Your puppy is really a great, nice-tempered dog, but as soon you get out to have a walk with him, he just keeps dragging you down the road. Plus, if your dog is large sized, this might get really frustrating.
However, training a young dog to walk on a leash without pulling him all the time is actually not that difficult. It is one of the basic training tasks and can also be approached through a game.
But, like most things with dogs, the process of learning to walk on a leash beside you and without constant pulling requires time and patience. You will need more time teaching an adult dog than a puppy, so the sooner you start the better!
Stay persistent and patient during the training process, and having your pup walk beside you without pulling the leash, may become a new behavioral habit your dog will embrace.
Soon enough, pleasant walks with no pulling will become a routine for both you and your dog. Regardless of the approach you choose, being consistent with the rules you once establish is one of the most important things, followed by the right choice of suitable equipment and training routines.
Let’s take it slowly and describe all the elements that are crucial for this training.
Length of The Leash
Choosing the right leash makes the whole learning process much easier for both you and your dog. The market provides us with a wide variety of options when it comes to this piece of dog walking equipment.
At this stage of training, the most important feature of the leash would be its length. Limiting the distance your dog can roam away and maintaining full control is crucial while training.
The main dilemma for new owners is whether to choose a particular length or a retractable length leash. Though very popular and commonly in use, retractable leashes such as Flexi or WalkAbout are not suitable for training. Nevertheless, they sure come in handy while walking a trained dog.
Particular-length leashes can be divided into two categories: four to six foot length and ten to thirty foot length. The four to six foot leash is the most appropriate training leash for several reasons:
- It is easier to manipulate
- It enables controlling the distance your dog can wander
- It fits the need of constant supervision necessary for this stage of training
- It provides you with close control over the dog
Longer leashes are mostly used in the outdoor recall training but are also very convenient for walks in open areas, where you can allow your dog to explore a little farther from you, while still on a leash.
The four to six-foot leash is the most appropriate choice for training your dog not to pull while on leash.
Choosing The Most Suitable Training Collar
As well as the leash, the right choice of the collar is of a significant importance and may help improve the learning process.
The most common collars are the flat buckle or snap buckle collars. They are convenient as they can be worn all the time. These collars are not designed to reduce the pulling themselves but may be used in the training process since they cannot harm the dog in any way.
The problem that may occur is that some dogs, especially in training, tend to pull their heads out of the collar. If chosen carefully these collars may just be the right choice for the training. So, just make sure it won’t choke your dog or fit him too loose.
Choker (chain) collars may as well be used in the training process since they are designed to reduce the pulling by applying pressure to the dog’s neck. The same problem as with flat/snap buckle collars may also occur in this case, since it’s easy to pull out of it when loose. However, this option might be best advised if you have a large sized dog.
Anyway, you should be aware that if not used properly, these collars may cause coughing and choking. Choker collars can be produced from various materials, not only metal.
Prong collars are designed to be used in the training process but are often objected to cause pain. In the long term, especially if used by an inexperienced trainer, they may induce serious behavioral problems, such as fear and aggression and, therefore, are not recommended to be used unless under the supervision of a certified dog trainer.
The other issue regarding the prong collars is the size – if it is too loose, it is both ineffective and carries a risk of injury to the dog while pulling the head out of it.
Harnesses, whether a front clip or regular clip, are also a common equipment in leash training, especially when it comes to small or brachiocephalic breeds. There is no danger of pulling the head out, but it is sometimes disputed not to provide the kind of control that collars do.
The difference between the front clip harnesses and regular clip ones is in the position of the spot where the leash is to be attached. In case of the front clip, the attachment spot is in the chest area, while in the case of the regular clip it is positioned in the shoulder area.
Choice of a particular material that the equipment is being made of may seem irrelevant, yet it may also help the process of dog’s adjustment to the leash and collar. Leashes, as well as the collars, can be made out of fabric, chain or leather.
The choice of the collar is usually based on a dog’s size. Some collars such as prong or choker collars should be used carefully as they could hurt your dog.
The Beginning of The Training Process
Although many producers claim that products themselves may reduce the pulling, it would be fairly truer to say that they can only help you while training. Proper equipment does help, though you shouldn’t expect that you will simply solve the problem by putting the right collar on your dog’s neck and attaching it to the right leash.
So, let’s get to the core of the problem : How do you train your dog properly.
There are several tips and strategies for training your dog to walk beside you.
Many dogs tend to pull while walking on the leash, so getting them to adjust to the leash and walking beside you may be done by following several dog leash pulling strategies.
No matter which one you end up choosing, repeating the exercise patiently until they become a habit, and following the rules that you established at the very beginning is crucial to each and every one of them.
Lure and Reward Strategy
This very common strategy is based on the principle that it is very simple and effective.
