How to Train a Large Dog to Not Pull

How to Train a Large Dog to Not Pull
Hard difficulty iconHard
Time icon1-8 Weeks
Behavior training category iconBehavior

Introduction

It may startle strangers when he bounds towards them, but you know he’s all soft inside. He’s your big, lovable dog and you wouldn’t swap him for the world. His size does mean, however, that he can’t sit on your lap while you watch TV. It also means he eats a tremendous amount of food each day. But the real drawback of his size is that taking him out for a walk can be somewhat of a nightmare. He’s so strong that as soon as he sees another dog, he pulls you half way across the street.

Training him not to pull will only bring benefits. No longer will you have to worry about being pulled to the ground and injuring yourself. Also, you won’t have to worry about him charging into a road and causing a serious traffic accident, maybe even losing his life. Not to mention, instilling this discipline into him will make it easier to teach him a range of other commands too.

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Defining Tasks

Training any dog not to pull is difficult. But with large dogs, it is particularly challenging. His size and strength mean retaining control is simply not easy. Therefore, you will have to be strict during training. You will use obedience commands to bring him in line. You will also have to appeal to his rather large belly to motivate him not to pull. In addition, you will have to take steps to prevent him from pulling in the first place.

If he’s a puppy he should be keen to please. This means you could see results in just a week or so. However, if he has years of pulling under his collar, then you may need a couple of months before training proves successful. If you can get this right, walks will become leisurely strolls with your canine companion, free from stress and shoulder injuries.

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Getting Started

Before you start training, you will need to get your hands on a few items. Due to his size, a body harness is a good idea. This will reduce strain on his neck while increasing your control. You will also need a short training leash.

Stock up on mouth-watering treats or break his favorite food into small pieces. Cheese also works well. You can conduct all training when you are out on your daily walk.

Once you have all that, just bring patience and an optimistic attitude, then work can begin!

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The Treat Lure Method

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1

Head height

Place him on a leash and then head out for a walk. However, hold a tasty and preferably smelly treat at his head height. Make sure he can’t get to the treat, but let him sniff around so he knows something irresistible is there.

2

10 yards

Walk 10 yards slowly with the treat by your side. This should keep him walking closely next to you and prevent any pulling.

3

Reward

Once he has walked the 10 yards without pulling, give him the tasty treat. You can also click if you use a clicker for training, to further let him know he has done a good job. Some verbal praise will also help.

4

Increase the distance

Now start walking again with a treat at his head height. But this time walk 20 yards before you hand over the treat. The time after that walk 30 yards. Keep increasing the distance until it becomes habit for him to walk next to you.

5

Cut out the treats

Only when he is in a consistent routine of not pulling should you cut out the treats. So, continue to use them until even distractions like other dogs and people do not cause him to pull.

The ‘Heel’ Method

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1

Harness & leash

Fit him in his body harness, secure him to a short leash and then head out the door as you normally would. Also, make sure you have a pocketful of tasty treats.

2

‘Heel’

As soon as he pulls, issue a ‘heel’ command in a firm voice. You don’t want to terrify him, but you do want him to know you mean business. You can use any word or phrase you like for this instruction.

3

Stop

As you give the command, stop and stand still. He will eventually be forced to stop and after a while of looking around confused, he will return to your side. Hold eye contact as you do this, so he knows you are expecting him to do something.

4

Reward

Once he has returned to your side, you can hand over a treat. Now you can start walking again. However, as soon as he pulls again, repeat the same steps as above. Consistency is key if you want swift results.

5

Lose the treats

He will gradually improve over a number of weeks. At this point, you can then start to cut out the treats. He knows what is expected of him now and will no longer require a food incentive.

The U-Turn Method

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1

Head out

Ensure he is in a body harness and a short leash, then head out for your daily walk. Try not to get him too worked up as you go out, so stay relatively calm.

2

Turn

As soon as he pulls, you need to turn and start walking in the opposite direction. Be firm, but don’t hurt him. This will show him that whenever he pulls he doesn’t get to go where he wants to walk. It will emphasise who is in control of the walk.

3

Encouragement

As you pull him around, you can also call his name to make sure he catches up with you. It’s important that you react decisively each time and swiftly get him back to your side.

4

Consistency

You need to repeat this procedure whenever he pulls. It may mean that walks are very frustrating for a little while, as you are constantly walking backwards and forwards. However, he will soon catch on.

5

All on board

You also need to make sure everyone that walks him is on board with this new routine. That means any friends or family members also use the same technique. Each time he is able to pull without consequence will push the end result back.

By James Barra

Published: 02/12/2018, edited: 01/08/2021

Training Questions

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Training Questions and Answers

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Bailey

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Siberian Husky

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7 Months

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Question

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How do I keep her focused on me? When we are walking and shes doing good isnt pulling I want to reward her but she wont look at me if i call her name. Also second question when we are walking and she stops to smell something for example a tree should I stop and let her smell or should i keep walking?

Nov. 22, 2021

Bailey's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello Ester, I would teach a release word, like "Go Sniff", or "Okay" and allow her to sniff with permission when you choose, but don't allow her to stop to sniff just whenever she feels like it. When you are ready to go again after letting her sniff, give her another command to keep walking, like "Heel" or "Let's Go", then continue your walk with her. For the attention, check out the Turns method from the article I have linked below. Look for times when she looks up at you during the turns practice, and be sure to give a treat each of those times during practice. I find that something like small pieces of freeze dried liver works well for heel practice because it dissolves more easily in pup's mouth while on the go and most dog's like freeze dried meat's flavor. Turns method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Nov. 26, 2021

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Giselle

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? Mutt

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2 Years

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I’m crippled n I adopted her. Then ❤️ Worms. Now she drags me if I attempt t walk her. Vest✅ 2leashes ✅all I need is a cart and she can take ME riding.

Dec. 31, 2020

Giselle's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello Deborah, First, I recommend using a training tool that will allow less pulling for your own safety - the tool won't train pup alone, but it can help keep you safe in the meantime. A gentle leader or prong collar tend to be most effective for hard pullers. Make sure they are fitted correctly though. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=23zEy-e6Khg With a tool to help with pulling to keep you safe, check out the Turns method from the article linked below. Practice that method in a calm location like your yard first to teach pup to pay better attention and actually walk with you so pulling isn't an issue eventually. Turns method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Dec. 31, 2020


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