How to Teach Your Dog Not to Pull on a Leash

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Valerie moved from the country to the city with her dog and trained him for city life by not letting him pull on his leash.

What Makes a Dog Lunge and Pull?

Your dog may want to get to something, like trash on the ground or say hi another dog. You may be refusing to go where he wants or maybe you're just too slow. Dogs are awfully strong, he may manage to drag you gradually over to where he's going. Once he's learned that's the way to get what he wants, he may keep doing it even if pulling hurts and chokes him. Dogs can be very determined!

Or, he may be frightened. He could be trying to run away from something scary, or he may be lunging at it to try and scare it away. What we call "aggression" in dogs very often starts with fear. They try to intimidate the scary dog or person by leaping, barking, and raising hackles.

What Can I Do to Stop the Pulling?

Most people walk with a basic flat collar, which is the most basic equipment you need to attach a leash, identification, and rabies tag. While not designed to hurt the dog, if the handler and the dog are untrained, jerks from either end of the leash can choke the dog and hurt his throat. This won't necessarily slow him down, either; dogs often seem to think that what they are chasing is what causes them to choke, so they try harder.

There are two basic philosophies behind the methods used to stop pulling.

  1. One is to avoid hurting the dog.
  2. The other is to hurt the dog more.

How Can I Avoid Hurting My Dog?

The very best way teach your dog not to pull is to learn loose-leash walking This means that he stays close to you so that the leash is slack. Basically the leash is just there as an emergency backup.

In the video below, Victoria Stillwell uses the reverse direction method to teach a puppy how to walk with the leash loose. Note that her focus is on persuading the dog to want to be near her. She doesn't jerk the leash or pull on the puppy.

Training Loose Leash Walking

Are there other training methods?

  • Sure! Almost as many as there are trainers! Consider searching for force-free training videos. Pick out ideas that appeal to you and give them a try. There are many available on Facebook.
  • Do you have a determined puller and do-it-yourself training doesn't work? You can locate an ethical and professional dog trainer at this site: Pet Professional Guild

Is There an Easier Way?

One thing that may get you some quick relief is a harness. It distributes the force so that your dog isn't leaning his weight into his throat. This is much safer for him and by making him less fearful, excited, or nervous, it may reduce pulling pretty quickly.

Even if you're still having to train to reduce pulling, a harness is a safer way to attach the leash. Think about it--what happens if you trip? If your dog steps on the leash? If he's attacked by a loose dog and you have to haul him away? Pulling on his torso is so much safer than on his neck!

Be sure to use your harness safely!

  • Don't put it on until time for a walk. Some dogs will chew their harness if they're left lying around in it.
  • Don't use a harness while playing in the dog park—another dog could get caught in it, and then both will panic.
  • Don't get a harness that's designed to tighten when the dog pulls. The goal is not to hurt or frighten the dog.

Front-Clip Harness

When I moved to the city with my country dog, we didn't know much about leash walking, and he didn't know anything about the city. He was frightened of so many things: trucks, the postman, loud cars, strangers looking at him, etc.

Some things Badger would try to run from and others, like trucks and the postman, he would try to chase away. If we were walking and encountered something something he was afraid of, he might leap at it and bark. I would set my feet and grab the leash in both hands, bracing myself for 90 pounds of dog hitting the collar. He would slam into it, choking and growling, as I pulled him away.

Each time he hit the collar, his fear would only get worse. It seemed as though he thought the trucks and postmen were strangling him and he tried harder to scare them away. And his fears grew and spread to new objects: loud cars, motorcycles, aggressive dogs. I had no way of predicting them or preparing him. Even worse, he was developing a chronic cough that worried me.

I researched solutions to taking the pressure off his throat and learned about front-clip harnesses. The leash attaches at the center of the dog's chest, so when he pulls, he turns himself slightly away from the direction he wants to go. And if you have to pull him away from something, you're leading him straight forward without pulling on his neck.

