If your dog keeps pulling on the leash while he is out for a walk, it’s time to put a stop to this behavior.
Learn how you can teach your dog the right behavior and make him walk flawlessly and do away with that persistent pulling while on the leash right from this post.
A dog will learn to walk on a leash without any pulling when he is trained to pay attention to you and ignore all disturbances that are happening around him. This can be done by making him feel your calmness during the walk and through rewarding him with high value treats when he gives you his attention.
There are 2 phrases for training your dog not to pull on a leash while walking:
Phase 1: Leash Training in Controlled Environment
Phase 2: Leash Training in Open Environment
Leash Training In A Controlled Environment
Dogs are full of curiosity and things around him can easily grab his attention and make him want to explore it.
This is why you should start the leash training in an environment where there isn’t many stimuli that is going to distract him and cause him to pull the leash.
I would recommend that you first start the leash training in your backyard as you would be able to manage the environment (to a certain extent).
This is what you should do:
Release Some of His Energy Before The Training
1. Before the leash training, get your dog to engage in some physical games such as tug of war or Frisbee. The intention is to get your dog to release some of his energy so that he would not be too energetic and reactive during the training.
2. For the intensity and duration of the exercise, it depends on the age and breed of your dog. Dogs that are more than 3 years old are going to be less active and need frequent breaks between the spurt so you would not need to plan for any strenuous games for him.
As for the breed, hunting dogs tend to be of high level energy and you would need to plan for at least 30 minutes of strenuous exercise to drain off their excessive energy if your dog falls under this breed.
3. Next will be to work on making your dog stay close to you and walk slowly. Dogs naturally walk faster than humans. So to make your dog willing to slow down his pace and walk alongside with you, there ought to be some attractive “incentives” to make him feel that it is worth his time staying with you.
Irresistible “Incentives” To Capture His Attention
4. What makes a good incentive for your dog? My personal view is that nothing beats the reward for an irresistible high value treat.
Your treats had to be of extremely high value type, preferably meat type, and this had to be something that your dog doesn’t get to have them frequently.
Your dog will certainly do what he can to earn these tempting treats and this is when you can make him do what you want him to do (which is to walk beside you while he is on a leash without any pulling).
Do not use those normal dry kibbles, so they would not be rewarding enough for your dog to get his attention to you.
Associate His Name With Reward
5. With the value treats in your treat pouch, it’s time to start the training. Put him on a leash and bring him for a slow walk in your backyard.
While he is walking (with the leash loose), get his attention by calling out his name and if he reacts to your calling, praise him and give him a high value treat. This is to associate calling his name while he is on a leash with a reward.
6. As you see that your dog is reacting well to your calling, you can start introducing distractions to him. Leave his favorite toy about 2 meters away from him and watch his reaction.
In the initial stage, he is likely to go for his toy and pull on the leash. What you need to do is to make him feel that staying with you is much more rewarding than going for his toy.
7. As he is “thinking” on whether to go for his toy, stand right in front of him with a high value treat in your hand and call out his name. The goal is to let him make a decision to whether to stay put and get his reward or to give chase for his toy.
8. As soon as he decided to stay put and look at you, give him the treat and praise him for being such a good boy! This will help to associate tempting rewards with staying by your side.
9. You would need to practice many times before your dog gets the concept that by not chasing after his stimuli and remaining beside you, something GOOD will happen. He will then love to repeat that action over and over again.
10. Once he is used to this training, you can increase the difficulty by making the distance of his distraction much shorter, maybe from 2 meters to 1 meter and keep practicing the training till he is able to stay put and focus his attention to you even when you toss the toy in front of him.
11. When your dog is able to accomplish that, he will be ready for the next challenge – outdoor leash walking.
This is an example on how you can carry out the training if your dog is aroused by his stimuli and attempting to give chase.
Another scenario will be your dog exhibiting fear and anxiety when he sees his stimuli and attempting to make his way out by either running away or confronting the stimuli .This will also lead to leash pulling.
