How to Stop Leash Pulling

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If your dog pulls the leash on walks you know how annoying it can be. But did you know it can be dangerous as well?

Depending on the size of the dog, it can be dangerous just to the dog or to you as well.

Morgan, at 23 pounds, won’t cause me, or my kids, any harm when she pulls. But she can harm herself. If there’s something she really wants to get to she will pull so much that she starts to cough and gag.

If she did this on a regular basis she could eventually cause damage to her trachea. Thankfully Morgan isn’t a regular leash puller.

Luna, at 85 pounds, is likely to hurt me, or my kids, along with herself. She is strong enough to pull me around. At times I feel like she is taking me for a walk.

She also has a high prey drive and has pulled me so hard trying to get a rabbit that my shoulder hurt for several days afterwards. I’ve also had to drop her leash on more than one occasion because I was going to fall if I didn’t.

Dropping her leash could allow her to get run over by a car. Not dropping the leash could have caused me to fall or be pulled into the street. Luna’s leash pulling needed to be stopped.

There are a few things that can be done to stop leash pulling. Some take time to work, others work right away.

The fastest way to stop leash pulling is to buy a special harness to stop the pulling. We have tried 3 different ones with various amounts of success.

Head Halter

The first one we tried was the head halter. This one works by steering the dog’s head. When Luna would pull the halter would turn her head towards the leash. This, in turn, would stop her pulling.

I saw a significant decrease in Luna’s pulling with this one, but she still pulled. There were times, like when she saw a rabbit, that she would still pull even though her head would turn. She would just adjust her body to still see what she wanted to get to.

The benefit was that though she was trying to pull, I could maintain control. If she took off towards a rabbit, instead of feeling like my arm was going to be pulled off, she would stop. It was still a tug, but not nearly as bad.

The downside of this type is that Luna hated it. No matter how much we tried to get her used to it, she hated it. It sits on the nose and she would constantly stop and paw at it.

It reduced the pulling, but at a cost to her comfort.

I also noticed that because she still pulled it was slowly starting to wear on the halter. The spots where the metal touches the nylon was slowly starting to fray.

If you need something to help while you work on some of the tips below, this one may work. If you decide to give it a try, take it slow. Put it on your dog, give a treat, then take it off. Slowly increase the time you use it.

This is one thing I didn’t do and may be part of why Luna hated it. She pulled so bad that we were desperate to use it.

Rabbitgoo No-Pull Harness

Once I noticed the halter fraying I decided to try a harness instead. The first one I tried was the Rabbitgoo No-Pull Harness.

I liked this one because it slips over the head. I had tried a different harness that Luna had to step into and it was very difficult to get on her. She never wanted to cooperate to get the harness on. One that goes on over the head is much easier to get on.

Luna much preferred this to the head halter. It does seem to reduce the pulling, but not as much as the head halter. If Luna sees a rabbit this is only a little better than using a regular harness or just attaching to the collar.

Some of the problem may be that Luna has a huge chest compared to her neck and it was difficult to get this fitted properly. When she pulls hard it twists on her and gives her more ability to pull.

One nice thing about this harness is that it has both a front and a back clip. The front clip seems to help more with the pulling than the back clip, but it’s nice to have the option of either.

I would recommend this for a smaller dog, like Morgan, or for a dog that pulls but not as hard as Luna.

Freedom Harness

The third thing I tried was the Freedom Harness by 2 Hounds Design. By the time I bought this one I was desperate. Luna was still pulling with the Rabbitgoo harness and the head halter was starting to fray.

I went to a small, local pet store for help and explained what I had tried and how it helped some but not enough. They suggested the Freedom Harness. It’s more expensive than either the head halter and the Rabbitgoo harness, but I was desperate.

This one also goes over the head and has both a front and a back clip. The back clip is on a Martingale style loop and the front clip is normal. It comes with a leash that clips to both the front and back. When attached to both the leash is about 3 ½ feet long.

So far this has been the best harness for Luna’s pulling. She still pulls but it is not as noticeable. If she pulls really hard she ends up standing up more than pulling me forward. All three of my kids also prefer walking her with this harness over either of the other two we have tried.

We did have to make one change to this harness for it to work well for Luna. Being a large German Shepherd, she is so long that I kept tripping on her back end. This caused her to start pulling to give herself more space.

I decided to try swapping out the leash to see if that helped. After switching to two 6 foot leashes (putting a knot in one to make them almost the same length) the pulling decreased again.

This harness is also designed to grow with you as your dog learns to walk nicely. You use both clips when they pull the most and then once they walk nicely you can go to using only one clip. Either the back, Martingale style clip or the front clip.

Besides using a no-pull harness or head halter, there are other things that can be done to stop leash pulling.

Other Ways to Stop Leash Pulling

Stop Reinforcing

One of the biggest things to do is to stop accidentally reinforcing the behavior. If I allow Luna to pull until she gets to what she wants to sniff, I’ve just reinforced the behavior.

It doesn’t matter that she didn’t get there any faster. She got there, and she will think that pulling helped get her there.

To stop this there are two options

Option one: just stop walking. Dog pulls, you stop. Once the leash is loose, start walking forward again.

Option two: turn around and walk the other way. Keep walking that way until your dog pulls. Then turn around and walk the other way again.

Both can be very annoying if you are trying to get a good distance walk in. Eventually, your dog should figure it out. Unless they are like Luna. She thinks if I stop she needs to sit.

Now when I stop she sits. As soon as I start walking again, she starts pulling again. And we repeat that all the way around the block. It started because she would pull when she saw someone.

The easiest way for me to get her to stop was to put her in a sit. I would keep her sitting until the person she saw was gone. Now she sits every time I stop when she’s pulling. We’re working on this, and with the weather finally getting nicer, we will work on it more.

Reward Good Behavior

When your dog does walk nicely reward them. Give treats and praise. Rewarding the good behavior will encourage your dog to do it more often. Eventually, your dog should walk nicely all, or at least most, of the time.

Be Consistent

This is one of the most important things to do. Always be consistent, otherwise, your dog will not know what to do. If you let them pull sometimes, but not others, they won’t learn that they shouldn’t pull.

This one is probably my biggest problem. Sometimes I’m in a rush. Luna needs a walk and I need it done quick. A quick walk does not happen if I’m constantly stopping because she’s pulling.

Also, not all of my kids are on the same page with it. Sometimes they will stop when she pulls, but not always. Usually, they just want to get the walk done with, so they don’t even bother.

I’ve watched them look like they are being dragged instead of trying to get her to stop. As they are home more than I am, they need to be able to get her to walk properly as well.

And dogs are smart. Luna walks better for those of us that have been working on proper leash walking than those that never try. She knows what each person expects of her and acts accordingly.

Training

Finally, training is the best way to get your dog to stop pulling. This can either be a class offered locally, a private trainer, or videos on You-tube. The private trainer may help the most if you find a good trainer, but you will pay the most for it.

I prefer to use Youtube videos. One of my favorite trainers is Zak George, you can read my review of his book here. He has a ton of videos on a large variety of dog behaviors. Just search his name on Youtube or search the behavior you are wanting to change. There are a ton of videos and they are free.

Whatever you decide to do, stopping this behavior is the best for both you and your dog. The bigger the dog the more noticeable the problems, but it isn’t good for any dog to pull.

What have you tried to get your dog to stop pulling?

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