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.

Written by James Barra

Veterinary reviewed by:

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

Training Questions

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Training Questions and Answers

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Loki

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Labrador Retriever

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7 months

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Question

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I have tried the u turn she resists by standing firm to the point of the harness pulling over her head. The treat method after a while she stops being interested in the treats even cheese. I do vary the treats. I have tried the stopping when pulling and signal to come rather than heel. She sits down. What are we doing wrong. She is great in the house with training.

Aug. 28, 2023

Loki's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello, I recommend hiring a private trainer to come for at least one session and assess her heeling with you. The issue might be fear or discomfort that needs to be addressed so she is more willing. The issue might be the equipment like the harness causing discomfort like chaffing. The issue might be stubbornness and a trainer teaching you how to handle the leash and interact with her would help. You might need to change your training tool or work up to your walking location, by starting training in a calmer location first. I suspect their is some form of fear of issue with the harness or hot pavement that's causing resistance and needs to be addressed, in addition to teaching the heel, and may be why heel training is progressing with her. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Sept. 14, 2023

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Alfie

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small mixed breed 20 pounds

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Three to five years rescue dog

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Question

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My 86 year old mother rescued Alfie. We thought he was older than her vet decided when we took Alfie in. He is very sweet and loves his walks. Unfortunately, he pulls terribly and we are worried he is going to pull my mom down. We need some advice on how to stop this bad habit. Thank you!

Nov. 23, 2022

Alfie's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello, First, I would work on starting to teach Heel, and encourage her to walk him in open areas to train him to pay better attention to her first before trying to take him on longer walks. Heel article - The turns method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel Second, I would introduce a no-pull device. Which device is best depends a lot on what the individual dog responds to best. A couple of the most effective options are gentle leaders (the ones that fit on the dogs face and turn their head if they pull), prong collars (these should be the type with prongs that are rounded on the end, a very small mm size, and fitted high on the neck behind the ears, tight enough that all the prongs gently touch the neck but none of them dig in. These devices are not supposed to use a lot of force, used correctly you can often correct with just two fingers, and they should not hang loose because then they hit the front of the neck which is bad for the neck; where as they are supposed to simply give a uniform squeeze around the neck to apply uncomfortable pressure, making them safer then something like a choke collar if used correctly); the final option, which is less effective than the two mentioned above, but still helpful, is a front clip harness, which can help turn the dog's body to the side when they pull. A back clip harness is the worse thing she can use because the tension on the back allows the dog to put their full strength into pulling and it naturally encourages the dog to pull against the backwards force (think sled dogs). Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Nov. 23, 2022


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