Like all of us when you first welcomed your dog home one of the things you were looking forward to is nice, relaxing walks exploring different places. Maybe this was a big part of getting a dog – get you out of the house, more exercise, a way to destress or meet new people.
One of the things you may have expected was that you would need to teach them not to pull and to walk on a nice loose lead. Easy right! Loose lead training can’t be that hard surely?
Fast forward a few months (maybe years) – whenever you have your dog on a lead they pull like some sort of steam train, determined to get everywhere super fast.
Meanwhile, you’re hanging onto the lead for dear life, legs moving faster than you would like, a shooting pain in your back as you now walk the dog leaning backwards to take the strain, and to top it off you’re heavy breathing like you’ve just gone ten rounds with Mike Tyson!
Or maybe you have a kangaroo who one minute can walk at a nice pace with a loose lead and the next, they charge and leap in any given direction simultaneously ripping your shoulder out of your socket.
All the while you’re searching for an area you can let them off lead to give yourself a break from the pain and discomfort you’re feeling.
This was not the picture you had in mind.
Let’s look at why your dog pulls on the lead and some ways to help.
Why do dogs pull on the lead?
They want MOVEMENT. They want to go forwards, sideways, backwards and they want to do it at their speed.
Four legs go faster than two. They don’t care if they’re pulling you to get the movement they want.
It’s become a HABIT! They are so used to walking whilst the lead is tight that they don’t think it’s wrong to pull.
What is loose lead walking?
Loose Lead: This is when the lead is loose, but the dog does not have to be in position at your side. The lead can be at any length for loose lead, even on a long line. The dog is ‘not working’ , so can look around the environment, stop to sniff etc.,
Heelwork: This is when the dog is in position at your default side, and the lead is still loose despite the lead being held shorter, if indeed a lead is present. The dog is now working, focussing, listening to you, and ignoring external distractions, not sniffing, or stopping etc.,
Often we think Heelework is what we want, but it’s an unrealistic expectation of our dogs. It’s hard to sustain this for the whole walk. Aiming for loose lead is much more achievable for your dog. This means you’ll be more successful in walking a dog who doesn’t pull on the lead.
How to walk a dog who pulls
There are various types of equipment that claim to stop your dog from pulling, but in reality, nothing but training will actually give you a long-term solution.
You need to teach your dog to slow down and walk at your pace
Use a double-ended dog lead that is approx. 4-6ft and that is comfortable in your hand.
A flexi lead is not appropriate for teaching loose lead. Due to the changeable length, it doesn’t create clear boundaries for your dog to understand what you expect from them. One minute they are having to walk close beside you, the next they can be a few metres in front racing along or zig-zagging back and forth.
Use a well-fitting collar or harness. I would recommend using the Perfect Fit harness. As this has 2 points of contact for your lead to attach to.
Break the pulling on the lead habit!
If your dog’s lead goes tight, then stop walking. By continuing to keep walking there is no reason for your dog to stop pulling as they are still moving.
Once you have stopped, ask your dog to come back to your side and give you eye contact. Once that happens start walking again. Don’t reward them for arriving at your side! The reward is that you start moving again.
As you walk, reward whilst you’re on the move. Don’t reward your dog for standing still, reward them whilst moving. Give them a tasty food reward straight to their mouth as you’re walking together.
All of the above sounds super easy, and I’m sure a lot of you have tried this and still haven’t achieved the loose lead walking results you wanted. I’ll share a secret with you……. This behaviour has more layers than an onion! It’s not as simple as giving them a treat for walking beside you. I so wish it was!
You’ve got the right equipment, you’ve a better idea of what to expect your dog to be able to do and what you can do to start changing things, but what else do you need?
Loose lead requires a great connection between you and your dog. You’re asking them to slow down and go at a slower pace, it’s a big ask.
You also need to know what floats your dog’s boat -what do they find super rewarding? Rewarding enough that will keep them showing self-control by walking slower.
It takes time and consistency to see the results, do this, and you will see results!
Want to learn those extra secrets? Check out our loose lead training course – Who’s walking who??