Whenever we are out and about; at dog shows, media events or just walking our own dogs, one of the questions we often get asked is this: how do you stop your dog pulling on its lead? There’s no magic answer, but there are a number of tried and tested ways to improve your pet’s behaviour when you are getting some exercise together. After all, dog walking should be fun, for you and your dog! So here are 5 tips to help stop your dog from pulling.
Keep your dog focused
Always remember that your walk starts before you go out. Make sure you have your dog’s attention before you leave the house, and that’s half the battle won. Of course they will be excited, it’s a walk after all, but discipline and leadership should be present from the off.
A really good trick is to have a quick play session with your dog before you embark on a walk. It doesn’t have to be for a long time – just a short session of 5 minutes or so will do. Try to get eye contact and say the dog’s name a few times during play too. This will certainly help to build a connection and get your dog to engage with you.
When you are out on the walk, you should try to keep this engagement and establish a calm space with your dog. When you keep them close by your side, they will always know you’re in control. This way, if they do get distracted, it’s always easier for you to get their attention back to where it should be.
Use a harness
Some leashes are not very effective when it comes to preventing pulling and lead aggression. No-pull harnesses are specially designed to stop dogs from pulling on the lead and can be a great option. Getting your dog trained to a harness early often prevents the development of bad ‘walking’ habits.
When choosing a harness, make sure it is of good quality and fits your dog well. A well fitted harness should leave some room around the shoulders so your dog is free to move and the straps do not restrict movement in any way. Any front strap around the rib cage should be far enough from the front legs so as not to rub or cause irritation.
There are so many choices when it comes to harnesses so choose one that is good for your breed and size of dog. If your dog doesn’t have a lot of fur, it might be a good idea to go for a harness with a little more padding. If your dog has a larger than average chest or is an awkward size, make sure that you choose a harness that fits well everywhere. Most websites will include FAQs, videos and size guides to help you choose the best one for your dog.
As with many other ‘pet behavioural problems’, the problem may often be with the owner! Puppy and dog training can be difficult and you will have your off days too! However, consistency is the key – this is what your dog will recognise and respond to best. Get into a routine, keep the dog on your same side most of the time, only changing sides now again. This will then prepare your dog for cases where your dog will change sides due to heavy traffic or a possible confrontational situation.
It is also a good idea to walk with the same length of lead, use the same commands and stick to the same ‘rules’ for walking. And be patient, your dog will appreciate this and, eventually, so will you.
Try a double-ended lead
A double-ended lead is an excellent idea for training your dog. The double-ended training lead can be paired nicely with a dog harness. It has two clips, one that you fasten to the front part of the dog’s harness, around the chest and the other clips to the top. This not only gives you extra control to prevent pulling, but also some directional input. Remember though, your dog is not a car, they do have a mind of their own.
When using a double ended lead, remember that it should be used with care and considered as a training aid. Try not to use any sudden or heavy movements and always remain calm – any stresses will pass down the lead to your dog! This device also has many other uses, so why not use it to tether your dog, as a hands free lead or even to walk two dogs.
There is no miracle cure for aggressive pullers, but a double ended lead can give you enough control to get your dog by your side again. Once there, you can use commands like “close” to keep the dog close to you.
And finally, be calm and try to get eye contact with your dog. A friendly, calm voice attached to an equally friendly face can make all the difference.
Reward good behaviour, don’t punish bad
There is nothing wrong with dog treats, in moderation. When your dog walks how you want them to walk, reward them. Let your dog know that they have done well. It is important that your dog understands what is expected of him. Being on the lead involves rules that need to be second nature to your pet.
Nothing is more tiresome, and anti-social, than a dog not trained properly to their lead. However, it doesn’t need to be that way. Training aids like harnesses and double-ended leads provide a great way to help get your dog behaving, as you want. Of course, it also needs patience and consistent training from the owner too.
Here’s to many, stress free, happy walks!
This article is contributed by Andrew Long. Andrew Long is a blogger, writer and owner of a popular dog harness and walking accessories store at Wiggles and Wags.