When your dog constantly pulls on the lead it can turn a leisurely walk into a battle of wills. If you feel like your walks are suffering, we’ve got some good news – these training tips are right by your side. Armed with these and a little love and patience you can show your dog that walking on a lead can be a fun and positive experience for both of you.
Why do dogs pull on the lead?
You’re outside and with that comes all the sights and smells your dog can’t wait to investigate. Pulling to get at them is usually a sign of excitement and the sign of a happy, curious dog. But when it can strain their neck, hurt you, and lead to tricky moments with other dogs – pulling is no fun at all.
Related blog: When does my dog have to be on a lead?
Will pulling on the lead hurt my dog?
Seeing your dog’s collar pull on their neck can be upsetting, especially if it makes them cough. But don’t be afraid to stand your ground when your dog starts straining on their lead. Avoid any sharp tugging as the jolt can hurt or scare them.
How can I train my dog out of pulling on the lead?
As with any training, positivity is the secret to success. Reinforce good behaviours by rewarding your dog when they stay close, and ignoring their pulls. Here are our leading commandments (training tips to you and I!):
‘Heel’ is a great command to introduce when you’re getting a puppy used to their first lead. Don’t worry if your dog is already past puppyhood – it’s never too late to teach them good habits. Use ‘heel’ to call your dog back to your side any time they try to run off.
- When your dog tries to run off, say ‘heel’ in a clear, calm voice to get their attention.
- Wait until they look back at you – this will make the lead go slack.
- At that moment, reward them with a treat.
- Repeat until you can use the ‘heel’ command to keep the lead slack and your dog’s attention focused on you.
Find more dog training tips in our basic commands blog.
Stopping a walk everytime your dog pulls is a great way to teach them that walks are less fun when they try to do their own thing. Be prepared to get a few funny looks in the park when you only move a few paces in the time it takes everyone else to do a full lap – but trust us, your patience and persistence will pay off. Here’s how to master the ‘stop’ command:
- When your dog pulls on the lead, say ‘stop’ in a loud but calm voice.
- Stand still until your dog stops pulling and the lead goes slack.
Stop & turn
Dogs usually pull because they’ve seen or smelt something exciting. The ‘stop and turn’ technique teaches your dog that pulling isn’t an effective way to get where they want to go. It also gets their attention firmly back on you. Use ‘stop and turn’ like this:
- When your dog pulls, say ‘stop’ in a loud, clear, calm voice.
- Immediately change direction or turn in a tight circle.
- Reward your dog when they follow you.
What type of lead is best?
We’ve talked about training tips, but when it comes to the thing itself, what type of lead is best for your dog. When the amount of different leads, collars and harnesses in shops can be downright bamboozling, here’s what you should know.
The right option depends on your dog’s age, training and health.
The lead’s fixed length gives you more control, helps your dog learn their limits, and keeps them safe. A great option, in our opinion.
Not for newbies – if you’ve already got a lead-trained dog they give them the sense of freedom they crave – and keep you in control. Not a great idea for puppies either, as the extra freedom will make training tricky.
Related blog: Leads for dogs
Nose band collars
An extra fitting around your dog’s nose means their head is gently pulled down any time your dog tugs the lead. This distracts them from whatever caught their eye (or nose).
Top tip: Double-check the brand you’re looking at has been approved by dog behaviourists – that way you know it’s completely dog-friendly.
Related blog: The different types and purposes of collars for dogs
Some dogs have neck issues and can’t wear a collar, but if you’re going down the dog harness route it’s best to wait until you’ve completed their lead training before switching to it. A harness lets your dog pull with their whole body weight, so makes it harder to stand your ground when they want to go their own way.
No-pull dog harness
Some harnesses are specially designed with different attachment points to provide pressure or redirect your dog’s energy when they start pulling.
When it’s not just pulling
If your dog is pulling and lunging or pulling and barking – take notice. They could be telling you they’re scared of something nearby and are agitated because they can’t get away. Can you see what’s causing their fear? If you can ignore your dog’s fearful behaviour you can start to turn the situation into a positive experience – then reward them with praise or treats when they stay calm.