When your dog constantly pulls on the lead it can turn a leisurely walk into a battle of wills. The good news is, with some training and patience you can show your dog that walks are much more fun when they stay by your side.
Why do dogs pull on the lead?
Pulling is usually a sign of excitement. Being outside brings an array of sights and smells your dog can’t wait to investigate. In many ways, pulling is a sign of a happy, curious dog. But it can also strain their neck or lead to tricky moments with other dogs. And if you have a large dog, it can hurt you too. Basically, pulling makes walkies less fun, so it’s important to tackle it.
If your dog is lunging or barking while on the lead, they could be telling you they’re scared of something nearby and agitated because they can’t get away. See if you can work out what’s causing their fear and turn the situations into positive experience – ignore your dog’s fearful behaviour and reward them with praise or treats when they stay calm.
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 in most cases it won’t do them any harm so don’t be afraid to stand your ground when your dog starts straining on the lead. Avoid sharply tugging the lead, as a jolt can hurt or scare your dog.
How can I train my dog out of pulling on the lead?
Lead skills are an important part of puppy training. 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.
‘Heel’ is a great command to introduce when you’re getting a puppy used to their first lead. But 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.
Halting your walk every time 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. ‘Stop and turn’ works 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.
The range of leads, collars and harnesses in shops can be bamboozling. The right option depends on your dog’s age, training and health. Lead, collar and harness options include:
The best option for lead training. The lead’s fixed length gives you more control, helps your dog learn their limits, and keeps them safe.
These give your lead-trained dog the sense of freedom they crave, while keeping you in control. They’re not a great idea for puppies though, as the extra freedom they offer makes training tricky.
Having good control over your dog’s head helps you signal where you want them to look. This makes a collar a great option when your dog is young.
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). Before buying this kind of collar, double-check the brand you’re looking at has been approved by dog behaviourists – that way you know it’s completely dog-friendly.
Great for dogs with neck issues who can’t wear a collar. For other dogs, it’s best to wait until you’ve completed their lead training before switching to a dog harness. That’s because 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.