Show of hands, who doesn’t love being dragged down the street by a dog? Bueller… Bueller? Pulling actually doesn’t bother me, but for most people leash pulling can really take the fun out of dog walking and cause some serious injuries.
I like to walk at a fast pace and get some exercise while I’m out working, which is why it doesn’t bother me too much. The downside is that pulling causes control issues. A few weeks ago, I was out with one of our known pullers. We were moving at a good clip, and I was along for the ride rather than staying in control of our speed. We hit a patch of uneven, broken sidewalk (welcome to Philadelphia). I tried to slow our roll, but my pup was on a mission to smell the next tree as fast as k9-ly possible. A moment later I felt my my foot roll sideways. I thought everything was fine, and that I had dodged an ankle sprain, but that was not the case. I woke up the next morning unable to walk for the next 3 weeks.
To stay safe and avoid injury to both yourself and your pups, there are a number of ways to stop the pulling behavior in dogs.
Stop Pulling Strategy #1: Harnesses
A no-pull harness, can be a major life saver and almost eliminate pulling. We’ve provided these to a number of our clients and it basically cured their pulling overnight. These harnesses are effective because they re-direct the leash pull. They are a super safe alternative to prong or choke collars since they do not constrict the dog’s throat. The three we use most often are the Ez-Walk and Gentle Leader by Pet Safe (Halti by Company of Animals is similar) and the No Pull Mesh Harness by Sporn.
- The EZ Walk is a front clipping harness that redirects a dogs pulling tightening around the chest and directing the dog back toward the pet sitter. I use this for dogs with smaller chests and higher center of gravity. You’ll need to make sure you tighten the chest part of the harness before you put it on. It tends to loosen after a couple of walks.
- The Gentle Leader or Halti are “snoot loops” meaning they are worn around the nose. They also work by redirecting the dogs energy back toward the pet sitter. There are few caveats with this type of harness. First, not every dog will wear them, and it will certainly take getting used to. I recommend using a treat to guide the dogs snout into the harness rather than a “brute force attack”. After a week or two they should get used to it. You will also need to avoid any corrections with this type of harness. Jerking on the leash can cause accidental whiplash. If you’re dog will wear it, this has been the most effective harness we use.
- The No Pull Mesh Harness or Original Sporn harness is great for dogs with a low center of gravity. If you have a dog that uses a crouching position to gain leverage and pull you around, this is a great option. Instead of re-directing the dogs energy it lifts their center of gravity and tightens under the arm pit to hinder their forward movement. I use this all the time with out PitBull clients and it’s awesome.
Stop Pulling Strategy #2: Training
In order to leash train your dog to not pull you will need patience, and a lot of it. You will also need buy in from your client. The key to training is consistency. You’ll want to have lots of treats and don’t expect to walk very far.
When you pup starts to pull, stop in your tracks. Without using commands, wait for your dog to come back to your side or sit down. Once they are next to you with a slack leash or sitting give verbal praise, treats, and allow them to keep walking. Once they starts pulling again (which may be .03 seconds later) repeat the process. This gets old very quickly, even if you’re experienced. It can help to listen to music or a book. At first your dog may pull more, after all that’s what’s worked for him in the past! Just be consistent and only continue to move forward on a loose leash.
You should be prepared to leash train on every walk until your dog learns proper manners. Some people don’t mind their dog walking ahead of them with a little slack and others want their dog to stay on their left side the entire time. Do what makes you comfortable!
For more information on leash training, check out Ian Dunbar’s guide here: http://dogtime.com/dog-health/general/1530-dog-training-walking-on-leash-dunbar
Other Tips to Stop Pulling
- Some dogs respond well to their humans talking to them as they walk. You talking to your dog may make you look like a crazy person, but It may also motivate your dog to stay close to you. For the record, you would be surprised how well dog names fit into Barry Manilow lyrics.
- If your dog is a complete loony toon as soon as you get outside because of distractions like squirrels, construction, cats, children, garbage, etc. you can practice leash training somewhere less stimulating, like in the house or the yard.
- “Choking up” or shortening the leash is also a good strategy to use when leash training at first. The shorter the leash, the more control you have.
- Try to tire your dog out a little bit by playing fetch or going to the dog park before you attempt to leash train. A tired pup is a well behaved pup!
- Leash train before breakfast and dinner when your dog will be more motivated by food.
- Use “high value” treats such as chicken, turkey, or cheese when you start leash training. This can really make a gigantic difference!
Have any tips for the Scout community, let us know in the comments. We would love to get your feedback.