Walking is one of the daily activities that your dog eagerly anticipates. Your dog’s eagerness to explore the surroundings triggers his instinct to run ahead and drag you along. It’s a natural dog behaviour that must be managed so that daily walks would be an enjoyable experience.
If your dog is a leash puller, he must be taught to walk calmly on a lead. But rather than focus on how to stop your dog from pulling, concentrate on reducing his excitement. To help you manage your dog’s excitement, apply these tried-and-tested strategies to get lasting results.
1. Be a calm and confident pack leader
A successful dog walking session starts with the right mindset and energy. Dogs are instinctive pack animals that look to their leader for directions. Being the pack leader, you must have the ability and the confidence to give commands and follow through without hesitation. With your firm leadership, your dog will be more inclined to submit to you and behave positively.
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2. Teach your dog to walk on a loose lead during dog leash training
- Tire your dog before the walk.
Let your dog run around the garden or play with him with his favourite toy for twenty minutes. Taking out the excess energy will calm him down and make him more responsive to you.
- Have your dog sit quietly as you get the lead and other equipment ready.
Your dog should remain calm even as you attach the lead to his collar. Reinforce his obedience by praising him in an upbeat tone or rewarding him with a treat. If he refuses to comply, stop what you’re doing, hide the lead from him, and walk away. Wait for him to calm down before attaching the lead again.
- Take control of the situation.
The anticipation of the walk makes your dog extremely excited. His instinct is to run ahead to get to his desired location as quickly as possible. To prevent this, you should take control by stopping instead of reflexively yanking him back when he pulls. He’ll realise that this is an obstacle that will keep him farther from his goal. Wait for the lead to relax before continuing with the walk.
- Use rewards and vocal cues.
When your dog pulls on the lead, stop and take a few steps back. Reinforce this action by issuing vocal cues like ‘let’s go’ whilst going in the other direction. This prompts your dog to follow you at a steady pace. Reward him for his obedience and compliance. He’ll learn to associate treats with good behaviour.
3. Change up your dog’s walking routine.
You can change your walking routine so that he’s left wondering what you’ll do next. The unpredictability will make him pay attention to you every step of the way. Vary your techniques by changing routes or doing something new. An example would be walking around in circles or doing a figure of eight.
4. Use the right equipment correctly.
Using the right tools will help your training sessions be more effective and make your dog progress faster.
- Collars and leads
If you have a big, powerful dog with a strong pull, like a Bernese mountain dog or Great Dane, a front-clip harness is ideal. Dogs are less likely to pull with this type of harness. A short lead is preferable because it prevents your dog from pulling too far away. It’s also much easier for you to regain control when he tries to pull as the front-clip harness will throw them off balance. For dogs with heads slimmer than their necks, a Martingale collar is the best option. Learn more about this by checking our guide on dog lead types and harnesses.
Toys and edible rewards help reinforce the behaviour you want your dog to learn. Test a variety of treats to determine what your dog likes. Bring his favourite treats during your walks. Let your dog know what you have by passing your fist in front of his nose.
Pulling on a lead is an issue that can be prevented and managed with training and practice. It requires time and patience to train your dog to walk on a loose lead. There’ll be challenges along the way, but don’t be discouraged by the setbacks. In time, you will reap the rewards of your hard work. You will have a happy, healthy, and well-behaved dog.