For this scenario, what you can do is:
1. Keep yourself calm (if you are getting nervous your dog will react even more aggressively) and if possible, block your dog sight of view from the stimuli (either by walking another direction or use your body to block his view)
2. Use a high value treat to get his attention on you so that he gets to forget what’s causing him to fear or nervous temporarily.
3. Keep catching his attention using high value treats till his target is out of his sight.
For BOTH cases, having your dog trained on socialization is certainly a MUST especially if he is a reactive dog!
A well socialized dog will know how to react appropriately when facing any stimuli and this will certainly prevent him from acting up and pulling the leash during the walk (where he is likely to be facing many things that are going to arouse his curiosity or anxiety).
Leash Training In An Open Environment
Once your dog gets the feel on how to maintain his focus and attention to you without going after his stimuli, it’s time to put him to more training.
Unlike a controlled environment, there would be numerous stimuli (people, pets, vehicles, sight and smell) outside that are going to catch his attention.
It is going to be pretty overwhelming for him initially. So keep the “exploring” session short to about 15 minutes during the initial phase.
As you see that your dog is gradually building up his confidence and adapting well to the outside world, you can increase the duration of the training session.
This is what you should do:
Some Physical Exercise Before The Training
1. Get your dog to release some of his energy (play some physical games) before bringing him out for the leash training. This is especially important to keep his energy level low and to avoid him from being reactive.
2. Put him on a leash and bring him just outside the pathway of the house and let your dog sniff around. You would see that your dog is likely going around to explore his new world.
Do not start the walk yet as you would want to ensure that you can still make him pay his attention to you despite there are so many stimuli around him (new sight, smell, people)
Name Calling Technique
3. Work on the name-calling technique that he had learned and ensure that he reacts to your calling. Reward him when he does respond.
4. If this works well, start with a slow walk with him beside you and give him a treat for every 10 steps that he makes without any pulling. To make him walk beside you, hold a high value treat in your hand to “grab” his attention while you lead the walk.
5. If your dog is not reacting to your name-calling and engrossed in his activity (could be sniffing the floor or busy exploring his surroundings), you could exert slight pressure on the leash to bring his attention to you.
When he acknowledges the tension by looking at you, praise and reward him. This will help him to associate that tension feeling with “looking” for you.
6. In the case he attempts to overtake you, call out his name again and wait for him to respond and look back at you. Then you will reward him and praise him.
Never allow your dog to walk in front of you (though he might not be pulling his leash) as that is a typical sign of a dominant dog behavior. Make sure that he walks beside you or behind you.
Increase Frequency Of Treats In Busy Streets
7. Increase the frequency of the treats for your dog when you reach a busy street or a dog park as there would be even more distractions that are going to “grab” his attention and you would need to keep him focused on you to avoid leash pulling.
Practise Different Walking Styles
8. You should also practice different walking styles (such as fast and slow walking, stopping, change of directions) and make your dog learn to catch up with you without any leash pulling. This will also train him to stay focused on you during the walk.
9. As he gradually learned that he should only pay attention to you during the walk and to ignore all stimuli, you can reduce the treats and replace them with just praise.
Commit A Dedicated Leash Training Session
You might be trying to teach your dog on the leash manners (no pulling) while bringing him out for a normal walk at the same time. I would suggest that you stop doing this and allocate a dedicated session just for his leash training.
You see, it’s rather hard for you to manage 2 tasks at the same time – bringing him out for a walk and training him on leash manners concurrently. You are likely going to lose your patience.
Training takes time, patience and significant effort. So make sure that you are mentally ready to conduct the training and allocate enough time for it. (certainly not during the casual walk).
Your dog will need time to grab this concept of walking slowly beside you, ignoring any distractions, and giving you his full attention.
Of course, you will have to be mindful of how far you should walk your dog to avoid overtiring him.