I measured and fitted Badger, carefully following instructions. Then we went out to look for a truck! A white van came past us and Badger leaped. He hit the harness and looked at me in surprise--the impact was across his chest, not his throat, and he hadn't choked a bit. After two or three more encounters, I could see his tension start to dissolve. Gradually the lunging grew less intense. And in a few months he was ignoring passing vehicles and even postal workers. Best of all, that nasty cough has vanished.

Top-Clip Harness

If you have a Houdini dog who wriggles out of his harness or if you take your dog on hikes and other activities, the Ruffwear brand comes highly recommended.

It clips on the top and has multiple points of adjustment to achieve a perfect fit. With three straps circling the body and one passing between the front legs it's awfully difficult to escape from.

The chest and bands are padded to prevent chafing and there's a handle on top so you can help your dog over rough bits of trail. And users say that their dogs pull less while wearing it.

To use shock as an effective dog training method you will need:

- A thorough understanding of canine behavior.

- A thorough understanding of learning theory.

- Impeccable timing.

And if you have those three things, you don't need a shock collar.

— Dr. Ian Dunbar

What If I'd Rather Hurt My Dog?

If you want to hurt your dog, there are lots of delightful "tools", as some folks call them, to do the job. They'll get your dog into an instant state of fearful attentiveness.

If you haven't guessed it, the following is meant to be sarcastic.

Luckily, dogs are very enthusiastic and not terribly bright, so many of them won't show resentment (towards you, anyway) and may not even figure out what's hurting them. If he does become aggressive, there's plenty of other things to use to hurt him worse, so that's okay!

I mean, who wants to bother with all that practice and patience nonsense? Why give the dog treats when you can give him a good jolt or jab?

  • Choke chain: The good ol' choker is a classic. It works very simply to cut off the dog's air supply until he does what you want. If he can't figure it out, you just keep jerking until he learns how to avoid being suffocated. Fun for the whole family.
  • Prong collar: Sometimes called a "pinch" collar, this network of inward-facing, blunt steel spikes keeps your dog on tippy-toe with apprehension. If he pulls, he gets jabbed. If he does something you don't like, you just jerk it and he gets jabbed. If he trips or steps on the leash, he gets really jabbed.
  • Shock collar: But what if he's still dragging you on the prong, as many do? How can you really hurt him? Why, electric shock! It's okay because the lowest setting is just an itty-bitty tingle. But most shockers (or "e-collars" as we affectionately call them) have 9 more settings. And you have the control in your sweaty palm just at the moment you get most frustrated and really want to punish him. And nobody will know, so that's just hunky-dory.

Note: You'll notice that I didn't insert any links for these painful collars . I'm not going to peddle dog-torturing junk to you. So scroll back up the page, learn how to train, and buy some safe equipment!

© 2014 Valerie Proctor Davis

Don't buy on September 15, 2017:

The no pull harness might stop your dog pulling but my beautiful girl got out of hers when we were attacked by a cat. She ran across the road and was killed, so please please make sure your dog can't get out of it. I was left with locked harness and a dead dog, I'd hate for others to go through what I had to. I still have no idea how she managed to get out of it and still have nightmares.

Coco on November 12, 2016:

Most experts agree that harnesses will cause a dog to pull more and they have MUCH more pulling power that way. I have yet to meet anyone who stated that a harness helped them solve their dogs pulling problem. A long line and heeling training can help. A prong collar is not an evil device as long as you use it properly, i.e., don't drag your dog around with it. It is much less harmful than a flat collar OR martingale collar as the trainer is using in the video because the dog is not choking itself (resulting in the "cough" you mentioned). Front-hook harnesses do NOT help with extremely agitated or excited dogs - in fact, they can hurt themselves. My German Shepherd sprained her own leg by trying to run while wearing a properly fitted EasyWalk front hook harness. So - thank you for sharing your experiences but you are not an expert and readers should keep an open mind.

