Do you feel like there’s a power struggle going on every time you walk your dog? Whether you’re dealing with a new puppy or an older dog, leash pulling presents challenges for both owner and pet. Fortunately, training your dog not to pull on walks is easier than you might think.
First, understand why untrained dogs behave poorly on leash. It’s natural for dogs to pull against a restraint, according to the Complete Guide to Responsible Dog Ownership, so your task is to reward your dog for not doing so and make the concept of being on leash a positive one. Dogs can only learn proper leash manners through your attentive training.
If your dog barks and bounds around the house the moment you take out the leash, your training must begin before you even step outside, according to Perfect Paws. Ask your dog to remain in a sitting position while you leash him. When you stand up, your dog should remain calm until you’re ready to walk out. If he jumps, barks or pulls you toward the door, stay still until he understands that you aren’t going anywhere until he is calm.
Once you’ve mastered calmness in the house before the walk, the next step is to focus on the outdoor behavior you want rather than the pulling you don’t want, according to Diamonds in the Ruff. As soon as your dog begins to pull a little on his leash, stop exactly where you are and do not move. This will get your dog’s attention, which is what you want. If your dog relaxes and stops straining against the leash, immediately give him a treat and praise him.
At this point you can begin walking again, and if your dog stays beside you feel free to offer another treat and more praise. But when he begins to pull again, repeat the procedure: Stop, stay perfectly still, and wait for him to put some slack into the leash himself. Reward with praise and another treat and continue the walk.
Your goal is to walk with your dog calmly beside you for an entire walk with a slack leash. Puppies and previously untrained dogs may require some patience with this process. Be consistent and straightforward: Walking nicely on leash always delivers treats and praise during the training process, and pulling on leash delivers nothing but a stop on the sidewalk for as long as it takes your dog to calm himself.
Remember to never move forward if your dog is pulling so you don’t undo past successes. If your dog continues to pull even with you stopped, turn and go in the other direction to get his attention and start the process over. And always keep the leash slack in your hand; when you pull back on your dog, you reinforce the very pulling and resistance you don’t want him to display.
Finally, internationally known dog trainer Cesar Millan says that your body language and energy communicate through the leash. He recommends standing tall during the training process to communicate that you are the pack leader and in control, so your dog can relax and enjoy walks.
Cesar’s Way: Problems on the Walk? http://www.cesarsway.com/tips/thebasics/problems-on-the-walk
Complete Guide to Responsible Dog Ownership: Leash Training a Dog, http://www.dog-obedience-training-review.com/leash-training-a-dog.html
Diamonds in the Ruff: Does your Dog Pull on Leash? http://www.diamondsintheruff.com/nopulling.html
Perfect Paws: Pulling on Leash, http://www.perfectpaws.com/leash.html