Why does my dog pull on the lead and how can I stop this?

Owners are often pulled along at great speed at the end of a lead when out walking resulting in a miserable and frustrating experience. A pulling dog and a cross owner also increases tension and may cause the dog to become overly reactive towards other dogs and their owners.

Why do dogs pull on the lead?

If you are a dog then going for walks is generally exciting, fun and part of what being a dog is all about. You get to meet others, sniff out rabbits, chase balls, send and read pee-mails, roll about in cowpats and splash about in muddy puddles.

If you are a dog, pulling on the lead does NOT mean you are striving to be a pack leader by walking in front of your owner. It simply means that you have learned that if you pull you get to go forwards.

What can I do to stop my dog pulling?

If pulling works and the dog gets to go forwards then we can work on the notion that we should only allow the dog forwards when it is not pulling.  In other words teach the dog that not pulling on the lead means they get to go forwards.

How do you achieve that?

It is actually relatively uncomplicated but takes great timing skills and a lot of patience so please don’t expect a quick fix. Start by making a commitment to yourself that from now on you won’t allow your dog to pull you forwards. If you give up after a few sessions because you feel it’s taking too long and you are late for work then all you have achieved is to teach the dog that if it pulls for long enough it gets to go forwards again.

  • Begin by going for short walks in quiet areas where there are few distractions and take some really tasty treats with you. Stand still, remain quiet, and wait until your dog had stopped pulling and when the lead is loose walk forwards again. Of course your dog will pull again so keep on repeating this many times until your dog learns that pulling the lead tight does not achieve anything but not pulling means you get to go forwards. At this point you are rewarding the dog for not pulling by allowing it to move forwards.
  • You will need a long length of lead and do not wrap it around your wrist or keep it overly short as pulling on a lead tends to make the dog pull away from you. Remain calm and relaxed and do not keep pulling your dog back (known as checking) as all your dog will learn is that to go forwards it has to pull and be pulled back. Make sure you are giving your dog lots of alternative exercise during this period.
  • After a few sessions your dog will learn that the best way to go forwards is not to pull. To begin with it will wander all over the place on the end of its long loose lead and that is fine during this early stage as long as you keep safely away from roads.
  • To teach a “close” once your dog is walking without pulling, offer a treat when it is close by you and repeat the word “close”. You can also clicker train your dog at this stage and click and reward for remaining by your side.

This is my preferred way of teaching a dog not to pull and once taught is long-lasting. Enjoy your walk!

More advice
previous post: Parents – Kids and Dogs next post: Is your dog trying to dominate your world?