B on May 19, 2016:

I hate the bottom half of your article and the way it's titled " What if I'd Rather Hurt My Dog". This shouldn't be an option and the way you explained each of those terrible options is appalling. Shame on you and your lame attempt at the end to make it better.

LA on February 17, 2016:

I totally disagree with the way that you classify the prong collar. When used correctly it helps. Dog to stop pulling without hurting them. Many of the harnesses can actually hurt a dog instead of helping them. I think you need to do more research into the tools available before presenting items as bad and making a mockery of those tools.

Wanda Fitzgerald from Central Florida on October 23, 2014:

I'm going to get a harness. I had no idea.

LisaDH on September 19, 2014:

My dogs always want to pull on the leash, and a harness has been helpful.

DogsbyLinda on August 29, 2014:

Brilliantly written! I shared this everywhere!

Pam Irie from Land of Aloha on August 28, 2014:

Thank you for putting in that disclaimer at the bottom about those horrid "tools" that some lazy people (sorry, that's the way I look at it) may use. UGH :(

We've been thinking for quite a while about getting a good harness for our dog on her walks...I think she and both my husband and I would be much more comfortable.

Shasta Matova from USA on August 28, 2014:

When I first got my dog, I read all sorts of things about alpha dogs and such, and they didn't seem right, but I didn't really know. Now that I've had more experience, I fully agree with what you say - the dog will obey you - he just has to know what you want. He is excited about being able to go outside, so of course he will want to pull until you train him that he has to slow down for you. You've offered great advice here.

Elsie Hagley from New Zealand on August 28, 2014:

Great hub with very handy tips. On the farm when I had dogs I never needed to use a leash, I would tell the dog to get in behind me when moving stock, and she would always obey me. I may be wrong but it's all in the training of a dog from the beginning.

Donna Cook on August 28, 2014:

Good ideas! I've given up on dog training videos. My puppy is nothing like the ones in the video. The most useful way for my dog to stop pulling is to just stop until there is no tension on the leash. Saw this on "Dogtown" and it works with Buffy.

Sp Greaney from Ireland on August 28, 2014:

I've seen lots of dog now being walked using the harness. They also seem to be very obedient too when they are being walked.

I think patience, repetition and persistence will do the job. Plus treats always work well too. :)

Brian Stephens from Laroque des Alberes, France on August 28, 2014:

Useful tips for walking your dog without pulling. It is a very common problem.

Robin S from USA on August 28, 2014:

Great tips. Our dog is too old for taking long walks now but I'll remember this for future reference.

Speed Cues

Now that your dog is politely walking at your side, it’s time to speed things up. When you’re out for a walk, it’s handy to have a cue, such as “let’s go,” that tells your dog it’s time to move on and get walking. A different cue, like “get running” or “move it,” can be used to tell your dog it’s time to pick up the pace. The more information you can give your dog about what you expect, the better he will be at responding appropriately.

To teach the running cue, intersperse short bursts of jogging or running with your normal walking pace. Simply give the cue immediately before you increase your speed, and then reward your dog when he hurries to catch up. In the same way, you can teach a cue such as “whoa” to slow your dog down.

Leash Training: How to Walk a Dog That Pulls

Wondering how to leash train your dog so your dog is walking happily by your side, stopping when you stop, turning when you turn, and continuing with you past other dogs and people. He doesn't pull on the leash, and he only goes potty and sniffs when you give permission. Leash manners is probably the most challenging thing you will probably teach him to do, but it is fun too and well worth the effort! Read on to begin to make this vision a reality.

Before we begin:

A head collar or front-attachment harness can help to discourage your dog from pulling, but he will need training to learn to walk beside you without pulling at all.

A front-attachment harness is a safe and easy to use no-pull device that is great for all dogs. Choose a head collar for dogs with aggressive tendencies or for those that need the maximum amount of control such as a small owner with giant-breed dog.

Gigo wearing a Gentle Leader head collar (left) and a Easy Walk front-attachment harness (right)

The front-attachment harness and head collar should only be used with leashes that are a maximum of 6 feet long. If the leash is too long, it is possible that he could get going fast enough to hurt himself if he were to hit the end of the leash abruptly.

