Many puppies develop a bad habit of pulling on the leash when it’s time for a walk. Although this may be cute when your puppy is tiny, it won’t be long before you have a full grown dog dragging you down the path to the dog park! Unfortunately, pulling on the leash is not something that your dog will simply grow out of.
The rest of this article will detail why your dog pulls on the leash, why he will not grow out of doing so, how you can train your dog to stop pulling on the leash, and the best tips and tricks to train successfully.
Table of Contents
- Why does my puppy pull on the leash?
- Why won’t my puppy grow out of pulling?
- What other reasons might my dog be pulling?
- How do I stop my dog from pulling?
- How do I train my dog not to pull?
- Should I punish my dog for pulling?
- Should I use a choke chain or a prong collar?
- What about other training aids?
- What if my dog gets too distracted to train?
- What if training isn’t working for my dog?
Why does my puppy pull on the leash?
To put it simply, your dog pulls on the leash because he gets what he wants by doing so.
For many dogs, going for a walk is the most exciting part of their day. They will pull you down the path to the park because they are so thrilled to be going. Then, when you get there, you will usually either let your dog off leash or play with him in the park.
Your dog sees playtime in the park (or even the walk itself) as a reward for his pulling behavior. This means that the cycle will continue until you train your dog that he does not get rewarded for pulling.
Why won’t my puppy grow out of pulling?
As long as your dog continues to get what he wants by pulling, he will not simply grow out of it. Pulling is also in your dog’s nature: this is something called thigmotaxis, an opposition reflex. This means that dogs naturally desire to pull against pressure.
However, if you begin training your puppy not to pull from a young age, the habit will be much easier to break than later in your dog’s life.
What other reasons might my dog be pulling?
While most dogs pull from excitement or the natural desire to tug against the pressure of their lead, your pup may be pulling for other reasons. If their collar is uncomfortable, they may actually be pulling in an attempt to relieve pressure. Make sure that your dog’s collar and lead are well fitted and comfortable to avoid this.
Additionally, if your dog does not get enough exercise, all his pent-up energy can contribute to the excitement of the walk, leading to more pulling. Ensure that your dog is getting enough time to run and play.
How do I stop my dog from pulling?
In order to stop your dog from pulling, you will need time, consistency, and a whole lot of patience to train him. In the beginning, training may be frustrating, as it can take your dog a while to catch on to the fact that not pulling is more rewarding than pulling.
Make sure to keep plenty of high-value food treats on hand for this. You can also use clicker training.
How do I train my dog not to pull?
First, put your dog on his leash and lure him with a treat to stand at your side. When the leash is slack, reward him by giving him a treat. Even if he only keeps slack in the leash for a few steps, make sure you reward any little bit of progress with a treat.
If you are using clicker training, click every time you reward your dog with a treat.
Should I punish my dog for pulling?
You should never punish your dog while training. Instead, what you should do is “non-reward” him.
When your dog begins to pull, he is doing so because he wants the reward of going on the walk or getting to the dog park. So, the moment your dog begins to pull, stop walking and stand with your hands at your sides. Do not begin moving again until there is slack in the leash.
This will teach your dog that pulling does not get him what he wants any faster—in fact, it will slow things down significantly!
Should I use a choke chain or a prong collar?
Choke chains and prong collars do not help to stop pulling. In fact, they are dangerous, because they can cause severe injury to your dog’s neck if he pulls too hard while wearing one. These types of choke collars cause restriction and pressure on your dog’s sensitive airway.
According to dog training expert Jenny Prevel from D for Dog, choke collars were originally invented for brief correction under the supervision of a professional trainer. They should never be used while walking.
What about other training aids?
You should never use a choke collar for walk training, but head collars or body harnesses can be other, safer options for dogs who pull.
Head collars are designed similarly to a horse’s halter. If they are well fitted, your dog will have much less leverage to pull, because when he tries to pull, he will simply turn himself around.
Similarly, body harnesses remove pressure from your dog’s airway. Some dogs feel more comfortable and secure in a harness, which can reduce pulling. Front-clip body harnesses can work similarly to a head collar to reduce the leverage your dog has to pull.
What if my dog gets too distracted to train?
When training your dog to walk at your side, if possible, choose a quiet street at a slow time of day. This will reduce the number of distractions for your dog, such as people, other dogs, and cars, allowing them to focus solely on you.
If this is not possible for you, try choosing a small area: one block, a small corner of the park, or even your back yard.
What if training isn’t working for my dog?
It is important to remember that not every training method will work for every dog. If the “non-reward” method of standing still every time your dog pulls is not working for you, you may wish to try something else, such as a training aid or a different type of treat.
Whatever you choose to do, it is key to choose one method and stick with it long enough to determine if it is truly not working, or if your dog just needs more time. Training will not give overnight results—consistency and patience are necessary to see change in your dog.