Why Does My Dog Pull On the Leash?

Woman walking with her dog

Does Your Dog Pull on the Leash?  Here are a Few Tips That May Help.

Pulling is one of the most common problems owners have with their dogs.  Pulling on the leash during a walk is not only frustrated but also painful for owners.  So why do so many dogs pull so much when on a walk?  The truth can be fairly simple.  They walk faster than us.  Most dogs naturally have a quicker gait than their human counterparts.  As a result, often the dog is in the lead pulling with the owner lagging behind.   It isn’t that they are actively seeking to pull you along, they just haven’t learned to adjust their stride to fit yours yet. It isn’t that they are necessarily being stubborn or refusing to listen to what you say.  Remember, dogs don’t speak our language.  If you haven’t taught your dog what “heel” or “slow” means they won’t understand that they shouldn’t pull.  As dog owners we have to teach our dogs to walk beside us, not in front of us. It takes time and patience.

dog pull on the leashAnother reason dogs will pull is something called the opposition reflex.  This basically means that when dogs feel pressure on their chest, shoulders or neck due to harnesses or other walking devices the desire to pull becomes intensified.  The more pressure constantly pushing in on their body, the more they pull.  It is a natural reflex for dogs.  It is also a vicious cycle, because the more your dog pulls the more the opposition reflex kicks in making them want to pull even more. This is one reason why retractable leashes can actually cause your dog to pull more.  If there is constantly tension in the leash your dog will always be pulling.  You can lock the retractable leash so that your dog isn’t feeling that constant tension and work with them to stay by your side.

Pulling can be fixed in a variety of ways.  The most important thing to remember is every dog is different.  Your training method should be formatted to your dog’s temperament. For example, you don’t want to use heavy corrections with a sensitive dog.  Instead, for more sensitive dogs positive reinforcement will go much further in their training.  Know your dog’s personality and what type of training will work best for them.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

1) Use treats to keep your dog by your side.  You are using treats to lure your dog to no longer pull. Praise your dog when they are not pulling, and treat them for their good behavior.  This method is all about using positive reinforcement to keep your dog near you. If you have a dog that is not very food motivated try to use a toy.  When your dog is walking without pulling, praise them, and play a quick game with the toy.

2) Turn around when your dog starts to pull. When you are walking and feel tension on your leash, turn in an opposite direction.

3) Stop.  Don’t move further.  Once you feel the slightest tension in the leash, stop immediately.  Once your dog stops pulling you can continue.  Teach your dog that pulling gets them nowhere.

4) Put down a treat a short distance away.  Make sure your dog knows where you are putting the treat.  Go maybe 10 or 15 feet away.  Start walking.  If your dog pulls on the leash.  Turn around and go back to your starting point.  Anytime your dog pulls on their
leash, they lose all their progress.  The goal is to have your dog walk to the treat without pulling.  When they do this they get their reward.  You can use a bone, treat, toy, or any other reinforcement your dog enjoys.  As your dog get better, gradually increase the distance.

5) You can also use a clicker.  Click when your dog is not pulling, and give them a treat. Provided that your dog is clicker charged, meaning they understand the sound is indicative of a positive reinforcement, the sound will mark their correct behavior for them.

If you have tried the tips listed below with no success, your best option would be to contact a professional trainer to help you.  A dog that pulls on the leash can be a dangerous situation for both you and your dog.  We offer a variety of dog training programs to help you work with a dog that pulls on the leash as well as other common problems, such as; jumping, barking, aggression, shyness, etc.  It you are interested in speaking with a dog trainer in your area, feel free to contact us at 866.200.2207 or email us at training@highlandcanine.com.