How to Train Your Small Dog to Not Pull on His Leash

Medium
3-6 Weeks
Behavior

Introduction

Don’t think for a moment that your dog cannot pull on a leash just because he’s small. Small dogs often get a lot of undeserved credit when it comes to obedience training simply because of their size. Some may think if you can pick you small dog up, you won’t need to train leash manners. And if you are stronger than your small pup, he won’t pull you while on a leash as a large dog would. But what you do need to know is if your small dog pulls on a leash attached to a collar, he could collapse his trachea and cause other health problems. Also, if allowed to pull on his leash, your small dog is still exerting power over you by letting you know he is master over you. Keep your small dog in check and in great health by training him not to pull on his leash. 

Defining Tasks

Consider putting your small dog in a harness as well as teaching him not to pull on his leash. This will protect his throat and trachea as well as give you better control over him while you walk together. Training your small dog to walk on a leash using manners will start with small walks together and rewards to keep him close to you. You will need to train your small dog that walking with you is more interesting than pulling you along. 

Teaching your small dog not to pull on a leash will require repetitive walks with frequent stops and rewards for good behavior. The age of your small dog won’t matter, but remember the younger your little guy is, the easier it will be to train manners. Rescue dogs and older dogs new to leash training will take a bit more patience and more time adapting to new behaviors. 

Getting Started

Be prepared to train leash manners and not pulling on the leash with a proper leash and collar for your little guy’s size. A harness is recommended for small dogs because it will protect your dog’s throat. A bag of treats while leash walking will keep your small dog motivated to do well and also keep his attention. Be patient and expect for the first several training sessions to walk and stop often, so don’t plan long walks expecting to actually go anywhere. 

The Leash Manners Method

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Step
1
Off-leash
Start by walking your small dog off leash around your fenced-in yard. Give him the freedom to roam and learn of spaces where he can be off leash. Stay close to him at first and talk with him so he knows you are nearby keeping him safe.
Step
2
Walk away
After a few moments walking together, walk away from him when he’s not paying attention to you. Once you are away from him, call him with enthusiasm. When he comes to you, give him a treat.
Step
3
Attention
Walk more with your small dog and carry on a conversation. Anytime you say his name or get his attention somehow, give him a treat.
Step
4
Practice
Keep practicing walking away from your small dog, calling him back, and rewarding him with a treat when you have his attention again.
Step
5
Leash walk
Leash your small dog and leave your backyard. You don't want your dog associating the safety of being off-leash in the confinement of your backyard with your expectations of the leash walking outside of your backyard. Keep the energy light and pay attention to when your small dog pulls on his leash.
Step
6
Pulling
Anytime your small dog pulls on the leash, stop walking. Eventually, the leash will tighten and your small dog will have to stop as well. When he stops, say his name and get his attention.
Step
7
Call back
Just as you did in the backyard, call him back to you. When he arrives at your side and you have his attention, give him a reward.
Step
8
Practice
Continue to practice on-leash walks. Your expectation should be anytime he pulls, you stop walking, he recognizes that you have stopped, you call him back to your side reward him for giving you his attention. Over time, if he gets too far away, you should be able to say his name to get his attention before he even pulls the leash. Be sure to reward him every time you have his full attention.
Step
9
Manners
When your small dog is walking with you and not pulling on the leash more often than not, get his attention often and give him a treat. Rewarding for positive behaviors will be something he remembers each time he is on the leash.
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The Standing Still Method

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Step
1
Leash and harness
Put your small dog in a harness so he does not damage his neck or throat while pulling on the leash. Attach a leash to his harness and be prepared for a walk.
Step
2
Stand still
If your dog is excited, you want to calm him down before walking because he will tug the leash if he's overly excited. Stand still and wait for him to calm down. If he is already calm, just stand and make him wait until you are ready to start walking.
Step
3
Command
Once your little guy has calmed down, give him a command such as 'let's go' or 'walk' and begin your walk together.
Step
4
Excitement
Anytime your little guy gets excited on the walk and pulls ahead of you, tug gently on the leash and stop, stand still, and wait for him to come back to you. If you need to call your dog to have him come back to you, feel free to call him by name. But be sure you are stopping and standing still until he is calm.
Step
5
Reward
When your little guy has settled down and come back to your side, give him a reward for paying attention and calming down.
Step
6
Walk again
Give your command to walk again and begin your walk together. Practice this several times and your little dog will begin to get used to walking with you rather than pulling on the leash while you walk.
Step
7
Practice
This takes practice and lots of rewards. Your dog is going to want to move, not be stopped all the time. Continue to stop each time he pulls the leash, call him back, reward him for coming back, and start with the 'walk' command again. Eventually, your small dog should be able to walk on a loose leash without pulling you along.
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The Change Habits Method

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Step
1
On a walk
If your little dog has been pulling and you need to change his habits, start on your next walk. Walk together and anytime your little guy tugs the leash, stop what you're doing and stand still. Patiently wait for him to notice you've stopped.
Step
2
Dog stop
Your dog will eventually stop because he will run out of leash. Small dogs are not strong enough to pull you over, so he will have nowhere to go once he realizes you have stopped.
Step
3
Acknowledge
When he stops for you, walk to him or call him to you and, give him a treat. Carry on with your walk when you're ready.
Step
4
Repeat
Repeat these steps while on your walk with your small dog. This will teach him every time he pulls, you stop and he doesn't get to go any further. By treating him when he comes back to you or when he stops, you are rewarding him for being obedient and stopping and listening to you.
Step
5
Practice
Continue to practice redirecting your small dog while walking on a leash together. If your small dog is unresponsive when you stop and doesn't have any interest in coming back to you, turn your back toward him and gently tug on the leash. Do not tug on a leash if your little dog is not in a harness. This is a gentle tug, just enough to feel his leash. Once you have his attention, carry on.
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Success Stories and Training Questions

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