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Your miniature Schnauzer must have been a Husky in another life. No sooner is his leash on than he's tugging to get going. You step outside and he's off, sometimes pulling so hard that he's walking on his two back legs, with the front end in the air. Considering he's suspended from the throat, it isn't a great idea but it doesn't seem to bother him.
For ages, you've been meaning to do something about his pulling, but haven't quite got around to it. But then came winter, with icy pavements and he nearly had you over. Then, unfortunately, you did slip (not his fault) and broke your wrist. This means it's suddenly become even more important that he doesn't pull because you want to go over on the ice once again.
You try pulling back on his collar, but he only pulls harder. A friend suggested a choke chain... but you really don't like the idea, plus you're not convinced it would work. So what to do?
Training a dog that pulls on the leash means breaking the self-rewarding habit of pulling. This can be done in different ways, such as showing the dog that when he pulls you stop. In other words, pulling is no longer beneficial because it takes longer to get to the park.
Alternatively, you can have the dog focus intently on you and learn to sit whenever you stop. This prevents him surging on ahead because he's vigilant for you stopping so that he doesn't miss out on the goodies.
To train a miniature Schnauzer that pulls on the leash you should pick a time when you aren't in a rush. During retraining, you won't get far (in distance) so it's no good trying to shoe-horn in a lesson when it's imperative you give him a good run around the park ahead of you going to work.
In addition, you will need:
- A comfortable collar (or harness) and leash (No retractable leashes, please)
- Small bite-sized treats that are tempting to eat but gone in a second
- A bag or pouch to keep the treats handy
- A quiet room to train
The Stop and Go Method
Why stop & go works
Pulling on the leash is a self-rewarding behavior. The dog pulls because he thinks he gets to the park more quickly. What happens? He pulls and gets to the park. This stop and go method means you stop in your tracks when the dog pulls, which means he has to wait a little longer to get where he wants to go. You only start moving again once the pulling has stopped. When you apply this consistently, the dog will eventually realize that pulling doesn't get him anywhere quickly and will walk nicely.
Have plenty of time
This is not the method to use when you are in a hurry and need to get the dog walked quickly before going to work. Chose a time when you aren't in a rush and can afford to spend ages going nowhere. You can also practice in the home or yard, and get the dog used to not pulling there before you try it outside on a proper walk.
Set off on a walk
With the dog on a collar (or harness) and leash, set off on a walk. Keep an eye to see there is slack in the leash. As soon as the leash goes taut, make a disapproving noise such as "Uh-oh", and stop in your tracks.
Wait for the dog to stop or sit
Wait for slack in the leash before setting off again. Some people prefer to have the dog come to heel before resuming the walk. Set off again, and while the dog is not pulling say "Good", to encourage the dog.
Repeat the stop and start
Keep repeating this pattern as you walk. The idea is that the dog learns pulling means no progress and walking on a slack leash means steady progress.
The Sit and Reward Method
Understand the idea
This method is subtly different in that you teach the dog when you stop and he sits, then he gets a reward. Once the dog has learned the link between you stopping and a reward, as soon as he starts to surge ahead on the leash, you stop - hence stopping his forward movement because he sits. After a while the dog starts to watch you closely to see if you are about to stop, and he no longer surges ahead to pull.
Practice stop and sit
Start off indoors or in a distraction-free yard. Have a supply of tasty treats on you, and work with the dog off-leash. Show the dog a treat to get his attention. Then walks a few steps and stop. The dog will try to get your attention, such as pawing at you or walking in a circle around you, as he tries to work out how to get the treat. Ignore him. Eventually, he will sit to have a think. As soon as he sits say "Yes" and give him the treat. Start walking again, and repeat this over.
Establish this behavior
Keep practicing so that the dog trots along beside you indoors, watching for the moment when you stop so that he can sit and get the treat. Once he is doing this regularly you can take the training outdoors on the leash.
Set off on a walk. As soon as the dog pulls, say "Uh-oh" and stop. Ignore the dog and wait for him to sit. He may do this immediately, or he may fool around for a while. But eventually he will sit. Say "Yes" and give the treat. Start walking again and repeat.
Add verbal cues
As the dog gets the hang of watching you walk, encourage him with "yes" in a happy voice, so he understands he's doing good. Stop periodically, wait for him to sit, reward, then start off again. Once the dog is regularly walking to heel watching you, say "Heel" and give him a treat, so that he learns what this action is called, which means you can then tell him what's desired of him on future walks.
The Do's and Don'ts Method
Do: Keep training fun
This should be fun and more like a game than a strict training session. Just like people, dogs learn more quickly when they are enjoying themselves.
Do: Give plenty of exercise
Make sure the dog gets a chance to burn off excess energy before you train. If he's brim full of energy it's much harder for him to concentrate and he'll be distracted more easily. Play with him or let him run around the yard playing ball, ahead of a training session.
Don't: Use harsh training aids
There is no place for harsh correction tools such as shock collars, prong collars, or choke chains in training a dog. OK, the dog may stop pulling but this is because you are inflicting pain rather than teaching him to listen to instruction.
Don't: Punish or chastise
If the dog continues to pull on the leash, never punish him. He won't understand what the punishment is for and it will make him anxious around you. Instead of telling the dog what not to do with punishment, reward him when he stops pulling.
Do: Give gentle guidance
While you should never punish the dog for pulling, it is a good idea to tell him what he's doing is wrong. A simple "Uh-oh" said in a disapproving tone when he pulls, helps him to understand precisely what he's doing wrong. Likewise, when he behaves, then a happy "Yes" helps reinforce what you want him to do.
By Pippa Elliott
Published: 03/28/2018, edited: 01/08/2021