A simple way to help your dog learn to walk without pulling on the leash is to stop moving forward when he pulls and to reward him with treats when he walks by your side. If your dog is not very interested in food treats, then you can a tug a toy or toss a ball for him in place of feeding a treat.

The steps below will go into more detail in order to help you to teach him how to have excellent leash manners.

Step 1:Walking with my person is delicious!

  • Start by attaching your dog to a rope or leash that is 10-20 feet long (but not retractable) while he is wearing a standard harness. Get some pea-sized pieces of fresh meat or cheese to use to reward your dog and go to a familiar outdoor area like your backyard.
  • Decide whether you prefer your dog to walk on your left or right (left is traditional). Whichever side you choose, you will feed him his treat reward right by your thigh on that side. He will soon begin to stay near that side since that is where yummy treats appear!
  • Walk briskly and randomly around your yard. Whenever your dog happens to choose to walk beside you, reward him with praise and a treat next to your thigh on your preferred side. If he continues walking next to you, reward him for every step you take together. As he gets better at this you will not need to reward him as often. If your dog is completely uninterested in you, take him inside and then try again later at a time when he is a bit more hungry.
  • Practice until your dog is staying beside you more often than not.

Gigo walking by my side. Feeding Gigo a treat by my side.

Step 2: It's worth my while to watch where my person is going and go along too!

  • Begin walking about your yard. Wait for a moment when your dog is walking off on his own, or is lagging behind to sniff or go potty. Say "let's go" in an up beat voice, slap your thigh the first few times to make sure that he notices you and turn and walk away from your dog.
  • When he catches up with you reward him with praise and by feeding a treat to him next to your preferred side. Then feed him a treat every couple of steps if he continues to stay with you as you walk. If he catches up to you very quickly, give him an extra reward.
  • If the leash is tight and he does not come towards you, stop walking and apply gentle leash pressure. The leash pressure is meant to be a reminder of your presence and to make it slightly unpleasant for him to ignore you, but not to force him towards you. Praise him and release the pressure once he begins to come towards you. When he catches up with you reward him with praise and by feeding a treat to him next to your preferred side. Then feed him a treat every couple of steps if he continues to stay with you as you walk.
  • Continue to practice this Step in your yard until he is staying by your side most of the time and if he veers off away from your side, he comes right back to your side after you say "let's go".

Step 3: I know when it's time to smell (or to pee on) the roses

  • Your dog needs time to sniff and relieve himself while on the leash, but it will help him to learn better manners if you decide when that will be. As you are practicing your leash walking with your dog, about every 5 minutes, at a time when you would usually give a food reward, instead say something like "go sniff" and let him sniff around or go potty while he is on the leash. This is a privilege or reward, so if he pulls on the leash during this free time say "lets go" and walk in the opposite direction, thereby ending the free time.
  • When you are ready to end the free-time, say "let's go" and begin walking.

Step 4: Sometimes I really need to pay attention to where my person is going!

  • Continue practicing leash walking in your yard as in Steps 1 through 3 but by using a shorter leash. Eventually reduce the leash length to 6 feet.
  • Practice walking extra fast or slow as well as stopping and changing directions. Reward him if he can stay by your side during these challenges.
  • Begin to reward him less frequently for walking by your side in normal circumstances. Continue to reward him for staying by your side when you walk in a different manner than usual (extra fast or slow, stopping or changing directions) or you encounter a distraction like another animal or person.

Taking it to the Street:

  • On your neighborhood walks you will apply the same techniques as you did in your yard, but now there will be additional distractions and challenges such as friendly strangers, squirrels and other dogs. Consider using a front-attachment harness or head collar for extra control and bringing fresh meat or cheese for use as treats.
  • Say "let's go" and start walking. If he forgets about you or pulls, say "let's go" and turn and walk in the opposite direction. Reward him with treats when he walks beside you. Be sure to reward him with extra treats when it was extra difficult for him to pay attention to you. Don't forget to give him permission for sniff breaks.

