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How Do I Stop Leash Pulling?

By A.M. Boyle
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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If you’re like the majority of dog owners, you love spending time with your pet but hate the battle caused by leash pulling when you take your pooch for a walk. The good news is, if you want to stop leash pulling, there are certain simple steps you can take, including positive reinforcement for good behavior, to train your dog to walk comfortably on a loose leash. You can also purchase collar attachments to help you train your dog to walk at your side.

When a dog pulls on its leash, not only is it uncomfortable, but it can both hurt both you and your pet. You might notice back, shoulder, or knee pain after a long walk, especially if you have a larger dog. This is from the constant strain of holding your dog back. In turn, your dog might cough, gag, or pant excessively on the walk, which is likely due to the constant pressure of the collar against his or her throat.

The key to leash-training your dog rests upon an understanding why your pet pulls in the first place. Generally, going for a walk is an exciting experience for dogs because of all the different sights, sounds, and smells. Like a young child, your dog wants to explore as quickly as possible. Every time he or she pulls on the leash and you continue to move forward, you are rewarding your pet for pulling, demonstrating that when he or she strains against the leash, you move faster. If you want to stop leash pulling behavior, you have to stop rewarding your pet for doing it.

During your walk, the minute your dog starts pulling on the leash, stop. Don't yank or jerk the leash as that might injure your pet’s neck. Instead, stop moving and call your pooch to your side, and when he or she comes to you, praise your pet and start walking again. If the leash goes taught once more, stop again, and repeat the process. Soon, your dog will begin to realize that, when he or she pulls on the leash, the two of you go nowhere, and only by coming to your side and allowing the leash to go slack does the stroll proceed.

All dogs learn at different paces, and this process might take a great deal of repetition and patience. If your dog is easily distracted, try learning the routine in a quiet, familiar place, like your backyard, until your pet begins to get the hang of it. Walks should be pleasant experiences for both of you, so it is important not become impatient or scold your dog if he or she pulls on the leash as it will only make your pet fearful. Instead, continue to reinforce and reward the appropriate behavior.

Some dogs are harder to train than others. Fortunately, there are certain collar attachments on the market that might help in the battle against leash pulling. Various manufacturers sell devices that fit like bridles around the dog’s snout. These attachments are not uncomfortable, nor do they restrict the animal’s mouth in any way, but they do cause an unpleasant sensation when the dog pulls on the leash. Your dog will quickly associate leash pulling with discomfort and will likely cease the behavior.

Another apparatus owners sometimes use is a harness-like device that has a hook for the leash in the front chest area. Regular harnesses that have the leash attached on top, over the dog’s back, can actually encourage your pet to pull more because of a natural resistive response to the harness against on his or her chest. A harness that has the leash latched in the front, across the chest, actually exerts push-back force when the dog lunges forward, thus discouraging the behavior.

As a final note, some dog trainers advocate the use of spike or choke collars to discourage leash pulling. Keep in mind, however, that these collars can cause pain and extreme anxiety to some dogs and might even result in injury. You might consider other, less stressful methods before resorting to the use of a restrictive collar. The process of leash training might take time and patience, but in the end, when you are able to go for a peaceful, enjoyable walk with your canine companion, the effort will have been well worth it.

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