By Tim Falk
Published: 01/20/2021, edited: 10/26/2022
Walking your dog is a simple and fun way to stay fit, provide mental stimulation for your pup, and strengthen your bond. But if your dog is constantly pulling on the leash, those walks can be stressful and even dangerous. It could lead to an injury for you or your dog, while it’s also essential that you’re able to control your pup so you can keep them safe.
But if you feel like your dog walks you rather than the other way around, you don’t have to suffer through painful walks any longer. Keep reading for our 5 simple secrets to help tackle your pooch’s pulling problem.
When your dog is pulling heavily on the leash, dragging you this way and that, the natural response is to pull back. But there’s a very good reason why you should ignore this reflex.
Pulling on your dog’s leash will only encourage them to pull even more. This is known as the “opposition reflex”, and it basically means that your pup’s natural reaction is to pull in response to being pulled.
So while it might be tempting to respond in kind when your dog starts to pull, you’ll have much more success if you look for ways to redirect their energy and get them to focus their attention on you.
Being pulled around by your dog can be very frustrating, but don’t fall into the trap of thinking that your dog is doing it simply to be naughty or disobedient. They also don’t do it as part of an effort to be the alpha dog or the pack leader.
Instead, consider things through your dog’s eyes for a minute and you’ll soon have a better understanding of why they always want to pull.
For your dog, a walk is a wonderfully exciting thing. There are loads of “pawsome” smells to investigate, new people and dogs to meet, and exciting adventures just waiting to be enjoyed. In short, pulling lets your dog get wherever they want to go, and it ensures they get there quicker than if they let you set the pace.
Pulling on the leash is a perfectly natural behavior for any dog, but it’s one you’ll need to address if you’re going to enjoy a relaxing walk with your pup.
To set yourself up for success, you’ll need appropriate equipment. Of course, the items you should use will vary depending on your dog.
A harness that buckles at the front can be a very handy tool for strong pullers. This relieves the strain on your pup’s neck, prevents choking, and distributes pressure across the dog’s chest and shoulders. There are also special head harnesses designed to safely discourage pulling — just make sure that any harness or collar you choose is humane and doesn’t cause any pain for your dog.
One item that's best to avoid is a retractable leash. Not only do these allow your dog to wander far away from your side, but they also encourage your pup to pull. When they pull while on a retractable lead, they get to where they want to go. These leashes also allow your pup to focus their attention elsewhere when it should be on you, so stick with a conventional lead for the best results.
Do a quick Google search and you’ll find that there are many different options for teaching your dog not to pull on their leash.
One popular method is to simply stop still on the spot when your dog starts to pull. You can then wait until there's some slack in the leash before setting off again.
You can take this method even further by stopping, encouraging your dog back to you, and then heading off in the opposite direction to the way you were originally walking. Over time, this should teach them that pulling isn’t going to get them anywhere.
Another approach is to reward your dog for walking by your side. This will motivate them to stick close to you during your walk, and they’ll soon come to learn that walking on a loose leash leads to good things.
The key is to find the method that works for your dog and stick to it. Check out our guide on how to train your dog to stop pulling on the leash for more information.
Finally, don’t forget the importance of having a few tasty treats on hand whenever you set out for a walk. You can use these to reward your dog for any good behavior, whether that be walking by your side, paying attention to your commands, or just behaving themselves when meeting other dogs.
The other thing you need to remember is that training of any kind takes time. If you’re expecting your dog to master loose-leash walking in one session, you’re in for a nasty shock.
As always, patience is a virtue, so take it slow and don’t rush things. You may also find that starting your on-lead training in a quiet environment with no distractions helps your dog concentrate and produces better results.
Hopefully, with a calm and consistent approach, your dog’s pulling on the leash will soon become a thing of the past.
Book a one-off session with a dog trainer near you through the Wag! app. Dog trainers on the Wag! platform will bring the obedience classes right to your back yard for a fraction of the cost of traditional obedience classes.
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