The dog pulls on the leash and you do not know what else to try? It’s the everyday things that annoy us when they just won’t work. Leash walking is an issue with almost all dog owners. Being led by the dog while walking rather than the other way around is usually frustrating for us and a big stress for the four-legged friend. Since the pull on the collar/harness has health implications, it is worth working on. How do I teach the dog to walk loosely on the leash?
Why does my dog pull on the leash?
This can have many reasons. Mostly the dog wants to go to an exciting place or is overwhelmed with the impressions and therefore does not manage to walk relaxed next to you. Walking so close next to the human is unnatural for most dogs and has to be learned first. A common speed must also be found, because our slow gait is not fast enough for many dogs. Taking oneself back requires impulse control from the dog and is exhausting in the long run.
Often the length of the leash plays a role. If the leash is too short, the dog has little room to maneuver and quickly gets caught in the taut leash.
The dog pulls on the leash, even if he has learned to reach his goal and move forward. Another reason can be pain. This may sound paradoxical, but especially at the collar the pull causes pain, from which the dog then tries to flee.
Definition of leash handling
Before we start training, it is important to define what we want to learn in the first place. For some, leash walking means that the dog walks on a loose leash. For others it is a “heel” which is often learned in dog schools. Here, the dog is supposed to walk close to our leg at his shoulder level while looking at us.
The “at heel” position is rather not suitable for everyday life, because the dog must concentrate very much. In addition, the permanent looking upwards can have a negative effect on the cervical spine and joints. So it is rather a short term signal, for example to pass by.
For most people it is enough in everyday life, if the dog walks relaxed on a loose leash. So think in advance what you need in your life with dog.
What equipment when the dog pulls on the leash?
The most important equipment is the following:
– A well-fitting harness
– Leash with at least 3m or longer
– For insecure dogs a safety harness or an additional wide collar on a second leash, which is only used in case of emergency.
– Reward (treats, toys etc.)
– treat bag/belly belt, you need to get to your reward quickly
– Clicker (if you work with it)
Tip: Don’t use flexi leashes, because your dog feels a permanent pull and can never really judge the leash length. Also a collar should not be used with a dog that pulls on the leash. You can read about the reasons here.
Please do not use any animal control equipment under any circumstances. This includes any anti-pull harness, collars without a pull stop, holdis (if used improperly), etc.
Also methods like leash jerking, spray bottles, yelling at etc. have no place in training.
These “training aids” are aversive training methods and work to cause pain to the dog. Often the dog even changes his behavior in the short term and no longer pulls on the leash. But why? He avoids the pain or is afraid of being punished again. This leads to considerable stress, so the walk can never be relaxed (for the dog). In addition, very quickly false associations arise. The dog connects for example the leash pressure not with the pulling, but with everything possible, which he perceives in the moment. So in consequence also leash aggression can develop.
Your dog pulls on the leash? Often mentioned training methods.
Probably the most common tip is to simply stand still when the dog pulls on the leash. But the problem is that we are usually not so consistent to really always stand still and the dog also does not understand what to do. So frustration arises and the problem gets worse.
Also, blocking the dog, that is, putting your foot in his way or making yourself big in front of him, is not a very nice method. Again, your dog doesn’t understand why he’s being punished, and doesn’t learn that it’s worth it to walk on a loose leash. By physically blocking you, he also associates you with something negative, which damages your bond.
How do I teach the dog to walk on a leash?
One thing in advance – there is not one method that always works. Every dog is different, pulls for a different reason and has its own experiences. If you need individual help, please contact a certified dog trainer.
Clicker training is successful with many dogs. Through this the dog understands what we want from him and it is worthwhile for him.
This is how it is done:
1. start at home by conditioning your dog to the clicker or a marker signal.
2. put on the harness and leash in a quiet environment, preferably at home, and start clicking and rewarding immediately.
If your dog is attentive, you can now take a step with him and click and reward him as long as the leash is loose.
If this works well, move the training outside to a low-distraction environment.
5. try to play with the pace as well. Sometimes slower, sometimes faster and find your common walking pace.
6. in the next step build in more and more distractions.
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Tips for leash walking – This is how it works with the relaxed walk.
1. use environmental rewards. For example, if your dog wants to sniff a lamppost, let him do just that as a reward after he has walked loosely past it with you for a few moments.
2. announce changes of direction. Don’t suddenly turn around and pull your dog along. Teach him to pay attention to you on signal and change direction with you.
3. minimize stress in everyday life. Your dog will pull on the leash especially when stress is high and impulse control is depleted. If the walk already starts hectic, relaxed walking on a loose leash becomes more of a challenge.
4. short distances, but consistently. Do not let your dog pull in between, otherwise he will not understand when to pull and when to walk loosely.
How long does it take to get your dog on the leash?
Depending on the cause, how long your dog has been pulling on the leash, what experiences he has had, how often and consistently you train and so on, it can take from a few days to several weeks until your dog can walk easily on the leash.
Be patient it will be worth it!
The dog does not pull on the leash without a reason. When training, avoid methods that cause your dog fear or pain and instead teach him what you want him to do. Once your dog has learned to walk on a loose leash, your walks together will be much more relaxed.