  • Outfit your dog in a standard harness attached to a 6 foot leash.
  • Hold your dog's leash and toss a ball or treat 20 feet away from you and your leashed dog.
  • If he pulls toward the object, say "let's go" and turn and walk in the opposite direction. If he walks beside you while you walk towards the object, allow him to continue towards it until he reaches it and can take it as his reward.
  • At first, you might want to use a longer leash or a less desirable object to make this easier for him.


  • If your dog is crossing in front of you, stomp or shuffle your feet a bit to make your presence more obvious.
  • If he is lagging behind a great deal, he could be frightened or not feeling well, so use lots of encouragement instead of pulling him along. If he is lagging to sniff or to potty, simply keep walking but be sure to apply only gentle pressure on the leash. Don't forget to use lots of rewards when he does walk with you.
  • If after you've practiced these steps, your dog seems to be alternating between walking beside you and pulling, stop rewarding coming back towards you after he pulls and instead concentrate on rewarding him for taking a larger number of consecutive steps by your side.

  • Teaching him to heel is useful for short periods when you need him very close to you and attentive to you. It can be very helpful when walking him past distractions like other animals.
  • Begin practicing in your home. Place a treat in your fist and let him sniff it. Say "let's go" and take a couple of steps while leading him along with the treat in your fist near your thigh. Praise and reward him with a treat when he is following your fist with his nose.
  • Now, practice having your dog follow your empty fist. Continue to praise and reward for every couple of steps that he follows your fist.
  • Continue practicing heel and increase your standards with each session. Your closed fist will remain as a hand signal for "heel". Try this outside and in more distracting circumstances.

I hope you enjoyed this article and that it helps you to have more fun walks with your dog. If you did enjoy the article I would love it if you would consider becoming a customer of ours or sharing this article with a friend.

To begin with, you’ll notice I say “loose-leash walking,” or “polite leash walking,” not “heeling.” Heeling is a formal competitive exercise, with the dog close to the handler’s left leg and attentively turned toward her. It’s not appropriate for an hour’s afternoon stroll: for starters, if you’re the dog, never being allowed to sniff pretty much defeats the purpose of the walk. For a pleasant walk from your end, all you really need is for the leash to remain slack and for your dog to attend to you enough to turn with you and stop when you do. To me, a walk with my dog feels like holding hands.

The catch is, loose-leash walking may be the hardest behavior for you to teach and for most dogs to learn.

Today we'll discuss:

  1. Factors that make loose-leash walking difficult
  2. How to teach more effectively
  3. How to impose penalties
  4. Equipment to make loose-leash walking easier

Loose Leash Walking: Training Your Dog Not to Pull

Last month, we explained how to teach your dog to "check in" with you on your walks. Now learn how to take it to the next step: Walking on leash, for a loose-leash walk.

As a trainer I can honestly declare that the most common behavior issue I am contacted to help resolve is pulling while walking on leash. Being able to walk with our dogs on leash is a basic, necessary skill, yet it can seem like the most difficult one to achieve.

No one enjoys walking with a dog who constantly pulls. It’s terribly unpleasant and in some cases can be downright dangerous. Dog owners often end up avoiding walking with their dog altogether, which inadvertently can make the problem worse – the less often the dog gets to go for a walk, the more excited he becomes when he eventually does get to go, the faster he walks, and the stronger he pulls! It’s a vicious circle.

Walking with a dog on leash can look like many different things: dog on the left in a traditional “heeling” position, dog on the right, dog in the front, dog zig-zagging with his nose to the ground . . . for the purposes of this article, all are correct, as long as there is no tension in the leash. The goal is walking harmoniously with your dog – and “checking in” is the key ingredient to creating the type of relationship that is conducive to harmonious walks. You can help your dog develop the habit of frequently checking in with you simply by reinforcing the behavior.

