Pulling on walks is one of the most common reasons we get called in to help. Pulling can be both frustrating and dangerous. Especially, if you have a large or strong breed of dog. Furthermore, pulling on leash can lead to frustration and/or reactivity in your dog. Dogs who bark excessively until they can greet the other dog or person are usually displaying frustration. Dogs who are fearful or anxious about dogs or people often bark to make them go away.
Dogs are not born and bred to walk on a leash. It is not a natural behaviour for any animal. Therefore, it is important that you adjust your expectations and work at your dog’s pace. If your dog was unaccustomed to being on harness/collar and leash before they came to live with you, it can be an uncomfortable, frightening, or at the very least, confusing experience.
Instead of thinking of pulling as a naughty behaviour, remember that your dog is simply trying to communicate what they want. Some dogs pull forward to say, “I want to get there.” Other dogs pull backwards to say, “I don’t want to go that way.” Some dogs plant themselves and don’t want to go forward or back. These dogs are usually saying, “I’m uncomfortable and I need a break.”
Q: Where should I practice?
A: In the beginning, it’s best to practice somewhere quiet and with low-distractions, like a hallway, backyard, underground parking lot, etc. If you don’t have access to any of these, you’ll be jumping straight into medium- to high-distraction environments. That means you will have to be patient, understanding, and bring REALLY great novel treats.
Q: What if my dog pulls?
A: If your dog pulls, you can say “too bad”, stop moving, and walk back about 10 feet to reset. Going in the opposite direction to where your dog is pulling is the most effective and humane punishment. Once you get back 10 feet, you can start moving forward again. Lather, rinse, repeat. Some dogs catch onto this quickly and others take a lot more time. It is you who needs to be consistent! If you let your dog pull a few times here and there, you will see your polite walking behaviour fall apart.
Need a refresher on how to effectively train a behaviour? Click here.