How to stop your dog pulling on the lead

A walk is one of the best parts of the day for our four-legged companions, so it’s often hard to blame them for their enthusiasm. From the moment we begin our pre-walk rituals, our dogs are already getting excited – and by time we’re ready to open the door, that excitement reaches fever pitch

For all dogs, a normal day is simply a window of time filled with various types of rewards, and without guidance, most sensibilities go out of the window.

The issue is, many of us are quite naïve in how we handle those rewards. For a dog, the greatest rewards are eating, walking and basking in their owner’s attention – and as past studies in behaviourism have shown, rewards given at the wrong time can often reinforce negative behaviour.


So, where are we going wrong with dog lead behaviour?

When we let our dogs rush out of the house before us, only to proceed without discipline to their favourite places – are we not telling them that darting through the door leads to their desired outcome?

If we let our dogs pull on the leash the entire way there without correction – does this not reinforce their belief that dragging us around always ends up with a preferable result?

For many owners, the training can be exhausting, but combined with the right equipment, it doesn’t have to be the end of the world.

Certain owners are willing to skip the work and go straight for choke chains, as well as shock and prong collars. Many behavioural experts, however, feel that these methods are unnecessary and potentially painful for a dog. Luckily, there are a whole host of dog-walking accessories that can help to bring your pooch’s behaviour in line with your expectations without causing any pain, and one of the most effective methods is by using a non-pull harness.


The benefits of a non-pull dog harness

There are three main types of harness recommended for dogs: back-clipping; chest-led; and a head-halter. Although the latter is very rarely necessary, the two former options are often used in conjunction and are referred to as a non-pull harness. The following are just a few of the countless benefits:


  • Reduces pressure

A reduction in pressure on both the neck and back versus a standard leash helps to avoid possible injuries in the future.

  • Two points of connection

A leash attached to both the chest and back of the harness allows for greater control over both movement and positioning relative to the owner.

  • Promotes comfort while preventing choking or restriction of breathing

A leash or choke chain can lead to oxygen starvation in the brain if the dog is consistently pulling. A non-pull harness distributes pressure over a larger body area, increasing the dog’s comfort.

  • Encourages self-correction

The chest connection causes the dog to change direction if they pull too hard, helping them to realise that excessive pulling is not productive for them.

  • Easy to keep clean

Let’s be honest, our dogs do have a habit of getting caked in mud when out exploring the world. It is therefore nice to know that the harness can simply be cleaned by popping it in the washing machine.

  • Does not loosen

Thanks to the design, a harness will not become loose and allow the dog to wriggle free.


How to stop your dog from pulling using a loose leash

Even if pulling you around causes your dog pain, they consider it worthwhile if it leads to a consequence they desire. So why not change the consequence?

Owners need to try to find a position that avoids the need for pulling and panting; and a connecting a ‘loose leash’ to the harness can help achieve this, with patience and consistency.

It works like this:

1) Wait until your fluffy buddy begins to pull, and at that point stop moving.

2) They’ll try to continue, but soon realise that mode of thinking will get them nowhere.

3) Most dogs will eventually stop pulling and the leash becomes ‘loose’. So reward your dog with a treat, then start moving again, with your dog’s mind in a calmer place.

Or another approach is the reverse-direction method:

1) Instead of stopping, simply change direction while simultaneously encouraging your pooch with an excited voice.

2) Ensure that you are not unnecessarily yanking the leash and putting strain on your dog when shifting direction.

3) Once the leash gains a little more slack, you can present a reward before resuming on your original journey.


How to stop your dog from pulling using ‘heeling’

While the ‘loose leash’ method aims to improve behaviour using reactive techniques, teaching a dog to heel can help change a dog’s mentality with regards to walking goals.

The term ‘heel’ refers to a dog’s willingness to correlate his or her movement to their owners by fixating on their heel, or indeed any area of the body that prevents them from wanting to run off. So how hard is it to implement?

Surprisingly, ‘heeling’ is one of the more effective training methods available and remains relatively uncomplex.

1) Simply try holding a reward that you know your dog loves and make them aware of its location in your hand, then simply begin walking.

2) Start with as few as ten steps before providing the reward and slowly increase the distance between each reward.

3) Encouragement, praise and vocal cues can increase the effectiveness of this training method, and provides a great base from which to continue improving your dog’s coaching.

4) With consistent tutoring, your canine friend will eventually learn that walking alongside you provides much greater rewards than pulling hell-for-leather.

Of course, a dog will always show resistance in the early days of training, while some will always maintain a tendency to pull – even if only rarely. But with a non-pull harness and consistent training, both you and your dog can work towards a more relaxing walk free from anxiety.

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