Pulling on the leash is one of the most common behavioural issues that make walks unenjoyable. Some owners stop walks altogether which can cause an accumulation of pent-up energy. This can lead to other behavioural issues in an attempt to release that energy such as barking, jumping, spinning, digging, destroying items and much more.
There are many reasons that dogs pull on the leash. The common causes are inadequate exercise (which does not include playing fetch or running around with dogs), uncontrolled excitement and lack of limitations. Limitations are defined as limits that are placed on dogs. For more information on enforcing limitations, click here.
It is important to note that solving any underlying behavioural issues will allow your dog to stay calm in the presence of potential triggers. This allows your dog to not pull towards those triggers when on a leash, eliminating leash pulling altogether. Refer to the relevant articles under Training Tips to solve those underlying behavioural issues.
Ways to address leash pulling
Consider switching to a halter dog head collar. This tool helps direct the head which controls the direction of movement. The disadvantage is that some dogs get agitated when an object is in contact with the snout.
Keep the leash adequately short such that your dog is beside you with the leash fully relaxed, but slightly tenses up when your dog walks ahead of you.
Without saying any words/sentences, carry on with the walk.
A common scene is dogs pulling their owners to the grass to potty once outdoors. Just by this situation alone, you are able to tell who is in charge, and who leads the walk. To solve this, learning “manners”, also known as limitations, allows you to tell him when he should potty.
If your dog pulls on the leash, stay rooted to where you are and do not take a single step.
Walk towards a grass patch once your dog gives you direct eye contact. This way we direct the focus back to us, which makes us a determining factor for actions that your dog wants to carry out.
During the next similar situation, take one or two steps back. Wait for your dog to approach you (taking a few steps towards you) before walking to the nearest grass patch. You may couple this action with "let’s go" or “come”.
During the next similar situation, walk a distance in your desired direction and guide your dog to follow you. Allow your dog to potty if he does not pull towards grass patches.
Exercise your dog by sprinting or jogging with him. A sign of your dog being adequately exercised is that he walks at a regular and slow pace.
Praise your dog by providing any forms of reward – verbal praise, massage, treats and so on. This allows the behaviour to be reinforced.
If possible, unleash your dog in an empty space that is enclosed and free of distractions. The dog run and rooftop car parks are great examples. Reward him should he follow you.
What you should not do
Your dog has his priorities on investigating sights and sounds during a walk. This is the main reason why dogs ignore commands during walks. Although a piece of treat can control your dog momentarily, it is not feasible for your dog to focus on the treat during the entire walk. This is because dogs lose focus quickly, some preferring to focus on distractions while both dog and owner focus on using treats as the point of focus instead of enjoying the walk.
Talking to dogs with the intent to change behavioural issues may backfire, as attention is given when your dog shows excitement. This pulling behaviour is then reinforced and may snowball to higher levels during the next walk. It is always best to lead by actions instead of complicating the training process and introduce sentences that your dog may never figure out.