Walking a dog who excessively pulls is certainly no “walk in the park.” Tugging and holding your dog back won’t help as a dog’s natural response to pressure is to push into it; the harder you pull, the harder they pull too. Fortunately, there are a variety of ways and tools to help you maintain control over your pulling pooch.

Equipment

Training can be made easier with the aid of equipment designed to prevent pulling. In the case of a strong, muscular dog or an owner who cannot control the dog this equipment is a must for safety.

Head halters such as The Gentle Leader are a safe and effective way to encourage your dog to stop pulling. A head halter is NOT a muzzle. It is a special kind of collar with a strap that goes around your dog’s nose and another strap that goes around her neck, just behind the ears. The leash attaches to a strap just under the nose so that when your dog pulls, her nose is turned back towards you, making it harder for her to pull. A properly fitted head halter only restricts your dog’s ability to pull, it does not restrict her ability to open her mouth to eat, drink, pant, fetch, and bark. It is normal for a dog to resist a head halter at first. However, with proper training and patience, you and your dog will be walking like pros in no time.

Unique no-pull harnesses such as the SENS-ible Harness offer a solution to your dog’s pulling without any training required. The leash attaches to the a ring on the center of the chest strap so that when your dog pulls, she feels a slight sensation on the back of her front legs that will cause her to stop pulling. 

The Martingale Collar is designed to provide snug support to maintain control and prevent your dog from slipping out of her collar. The flat nylon collar is equipped with a no-slip loop that prevents your dog from slipping out of her collar. Properly fitted martingale collars are designed to snugly fit your dog’s neck when tightened by the leash, it should not restrict the dog’s airway. 

Walk your dog with a regular six-foot nylon or leather leash. Retractable leashes reinforce pulling, as the dog is able to get more leash and keep walking when he pulls. They also desensitize the dog to pressure that we hope to indicate to the dog to stop pulling.

Training

Training is a vital component of having a dog with good leash manners. There are several ways to teach your dog not to pull on leash. 

The most common method is to lure and reward. To begin you need to decide which side of your body you want your dog to walk on. The left side is traditional in training but it doesn’t matter as long as you are consistent and you and your dog are comfortable. Hold a treat (or toy) in the hand on that side of your body; hold the leash handle in the other hand. Put the treat at your dog’s nose and start walking. Praise your dog the moment she is at your side and give the treat. Continue walking forward. Say “Yes” and reward every few steps that you take. If you are holding the lure in the correct position and it is interesting enough to your dog she will be next to you. After a couple of sessions you can walk a few more steps before rewarding. Continue to gradually add distance between rewards. You may add a cue, such as “Let’s go” after a few sessions of your dog reliably walking with you and not pulling. Simply give the cue, put the treat at her nose, and proceed. Start to wean off of the lure after a few more sessions by either holding it in your hand but bending your elbow so your hand is at your shoulder or placing your empty hand at your dog’s nose. Be sure to lavishly praise and still reward when your dog sticks with you.

Another option is to stop walking as soon as your dog gets to the end of the leash. Stand still until your dog backs up a bit and the leash loosens, say “Yes” and then start walking. In this case, what your dog wants the most - to go for a walk! -  is the reward for good behavior. This method is successful but does take a great deal of patience. Don’t expect to walk very far in your first few sessions if you have a dedicated puller but the mental exercise your dog is receiving is as beneficial as physical exercise.

Finally, there is the yo-yo method. As soon as your dog pulls at the end of the leash turn and walk the other direction. Dogs will tend to pull back and keep an eye on their handler after a few times of changing directions. Be sure to say “Yes” and praise the dog when this happens! Continue to praise and occasionally give a treat, if you desire, when the leash is slack. 

If you would like information from an Anti-Cruelty Society Behavior Specialist regarding this behavior topic, please call 312-645-8253 or email help@anticruelty.org.

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