Dog Walkers Tips To Stop Your Dog Pulling on the Lead?

Loose leash walking can be one of the hardest things to teach a dog as it’s not a very natural behaviour. This is why you see so many people being ‘taken’ for a walk as they’ve either not tried it or given up after a few weeks. So before starting out its worth remembering that it is going to take time (months or even years) to get right and it will be hard on you and your dog, but persistence will pay off and the rewards for you both for the long term will be immense.

To give yourself (and your dog) the highest probability of success it’s worth looking at the whole picture as different dogs need different approaches.

Puppies 0- 6 months  

Everything is new in the world to a puppy and they have a very short attention span.

The best method is to work in short burst regularly throughout the day followed by a lot of playing and sniffing. Then go back to a few more fun, reinforced steps followed by more playing and sniffing.

In my opinion this is a necessary lesson that will help your dog learn about the world around him as part of his socialization. If he doesn’t experience lots of things in a controlled manner at this crucial time he’s likely to grow up fearful and insecure which will cause you a host of problems later on.

Adolescence (6 months – 3 years)

Your dog may seem like an adult but if he’s under 3 he’s still an adolescent which is a time of growing and boundless energy.

It’s important to recognise that his actions are not out of rebellion, stubbornness, defiance or dominance, he is simply trying to find out what works and what doesn’t.

It’s now, more than any other age, you need to operate with a calmness and consistency. Every time you feel you can’t be bothered and give in and let him pull, you’re not only reinforcing pulling, but you’re making it a variable which will confuse him and undo all your hard work. So, if you’re not in the mood or don’t have the time to be consistent, then either don’t walk him that day or hire a dog walker regularly who can work with you and your commands.

A Gentle Leader (head collar) is also a great tool for helping if you have a strong puller and when he pulls you can try moving him round in a circle until he’s back at your side and then reward him.

Note: If you have an adolescent dog, a walk at human speed just isn’t going to be enough and you’ll be fighting the whole time against a pulling dog. It’s vital that they have a chance to work off their energy BEFORE you ask them to walk nicely by your side as otherwise you’re setting the situation up for failure.

Teaching Your Dog Loose Leash Walking

Step 1: Define What You Want  

This is where you need to be clear what position and level of tension on the leash it is you want your dog to work to. Personally I’m OK with Roddy being slightly in front of me, but as soon as the leash is taught, I stop and he knows to come back and be by my side before I’ll move off again.

Remember, consistency is key and only air to your dog.

Step 2: Getting Their Attention

If your dog is too far in front of you, sniffing or looking around he isn’t going to have his attention on you and if you can’t get your dog’s attention, you aren’t going to be able to get any other behaviour.

So, work on a clear way to gain his attention, and if the minute you walk out of the door he’s off, you’re not ready to work on loose leash walking. I’d recommend taking him calmly back into the house over and over again until he realises that the walk won’t start until he’s calm. But, you must find a cue to also get his attention as it’s like every other behaviour and has to be taught in increasingly distracting situations. Start in the house with your clicker and every time he looks at you click and treat. Don’t call his name, just wait and click each time he looks at you. Do this consistently whenever his attention is offered. Move to different rooms and gradually increase the distractions before you go outside.

You may have to wait a while, but just stand there and wait and eventually he will get it.

Step 3: Practicing Off-Leash

The leash is only there as a tether for safety in case of emergency. It’s not a guide to hold the dog in position. Your goal is to teach the dog is to walk next to you.

As with gaining his attention practicing off-leash walking is a case of simply clicking and rewarding every time your dog shows up in the heel position. As soon as the leash goes taught, stop and wait for him to realise he has to come back to your side or you can move in another direction but each time as soon as he’s in heel, click and treat. At first you’ll need to shovel the treats down him, so take these from his daily food allowance. Be sure to stay calm and don’t pat your leg or call him, stay quiet and allow your dog time to realise what it is he needs to do.

Your goal is to make being by your side the best place in the world to be!

As with all teaching, practice in the house first where there are few distractions, do this for at least a few days, then move to a garden or anywhere that is safe

Some key things right at the start to remember:

Maintain a high rate of reinforcement when the dog is in correct position.

Always only deliver the reinforcement in heel position.

Click for whatever criteria and, if necessary, lure the dog back into the correct position before delivering the treat.

Teach your dog that treats ONLY come in heel position.

This may seem like a lot of work but once you’ve both mastered it you’ll have fun, safe and enjoyable walks for life!

If you’d like me to work with you and your dog on loose leash walking as your dog walker I cover Thirsk, Northallerton & surrounding areas.