1. Use Treats As A Reward
After putting the leash on, assume the position with your dog standing on your left side. With treats that you hold in your hand which is several inches in front of the dog’s nose, lure the dog while walking slowly forward. The reward comes in form of treats every five to ten steps.
2. Use Verbal Commands
This strategy should be followed by a verbal annunciation; call your dog by his name, repeat phrases such as “Let’s walk” or just “Walk”. Verbal commands are important so that the dog may associate the term with the reward during the first several training sessions, and later on with the activity of walking on the leash itself.
3. Replace Treats With Verbal Approval
As the sessions progress, treats should be reduced until completely replaced with a verbal approval. If during the process the dog pulls out of the collar, stop and with no panic readjust the collar and proceed with the exercise.
The same approach may be applied to puppies as well as to fully grown dogs. The baseline of this strategy is gaining the dog’s attention, and pointing it onto yourself while training on a regular basis until it becomes a habit.
Yet, some dogs tend to avoid fulfilling the task after treats have been reduced, or simply not respond to this strategy. Therefore, the choice of the training strategy depends mostly on the character of a particular dog.
Most dog owners will find the “Lure and Reward” approach efficient. However, some dogs might not respond to the verbal approval after the treats have been reduced.
Rhythm Change And Verbal Approach Strategy
The other approach to the dog pulling on a leash problem is based more on communication strategies than a reward itself, although the reward should come afterward (whether as a treat or in some other form). Some dogs do not respond well to the lure and treat tactics.
The following approach is more soothing for fully grown dogs that tend to pull while on the leash than puppies or young dogs still adjusting to the leash.
1. React to Pulling Each Time
Your reaction to the pulling is what this strategy is based on. Instead of simply stopping or even worse, start pulling back in the opposite direction, turn back and walk in the direction you originally came from.
2. Verbally Support Your Reaction And Follow Up With a Treat When Your Dog Fulfills The Demand
Verbally support your action as your dog approaches you, and follow the fulfilled demand with a small treat. Only after that should you continue to walk in the original direction. A strong verbal support is much needed so that it is associated with the action as the training goes on.
3. Stay Consistent
Keep in mind to use the same words or phrases every time. Repeat them during every practice, and try to maintain the same intonation every time.
If you wish to teach your dog to walk without pulling on a long leash, there is another useful technique variation supported by this same strategy you should know about.
For this exercise, you may use a harness, flat or snap belt collars, or choke collars. Keep in mind that, if using a choker, running or very strong pulling may hurt the dog by the impact when it reaches the end of the leash.
Retractable leashes, although may seem fitting, are hard to manipulate at this stage of the training process, especially when it comes to bigger and stronger dogs. Therefore, they are not the best choice of equipment to overcome this task.
4. Release The Full Length of The Leash And Stop When The Pulling Starts
By releasing the full length of the leash, try walking alongside with your dog. When the pulling starts, stop and wait until the whole length of the leash is used. After that, start reducing its length until the dog starts approaching you.
Using the same verbal commands and treats when the task is fulfilled will make walking without pulling a routine.
Training your dog to respond to your verbal approval and commands is the best way to make sure your dog will stop pulling on leash. Make sure to be patient and the results will show.
Collar Correction Strategy
Although the title may lead to thinking that the collar is the centerpiece of this strategy, it is still the relationship between the dog and the owner (or the person that trains him) that dictates the outcome of the training. Collar itself cannot teach the dog not to pull the leash or walk beside you.
This approach is, nevertheless, based on the use of particular collar types and avoiding others in order not to inflict injuries or hurt the dog in any other way. Therefore, only flat/snap belt collars and choker collars (used with extreme caution, and inflicting minimal force) may be used.
1. Apply Small Amount Of Sudden Resistance Each Time Pulling Occurs
This strategy is based on applying a small amount of sudden force while walking slowly on a short leash. The force should be applied in the form of a sudden jerk, but not pulling. It is important to point out the distinction because pulling can only cause a counter effect and an even more enthusiastic reaction from the dog.
2. Punish Your Dog Verbally And Encourage Him With Treats
Applying the sudden force should be simultaneous with a verbal warning phrase and followed with an encouragement and a small treat when the dog reacts properly to the stimulants you provide during the action.
Some dogs respond to this approach very quickly, but keep in mind that not all dogs respond the same way. If there is no noticeable progress, rather than applying stronger force and risk injuring your dog, switch to a different strategy in order not to create a counter effect or cause behavioral issues such as fear or aggression.
It is of great importance to keep in mind that not the same amount of force should be applied to dogs of different sizes in different situations. Once again, the learning process depends heavily on your reactions, patience and on the dog’s character.
If none of the above works, the collar correction training method might be needed. Watch out that if too strong force is applied to the collar, you might end up injuring your dog. This approach is often used with large sized dogs.