If your dog already pulls on leash, you’ll want to begin training the “check-in” behavior in a location with low distractions. In other words, start where your dog is most likely to succeed at looking at you. If he’s very excited about being out for a walk, he’ll probably be too distracted to start learning a new behavior in that context, so avoid starting the training while actually out walking.

In the article “Train Your Dog to Check In,” (March 2017), we covered how to start getting your dog in the habit of checking in with you in situations with low distractions. Once your dog has acquired those skills, it will be much easier to begin working on loose-leash walking out in the real world.

Granted, there are lots of different reward-based methods to teach loose-leash walking, and success is often the result of a combination of several positive techniques. “Checking in” is just one ingredient in a training recipe, yet it’s an important one and is a useful part of any loose-leash walking training program.

Loose Leash Walking Rules

There are a few fundamental elements to loose-leash walking that will make the activity much more enjoyable for everyone involved. If you follow these basic rules, you will be more likely to succeed:

– Be present! You’ve probably heard this before, but it’s worth repeating: Being present means putting your phone away during walks. You’re asking your dog to curb his enthusiasm for his version of social media – the kind he “reads” with his nose – in order to be more connected to you during your walk. The least you can do is be available to respond to his “check-ins” by paying attention. This also applies to times when you walk your dog with a friend. Chatting is lots of fun, but keep an eye on your dog and make him a priority – at least during the training period.

– Carry rewards. Never under-estimate the usefulness of a treat pouch filled with at least a handful of yummy bits of food! My dog Chili already walks politely on leash and she has the check-in behavior down pat, but guess what? I still carry treats with me on every single walk we take. I continue to randomly capture and reward behaviors I like, and once in a while I’ll play a game of “find it” with Chili while we walk by tossing treats on the ground and letting her sniff around to find them.

– Let your dog sniff. Few dogs get adequate daily physical exercise from an on-leash walk. We humans move much too slowly for that (unless you’re running with your dog, of course). That doesn’t mean that the walk isn’t an important part of your dog’s day – it’s a crucial information-gathering activity! Allow your dog to follow his nose. Let him investigate the scents he picks up, even if that means pausing for a moment while he inspects a blade of grass.

Keeping these important elements in mind, it’s time to starting using the check-in behavior to teach your dog to walk politely on leash.

TIP: Trainers often recommend that we stop moving forward if there is tension in the leash. The logic behind this is that by stopping we avoid reinforcing a pulling behavior. This technique is often successful in helping a dog learn not to pull if he wants to move forward, he has to keep the leash slack.

The check-in technique described here is another tool that can be used to teach a dog to walk on a loose leash. The focus here is on reinforcing any and all check-in behavior, rather than freezing if the dog pulls.

Checking In with Your Dog on a Walk

By now you will have already heavily reinforced the check-in behavior that your dog has been offering you in low-distraction scenarios. It’s time to increase the difficulty a notch or two by taking the behavior on the road – literally.

Ideally, take your dog to a relatively quiet spot to walk. I drive to walking paths that offer quiet space for me and my dog to connect more easily. If this isn’t an option for you, work with what you’ve got. Practicing in an area with lots of distractions might require extra patience on your part. If you work in an area that makes it more challenging for your dog to offer you the behaviors you want, his efforts should also be rewarded more frequently and generously. Big effort, big pay!

With your dog on a six-foot leash and a well-stocked treat pouch at the ready, give your dog the cue to start moving forward with you – I like to say “Let’s go!” – and start walking. Since the goal is for the leash to remain slack at all times, follow the steps below to help your dog understand the game.

1. Start Reinforcing Your Dog Immediately

Seize the moment! While your dog is still near you and before he ever gets the chance to bolt forward and tighten the leash, quickly say, “Yes!” and offer him a treat. Avoid reaching toward your dog instead, deliver the treat close to your body. Why offer a treat right out of the gate? Well, in those first few seconds the leash was still slack, and that’s the goal, so don’t miss the opportunity to highlight that good behavior!

