Do you have a dog that pulls on the leash?
You’re not alone! Many people have dogs that pull on the leash, including me, but there are ways to train them to stop. It takes patience, planning, and persistence, but it’s worth it in the end.
Follow these tips and you’ll be able to enjoy walks with your dog again – without having to worry about them pulling ahead.
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Why do dogs pull on the leash?
Dogs pull on the leash for one main reason, they want to get where they are going. They naturally walk faster than humans, and they want to get to where they are going as quickly as possible.
There are other reasons that dogs pull on the leash, including if they are anxious, excited, or trying to get away from something. However, the primary reason is they simply want to move forward at their pace, not yours.
Why should your dog walk with a loose leash?
Walking with a loose leash is important for a number of reasons.
For Your Safety and Comfort
Loose leash walking is more comfortable, and safer for you.
If your dog is constantly pulling on the leash, it can cause discomfort and even pain in your arms, shoulders, and back. In extreme cases, it can even lead to injury.
A dog that is pulling on the leash is also more likely to pull you down or possibly into traffic.
I know when Luna would pull it felt like she was trying to pull my arm off. I often took her for walks in fear of coming back in pain.
She did, at one point, pull me out of my lawn chair and made me fall to the ground. Thankfully I was in the grass, so I didn’t get hurt too badly.
Another time she pulled so hard that she caused a rope burn on the hand that was holding the leash.
For Your Dog’s Safety and Comfort
Walking with a loose leash is also more comfortable and safer for your dog.
When a dog is constantly pulling on the leash, it can put strain on their neck, and back. According to RehabVet, this could cause injury to their trachea if the pulling happens with a leash and collar combo.
A dog that is pulling on the leash is also more likely to get away from you, which could put them in danger.
At Luna’s worst, she managed to pull the leash out of my hands at least twice. Once she ran across the street and the other time she ran towards the street but stopped at the edge.
I was lucky that I live in an area with minimal traffic, so there were no cars at the time. A busier street, or busier time of day, could have led to her getting hit by a car.
What equipment does my dog need?
Thankfully, loose leash walking doesn’t need much equipment, just a leash, and a harness. You don’t want to use a collar as it can lead to potential injury while your dog is still learning to walk with a loose leash.
Front Clip Harness
I recommend using a front clip harness for walking your dog.
A front-clip harness attaches the leash at your dog’s chest, which gives you more control over their movement.
There are a number of different front clip harnesses on the market, so it’s important to find one that is comfortable for your dog to wear.
I like the Freedom Dog Harness because it has two spots to clip a leash. You can either use two leashes like I used to for Luna, or purchase the harness and leash combo that is on Amazon. You can also get it on Chewy.
This leash has clips on both ends so it can be used on both spots, or just one. Having the two spots to clip to really helped with walking Luna until she was better at not pulling.
I also like the Rabbitgoo No-Pull Harness. Like the Freedom Harness, it has both a front and a back clip for the leash to clip to. It also has a handle on the back of the harness for you to grab if your dog gets really excited.
For the leash, I recommend using a 6-foot leash. This is the standard size for leashes, and it will give you enough length to have some slack in the leash while still being able to control your dog.
I also recommend using a leash with a padded handle. This will be more comfortable for you, especially if your dog is a puller.
There are a number of different leashes on the market, so it’s important to find one that you feel comfortable using. I like this leash I bought on Amazon, and as a bonus, it comes with a spot to hold the poop bags.
What about a head halter?
A head halter is a type of harness that goes over your dog’s head and attaches under their chin.
This is the first thing I tried with Luna. It works by turning the dog’s head when they pull, causing them to stop.
It did help, some, with Luna’s pulling, but she started adjusting her whole body to be able to see where she wanted to go.
The biggest downside was that Luna absolutely hated it. No matter what I did, she never got used to it. And she pulled often enough that the head halter started to tear.
While it reduced the effect of her pulling, I was able to maintain control on our walks, but it didn’t help reduce the amount of pulling. And in some ways, it increased it because she would frequently pull her head down to the grass to rub her face.
For some dogs, head halters work wonders, that’s why I tried it with Luna, but others just don’t get used to them.
Ultimately it may be a decent tool to use while training your dog, but I wouldn’t recommend it for long-term use.
How to stop your dog from pulling on the leash
The best way to stop your dog from pulling on the leash is to train them on how to walk with a loose leash. There are several steps to teaching your dog to walk on a loose leash.
Start in a Non Exciting Area
First, you want to start in a calm, neutral area. Your living room, or somewhere inside with no distractions, is a great place to start.
The fewer distractions, the easier it will be to get your dog to pay attention and not pull on the leash.
Use treats to encourage your dog to follow you
Once you have your area chosen, put your dog’s harness and leash on. You then want to take a few steps while you encourage your dog to follow you.
Do this by holding a treat in the hand on the side your dog is on. Your dog should follow, trying to get the treat.
