Are you tired of being pulled and dragged down the street by your pup? Whether you walk down the street or take a long hike along the woods or the beach, it should always be a pleasant and fun experience for both you and your dog.
Why Do Dogs Pull On Their Leash?
It is a natural canine behavior for a dog to want to pull on the leash, and there are several reasons why. When you take your puppy out for a walk, there are numerous factors that you are competing with in the outside environment. Dogs will pull forward and lunge ahead to:
- get to their desired location
- greet other dogs, people, stray or outdoor animals such as cats and squirrels
- investigate new smells
- lunge towards sounds such as cars
- curiously explore the outside world
What Motivates Your Dog The Most?
Remember that every dog learns differently, and one method may work for one dog and not for others. You will have to figure out what will work for your dog. If one method doesn’t seem to work, try a different one and so forth until you find the one that works successfully. The main question you want to ask yourself is, “what is the biggest motivator for my puppy?” Is it treats? If it’s food, then figure out what treats he loves. Or is it a squeaky toy or a tennis ball? Is it verbal praise and petting? Save that reward and only bring it out on your walks so that it becomes a special reward.
Methods And Steps
It is beneficial to start introducing the walking on a leash exercise by practicing indoors before taking it outdoors. Train inside your home, or if you live in an apartment, it will help to practice in a long hallway. Then, take the training outdoors where there are minimal distractions and less traffic of people and other dogs. Finally, the last step is to challenge your pup’s walk and bring the training to an area outdoors where there is a high level of distractions.
Also, look for safe areas both indoors and outdoors where you can unclip your pup’s leash and teach them that being near you is the best thing in the world! When they start running around, call them to you and give them their high-value reward. It will make leash training a bit easier if you start with this step first.
Once you have figured out your puppy’s biggest motivation, bring it out and put it in your pocket or treat pouch. Start by having your puppy in a heel position. Then start the walk and say a release cue such as “Let’s Go!” and begin to take a few steps forward. The leash should have slack or a nice U or J shape between you and your puppy without any tension or pressure on the leash. The moment your puppy starts walking forward with you without pulling, give tasteful treats at the level of your pup’s nose, so they do not practice jumping up to receive the reward. If your pup is food motivated, the most important thing is to bring out the most high-value treats on your walks. Save those high-value treats for only when you go out on walks so that he becomes super motivated to pay attention to you and the treats you have. Also, have various treats to spark interest in the food, so your pup doesn’t get bored of the same treat. Suppose your puppy walks nicely on a leash, praise by saying “yes” or “good” or a click, and continue to give those treats every few steps of the way. Remember to feed treats while your puppy is in the walk’s motion and not inadvertently reward while stopped.
If your puppy is more toy motivated, bring out their favorite toy on your walks. Every few steps that your puppy moves forward with you, take the toy out and wiggle it, and let them play with it for a few seconds. Then remove the toy and continue your walk and then repeat the cycle every few steps on your path.
If your puppy is motivated by praise and petting, you want to praise them enthusiastically for every step they move forward with you and reach down to pet and give them lots of love. Your tone of voice will matter highly if your pup thrives on praise as a reward. Speak with a happy tone of voice, rather than a monotonous voice, when you praise and encourage your puppy to walk nicely next to your leg.
Ask your puppy for several sits during your walks and especially at crosswalks for safety purposes. If your puppy sits, give the reward, and then continue your walk. Along with occasional sits, ask for eye contact during your walks. When you come to a complete stop, not only should you have your puppy sit for you, but teach your puppy the “look at me” cue or the “watch” cue. Catch the moment when your puppy looks into your eyes, even for a quick second or two. The reward is that they get to continue the walk. The point is to teach your puppy that paying attention and focusing on you allows them to walk even further.
Allow your pup to have potty breaks and occasionally reward and let them sniff new smells only when you allow them to or on your release cue. Once they have a moment to sniff and be free, then get back on your loose-leash training.
Start to practice varying your speeds. Vary your walks from faster speeds back down to slower speeds and make them random so your puppy will learn to stay focused and keep up with your pace.
Your Puppy Starts To Pull?
If you start with these steps and suddenly your pup starts to pull forward, creating tension on the leash, then immediately come to a sudden stop. Stand very still and wait it out. You don’t even need to say anything. Make that moment incredibly boring, and let your pup see that they will not get anywhere by pulling. Instead, ask for the touch cue. This will redirect your puppy’s energy to come back to you. Praise and reward and start walking. Aversive corrections such as jerking the leash or forcefully pulling your pup back to you will only frustrate them. Instead, encourage them to return to you and reward them when they start walking nicely and calmly by your side.
Key Factors To Remember
- Puppies can take up to a whole year to learn loose leashing walking! As a puppy parent, it is crucial to keep up with your dog’s leash training every day and on every walk.
- Provide your puppy with a sufficient amount of playtime and exercise before you go out on walks so that their energy levels are not so high and intense the moment you step out of the house.
- If your puppy is highly food motivated, then instead of feeding them their meals at home, bring their meals along with high-value treats out on your walks. A hungry puppy will be more motivated to work and pay attention to you and all the goodies you got for them!
- Don’t let your pup greet every dog and person walking on the street. Otherwise, they will not focus on their walks and instead will associate walks as socialization time. The more you allow your pup to drag and pull you towards other walkers, the more they will pull every single time they see another dog or person on the street. Teach them to ignore these stimulations and that it is more fun to pay attention to you.
- Take the time to do some heavy research on what collars, harnesses, or leashes are beneficial for your puppy in preventing leash pulling. For example, using a retractable leash is highly not recommended for any pullers.
It takes a tremendous amount of patience, consistency, and clear communication for your puppy to learn how to walk nicely on a leash successfully. As long as you make the walk super fun, energizing, and vivacious, your puppy will always want to walk with you!
Jeny Paik is a certified trainer living and working in Maryland, US. She made a bold career move in the year 2017 after 14 years as an Ophthalmic Photographer. Her true passion is helping pet parents develop happy and healthy relationships with their dogs that will last a lifetime. She earned the Certified Professional Dog Trainer-Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA) credential from the CCPDT. She enjoys teaching group puppy classes, basic and advanced obedience private lessons. Jeny shares her heart and home with her Shih Tzu, Dalleh, Maltese, Dooley, and her rescued Chihuahua Terrier mix, Rocko. She is a trainer at the Dogo app.