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No Pulling

Teaching Your Dog Not to pull on the Leash is Easy!

Ok, so maybe it is not that easy. Loose-leash walking is one of the hardest things to teach a dog because their first instinct is to pull against the pressure on their body. How many of your dogs sound like they are going to choke themselves when they pull? That is because of their first instinct to pull against pressure. When your dog pulls on the leash the pressure from their collar goes back towards their tail so they instinctively pull forward against it. This is mentally rewarding for them to do since they are “working towards something” (similar to a sled dog pulling a sled). If I am describing your dog, please be careful as they could injure themselves severely by doing this, including collapsing a trachea which can lead to them never being able to bark again.

The best way to teach your dog not to pull is to STOP rewarding him for pulling! When your dog pulls, what are they pulling towards? Do they pull your shoulder out of socket to get at the fire hydrant, or chase the squirrel up a tree? When they get to the fire hydrant, because you have let them pull you there, they get rewarded. The same is true for chasing a squirrel. From now on, every time you walk your dog, think of how he is being rewarded for pulling, and stop the reward. Instead, reward him for NOT pulling.

Tips on Teaching Your Dog Not to Pull

Following are several techniques to teach your dog not to pull. You can use one or a combination, but be sure to always be consistent so your dog is no longer rewarded for pulling, but rather for walking next to you.
  1. ALWAYS bring highly motivating treats on your walks until your dog is heeling nicely next to you.
  3. Instead of a regular buckle collar, try a Gentle Leader head halter or an Easy-Walk Harness. Both tools can help teach your dog to pull against the pressure (towards the tail instead of the nose), which almost always allows for an instant heel.
  4. Use leather leashes for big dogs, or dogs who pull in general. Leather does not cut into your hands like nylon does.
  5. Teach the command ‘Watch Me’ or “Focus’ and reward your dog when he responds to it while walking.
  6. If your dog pulls forward, say ‘uh-uh’, stop, and tell him to sit, which is the opposite of pulling. Reward when he does. Take another step and if he pulls again, stop and ask him to sit. Repeat as many times as needed. It may take thousands of ‘sits’ for the light bulb to go on so patience is a virtue.
  7. Another technique to help with walking is a doggie backpack with saddlebags on either side. Fill each side with a soup can, which will help your dog ’work’ during his walk.

Teach Your Dog to Heel

  1. To teach heeling, begin with your dog in a sit on either side of you. The side does not matter, as long as you initially pick a side and then always walk him on that side (be consistent). Fold the leash in the hand on the side opposite your dog, so the leash crosses your body. Hold a treat in the hand closest to your dog, make a fist, and let your dog smell and/or lick your hand.
  2. Give a walking command like ‘Walk’ or ‘Heel’ and take your first step with the foot closest to your dog. Take five or six steps and stop, lure your dog into a sit while letting him sniff or lick your hand the entire time. When he sits, treat and praise. Repeat. If you do this sequence every time you go for a walk, your dog will be heeling in no time. Eventually you will not need a treat because your dog will just watch your hand while he walks hoping to get one. You can even lure with the treat, but then only praise once he has learned to heel. If your dog jumps or nips at your hand, you are holding the treat too high above his nose. It may even help to hold your fist backwards (with your closed fingers facing his face) directly on his mouth.
  3. Another technique is to turn around and go the other way every time your dog pulls.
  4. To help your dog focus on you and the treat, do not feed him dinner until after your evening walk so you can practice the entire time.
  5. It is also a good idea to not only teach a ‘walk’ command, but also a command so your dog learns when it is time to go sniff and potty (a time when you are not working). I use ‘Go Play!’