Reward good behavior
When your dog is following you without pulling, immediately give them the treat and some verbal praise.
You want to make sure to do this while they are not pulling, or they will think you are rewarding them for pulling.
Repeat this process a few times until your dog is consistently following you without pulling.
Start adding in distractions
Now that your dog is following you without pulling in a calm environment, it’s time to start adding distractions.
You want to do this slowly at first, adding one distraction at a time.
Some good things to start with are another person walking by, or a toy on the ground. If your dog starts to pull when you add these distractions, go back to a less distracting environment and work your way up again.
When your dog can walk past these distractions without pulling, you are ready to move on to the next step.
Take it outside
Now that your dog is doing great with walking on a leash in your house, it’s time to take it outside.
Start in a quiet area with few distractions, like your backyard if you have one, and work your way up to busier areas.
If your dog starts pulling, go back to a less distracting environment and try again.
Remember to always praise your dog, and give occasional treats, when they are walking nicely on a leash.
Incorporate smell stops on your route
Once you are out of the yard and walking in your neighborhood, make sure to give your dog time to sniff around.
Dogs love to stop and smell things, and it’s important to let them do this on walks.
By incorporating these smell stops on your walk, you will help your dog realize that they don’t need to pull to be able to smell the area around them.
Exercise Your Dog Before You Walk
A tired dog is a good dog. If your dog has a lot of energy, they are more likely to pull on the leash.
Make sure you walk your dog after they have had a chance to run around and burn off some energy.
This will help them be calmer on the leash, and less likely to pull.
This is one of the most important things to do. It takes time to train your dog to not pull on the leash, it won’t happen in just a few training sessions.
Be patient and keep at it, and eventually, you will have a dog that walks nicely on a loose leash.
Being consistent is key when training your dog not to pull on the leash.
Everyone that takes your dog for a walk needs to work on loose leash walking. If even one person allows your dog to pull, it will set your training back.
This was the biggest barrier with training Luna to walk nicely on a leash. I wasn’t the only one taking Luna for walks, my kids were taking turns taking her as well.
I would practice loose leash walking with Luna, but they would forget or choose not to. The next time I would take Luna for a walk, it was like starting from the beginning again.
Everyone needs to be consistent with teaching your dog not to pull, or it will not work.
What should I do if my dog pulls?
When you are starting out with teaching your dog not to pull, your dog will pull. That’s what they know, so that’s what they will do.
When this happens, there are a couple of things you can do.
The first is to stand still. If your dog is pulling and you keep walking, they will think pulling is ok and will continue it.
By standing still, your dog will quickly realize that pulling is not getting them anywhere.
This can be frustrating for both you and your dog, but it’s important to be patient and keep at it.
Make sure not to move while they are pulling. Wait until they stop pulling, and preferably walk towards you before you start walking again.
If standing still doesn’t work, or you just don’t like it, try turning around.
When your dog feels the leash tug in the opposite direction, they will stop pulling and turn around to follow you.
This makes it so they can’t get to wherever it is they were pulling you to.
Do this every time they pull, as soon as you feel the leash tighten. Eventually, your dog will get the message that if they want to get to a certain spot, they will need to not pull on the leash.
What not to do if your dog pulls on the leash
There are a few things you don’t want to do when your dog is pulling on the leash.
Don’t reinforce bad behavior
You don’t want to reinforce your dog’s bad behavior by giving them what they want when they are pulling.
This means if your dog is pulling to get to a certain spot, you don’t want to walk there.
They will think that if they pull hard enough, they will eventually get to where they want to go.
Don’t Hold the Leash Tight
If you hold the leash tight your dog won’t learn to walk with a loose leash.
By holding the leash tight, you are physically keeping your dog from doing what they want, but they aren’t learning it for the future.
You want to make sure you are holding the leash loosely in your hand, so there is some slack. This way when they pull, they will feel the leash tighten and start to connect that feeling with stopping or turning around.
They will eventually learn that if they slow and let the leash loosen again, they will get to keep going forward.
Don’t punish your dog
When your dog pulls on the leash, don’t punish them. This will only make them scared of you and less likely to listen.
Remember to be patient, and eventually, your dog will learn to not pull on the leash.
Don’t use long leashes or retractable leashes
Long leashes reduce the amount of control you have over your dog. It also makes it harder to train them not to pull on it.
You also don’t want to use a retractable leash. These leashes are designed to allow your dog to walk as far ahead of you as they want, or until they reach the full length of the leash.
Your dog won’t learn how to walk with a loose leash if they are allowed to pull the leash longer and longer when they want to get somewhere faster than you.
These leashes can also be dangerous as they can snap back if your dog pulls too hard.
Training your dog not to pull on the leash can be a frustrating process, but it is important for both you and your dog.
With time, patience, consistency, and positive reinforcements, you will eventually have a dog that walks nicely on a loose leash.