My Dog Pulls Extremely Hard on Leash – How Do I Stop It?

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dog pulling on leash

Teaching our dogs to walk nicely on leash is actually one of the hardest things that many dog owners do. It’s incredibly frustrating for both you and the dog!

Journey Dog Training just launched a mini-course all about teaching your dog to walk nicely on a leash and stop pulling. Get access to it here!

Let’s talk about stopping a dog from pulling on leash. In today’s Ask A Behavior Consultant, a reader asked us:

“My dog always pulls on the leash. It’s starting to give me blisters.”

Sincerely, Dragged Around Town

If you’re dealing with a dog who pulls extremely hard on leash, be sure to check out the following resources from Journey Dog Training:

The thing is, it’s really common for dogs to pull extremely hard on leash. Why?

  • Dogs learn that if they pull, they get to move forward.
  • Leaning into a tight leash is actually instinctive for many dogs. It’s actually hard for them to realize that when they feel tension on the leash, they’re supposed to loosen up rather than dig in.
  • Dogs naturally walk at a faster pace than most humans, so they pull just because they’re quicker.
  • Leash walks are often the most exciting part of your dog’s day. This means he’s too excited to think (or be trained). Pulling you around on leash is the best part of their day.
  • Many dogs are under-exercised, so they just have a ton of excess energy during their walks.
  • Loose-leash walking as actually a really complicated skill for many dogs that requires good training and consistency from you. Many people give up because of how hard it is – but it doesn’t have to be that bad!
  • There are lots of tools out there that will supposedly fix your dog’s extremely hard leash pulling. The problem is that prong collars, choke chains, head halters, and no-pull harnesses all have risks. Worse, none of these tools actually teaches your dog how to walk nicely on leash without the tool on. They might save your hand from blisters, but they’re not really teaching your dog anything on their own!

I’m not saying this so that you think that your dog pulling you on leash is OK. It’s not!

As I said above, my new video course on loose leash walking will really help you out.

How to Stop Your Dog from Pulling on Leash

  1. Get two separate pieces of equipment: one for training (I almost always use a flat buckle collar) and one for “get it done walks.” I usually use a back-clip harness for that.
  2. If you can’t be in Dog Trainer Mode, use the “get it done” equipment. I get it – sometimes you just need to get the dog out for a bathroom break and there’s no time for training. Using the two different pieces of equipment will help your dog learn when he’s supposed to be walking nicely.
  3. Practice holding the leash well. Loop the leash over your thumb so it hangs off your thumb and through your palm. Then close your fist over the leash. Then put your thumb to your belly button. Keep it there.
  4. Feed your dog treats from your pocket. Your treat hand should deliver treats right next to your pocket or pant seam. If you’re consistent about that, your dog will quickly learn to stay close by so he can get more treats more quickly!
  5. Use lots of treats. When I first got Barley, I fed his entire breakfast, every day as part of leash walking skills. That’s right – he got nothing in his food bowl! I started out giving him a treat every single step until I ran out, then I switched him to his harness and we finished the walk. Over time, I started feeding every 3rd step, then every 5th, every 10th, then twice per block, then once per block, and so on.
  6. Practice leash walking drills in calm areas. My course outlines the silky leash technique, Sophia Yin’s Leave It, turn-and-gos, crazy walking, 1-2-3 walking, and more. You can see my free video demos of many of those drills in the links. The key is to practice these skills in quiet areas like your hallway or back yard before you try to take them on the road!
  7. Be patient and persistent. Leash walking is tricky, and it’ll take time. Your dog might be great at walking nicely in your quiet suburban neighborhood, but struggle at the pet store. That’s normal! My own dog still struggles some days in tough situations.
  8. Don’t walk forward if your dog is pulling. If your dog hits the end of the leash, turn around and go another direction. Don’t let him move forward if there’s any tension in the leash! Just move forward when there’s a “J” or “C” in the leash shape.

It’s 100% possible to teach all dogs to stop pulling hard on leash without using painful training techniques. Just remember that loose leash walking is a difficult skill, so you’re both being challenged!

how to stop your dog from pulling on the leash |

23 thoughts on “My Dog Pulls Extremely Hard on Leash – How Do I Stop It?”

  1. I have a rescue Yorkie mix weighing bout 20 lbs. For approx 1 month. He has caused my tennis elbow to flare up big time due to pulling on leash. He’s between 2 to 4 yrs old was the vets guess. Please help.

  2. Hi Kayla,
    Have just got a 7 month old Doberman join our family after he needed rehomed. He has a few wee bad habits like wanting to bolt after and chase our 3 cats. A leash puller and a jumper so we have our work cut out for us. I have just found your website and have bought your ebook and videos. SO much to do . Sometimes it is all too much for me to fit in a day as I work fulltime from 8am until 5:00 pm.