2. Try to Reward Your Dog in Motion

I like to mark and deliver a reward while still in motion, if possible, even if it means I’m moving very slowly. It can feel a bit awkward at first while you get used to the coordination required to mark, reward, and walk at the same time. If it’s a bit too much to juggle at first, it’s okay to stop to deliver the treat. However, you should work your way toward staying in motion. After all, your dog really wants to move forward, and frequent stopping might lead to some frustration, even if it’s for a treat.

3. Talk to Your Dog While Walking

Use your voice to stay connected with your dog while walking. I find that the dogs I work with are more likely to shoot a glance my way if they hear my voice. As we’re walking, I might say with a happy tone, “Where should we go today?” Or, if the dog has found something interesting to sniff I might say, “Ooh, whatcha got there?” or anything to encourage a response from the dog. If I get a tail wag or an ear flick, I’ll take that as a sign of interest and I’ll add a little more excitement to my tone. That will usually elicit a glance my way, and bingo! – I’ve got something to mark and reward.

As you move forward, feel free to whistle or make a kissy sound to encourage your dog to look at you. When he does, mark with a “Yes!” and reward with a treat. Repeat frequently, say, every six to 10 steps, always in motion if possible. Every time you deliver a treat, let your dog know he can return to walking and sniffing as he was (“Let’s go!”).

If you wonder whether you’ve done enough repetitions of attracting his attention with noises, try staying quiet as you walk. If he checks in with you of his own volition, you know he’s caught on! Mark and treat his spontaneous check-ins, and tell him the walk is still on (“Let’s go!”).

Keep Reinforcing Your Dog

I mentioned earlier that I still reward my own dog for behaviors that I like when we walk together. She is no longer in training, but I continue to reinforce the check-in behavior in order to maintain it, either with food or with a few upbeat words.

Checking in is such a friendly habit, and it’s no different from what we already do when walking and talking with a friend. Every now and then, we’ll turn our head to the side to look at our friend as she speaks. It shows we’re listening and it keeps us connected. Keep that connection strong with your own dog, and you’ll see his leash-walking skills grow quickly.

Common Leash Training Issues

Your dog just isn’t checking in with you: If your dog was previously checking in with you in your home and on your front doorstep, as described in last month’s article, then the distractions might just be too much for your dog. If you’re unable to practice in a quieter area, try making the exercise easier. Rather than walking a long distance, stay within a few yards and keep covering the same area over and over again. That particular area will no longer be as exciting to your dog and it will become easier to capture his attention. This should offer you more opportunities to reinforce the behavior you want.

Your dog is pulling too far ahead of you: To help your dog pay closer attention to you while walking on leash, change directions frequently. This should never be done by suddenly pivoting and jerking the leash. Always let your dog know you’re about to change directions by teaching him a cue – I like to use “This way!” Slow down gradually and say your cue. Stop walking and wait for your dog to turn back to see why you’ve stopped. This may take a moment be patient. When he looks back at you, mark the check-in with a “Yes!” and when your dog starts to walk toward you to get his treat, start moving in the new direction. As he catches up with you, deliver the treat and say, “Let’s go!” Repeat this exercise often, and always gently. Your dog will soon figure out that “This way!” indicates you’re about to change directions, and he’ll more easily check in with you.

Your dog is checking in too much: Oops! Your dog has taken the check-in behavior very seriously and now walks with his head turned toward you, staring. While we do want our dogs to be connected with us when we walk, this is a bit over the top. Encourage your dog to resume walking normally by saying your forward-motion cue (“Let’s go!”). This cue will come to mean that there is no reinforcer coming at the moment, so just keep walking.

Get more trainers’ tricks to teaching dogs the loose leash walking method by reading, “How to Teach Loose Leash Walking to Your Dog,” (October 2012).

Nancy Tucker, CPDT-KA, is a full-time trainer, behavior consultant, and seminar presenter in Quebec.

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