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:
- Our email and text support subscription packages
- Our 15-minute and one-hour phone consultations or video training sessions.
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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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!
Kayla is from Ashland, Wisconsin but lives in Missoula Montana. She holds a degree in biology from Colorado College and has spent years working in zoos, animal shelters, as a private dog trainer, and with working detection K9s. She is a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant. She shares her life with her border collie Barley.