent with you.