  3. Hi there. I have an almost 5 month old Boxita puppy. She’s extremely stong for her size already. I weight train and am strong but she pulls as hard as big dogs. I’m struggling with her leash training as her energy is a 10 already and we go for at least 90 minutes a day. I have tried the harness instead of a collar but she throws her whole body weight into pulling.Any advice?

  4. I’ve tried not walking when my dog pulls, but she never seems to get it. We’ll spend 15 minutes in the back yard with her pulling as hard as she can and me not moving. Or she’ll sit and wait and as soon as I take a step, she’s back to pulling. Then we stop and wait, I take a step, and then she will pull full force again. Any suggestions if she just doesn’t seem to get it?

  5. I own a rottweiler that is 120 pounds and he always pulls towards everything. He used to have a chain collar, but that hurts him, so we got him a harness. Now he has the freedom to pull even harder. Does anyone know what I should do?

  6. I have a 1 yr old 100 lbs pitbull who is extremely strong he pull and drags me every time I try to walk him, He pulled so hard a few months back that I ended up with a broken ankle so now I am scared to even try to walk him any more. I’ve tried to walk him with a harness, a martingale dog collar and even a prong collar (only once I felt bad about using it), I have also tried training him not to pull and he does fine when we are in the back yard but once we go past the door he drags me and does not listen. He has a lot of energy and he needs to be walked but I am scared he will drag me again or worst he will get loose and run away.

  7. I have a 5 year old malamute mix who is 120lbs and i’m only 103lbs, he likes to pull on the leash and i don’t think he understands how hard he’s pulling since he’s so big, my hands have blisters and leash burn, please help!

  8. I have the same issue as Erin here and I’ve been putting in the work to get her to stop pulling on the leash but it’s only getting worse. None of these tips of which I used work at all. She does the same thing that Erin’s dog does where she keeps pulling while I’m standing still or she stops for a second then does it again. She doesn’t seem to care at all and doesn’t get it either. I’ve tried everything and I’m afraid the loose lease tutorial video won’t work either.

    • Hi Serena, if you’re really stuck it’s probably best for us to connect 1-on-1 to see if there’s something more specific going on; I’m afraid I probably can’t help through the comments section 🙁

  9. I am seriously in deep trouble, ive owned german shepherds, belgium maliniose and rottweilers but ive never struggled like this, my other dogs learned to walk with leash after a few weeks of intensive training meaning we took long walks and alot of training and treats and they learned how to not pull at all. but my current puppy (a mix of anatolian shepherd and sarplaninac) is like 5 months old and 55 lbs, pounds and she pulls like no other, it doesnt matter how much i train her or how long walks we take she keeps pulling no matter what situation we are in, she runs after leaves, she eats everything she can find in the grass in the garden, and people are so nasty throwing their trash everywere so i have to all the time watch over her not eating plastic or something and this is super exhausting. any advice how i can effectively make her stop eating trash and stop pulling this intensively.

    • Hi Daniel, it sounds like you’re really struggling. What tactics have you been trying so far for leash skills? We’d be happy to help you with solutions if you want to book a consult, but we’ll need to know what you’ve tried so far!

  10. Hello!
    We have an 11 month old mixed breed rescue dog. We put in the work for months and he walks like a dream around the neighborhood – as long as its just 1 person walking him. If we bring the kids along then he pulls – whether he’s “leading” the walk (still loose leash just with all people behind him) or not.. and if we leave our neighborhood for a family walk in a park or anywhere else he is too excited and PULLS hard. Would it be best for us to just go back to square 1 with other public outings – plenty of treats to reward him staying by my side, 1 treat per step, turn around if he pulls… And how do we address the issue of walking as a family? We have a 7 year old that loves to wander as we walk the neighborhood to check out trees and flowers, etc.
    Thank you for any advice

    • Hi Adrienne. I’d definitely go back to step 1. Many dogs learn that they can pull on group walks because we’re not likely to train them when we’re with friends or family. I’ve had the same problem with my own dog! I solved it by going for practice walks with friends/family where I practiced really hard having him walk nicely. If I knew I wasn’t ready to be in dog trainer mode (I just wanted a nice walk sometimes), I left him behind so he didn’t get mixed messages.

  11. Hello, this is slightly different than walking. we live in a two story house, and when it comes time to take our dog potty and we’re upstairs she bolts down the stairs. I mean she full on runs as fast as she can. So we’ve tried walking her down by holding her collar and she skips stairs. Jumping down them to get faster and has almost pulled us down the stairs. We’re not living in this house forever, its temporary and we may move to apartments that have 2-3 floors and we may end up on the 2nd or 3rd floor. My question is how do i get her to stop this. We’ve tried the whole, stop when she pulls. That is the WHOLE routine. Every time we go down. its stop go stop go. we’ve done this for months. she is not learning at all. She goes potty 3-4 times a day sometimes more (we work from home) so that’s not a problem. She’s a very excitable dog, very happy and well trained in other aspects.


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