How to stop a dog from pulling on the leash

By: David Codr

Published Date: July 25, 2022

Buck and Baxter - How to stop a dog from pulling on the leash

For this Omaha dog training session we worked with Doodles Buck and Baxter, sharing tips on how to stop a dog from pulling on the leash.

We spent the first portion of the session discussing the dog’s day-to-day routine as well as the benefits of positive dog training as well as the downside of aversive training methods like using shock collars, prong collars or the dreaded alpha roll (pinning a dog on its back until it submits).

As a Dog Behavior Consultant, I am 100% force and punishment free because dogs don’t need to be punished to learn. In fact punishment based training has been proven to make dogs anxious, lower their self-esteem increase frustration and lead to stress. All dog aggression comes from stress, so that is certainly something you want to avoid when you’re training a dog.

We started out by covering fundamentals; how to use marker words and a hand targeting exercise so that the guardians can recall or reposition the dogs without having to manhandle them. This is especially important in this case because anytime you put pressure on a dog whether, it’s pulling the leash, pushing them away or pinning them down, you’re going to cause them to resist unless they are submissive. And if that’s the case, you are going to get a dog who gives into you, but also fears you.

After working with over 4,000 dogs I’ve never needed to punish a dog or force them into doing things to help them modify their behavior. Matter of fact, the more punishment and aversive methods that you use, typically the more the dog is going to engage in the behavior you want, usually just away from you or when you don’t have direct control over them. Some people were raised with the old school, dominance theory of dog training, but fortunately nowadays people understand those omethods are unnecessary and often contribute to many dog behavior problems.

Once the guardians becomes proficient with hand targeting, they can easily have the dog follow their hand and move them in any direction they want. This cue is also an alternative way to recall a dog. Removing force is a crucial component if you want the dogs to learn to walk with a loose leash. Since dogs are programmed to resist pressure, every time you pull on the leash, you are training your dog to pull against you.

How to train a dog to stop pulling on the leash

If you have a dog that pulls on the leash on walks, it’s important to understand that most of the time they are pulling to get to something. Many people have been instructed to control the walk and not allow the dog to sniff or to set the pace. But since dogs have four legs that are usually longer than ours proportionally, they are going to walk faster than we do. If you’ve ever walked with someone who is walking substantially slower than you you can understand the frustration of that experience.

I also explained to the guardian that it’s important to allow dogs to sniff while on walks because, first of all, that’s usually what they’re trying to pull to get to. Secondly it drains more energy than if you don’t allow them to sniff. Sniffing is also calming and relaxing for dogs, so denying a dog to do these things creates a frustrating experience on the walk for the dog and human.

One of the most common mistakes people make when they are trying to get their dog to stop pulling on the leash, is practicing on an actual walk. Surgeons don’t learn how to do surgery by poking around on patients, police officers don’t refine their shooting skills by pulling out their gun in public and we don’t learn to drive on the interstate. But for some reason when it comes to dogs, people decide that they’re going to try to teach the dog in an extremely distraction field environment, AKA the real world.

One of the secrets to getting dogs to stop pulling on the leash is to practice in an environment that is not distracting or overstimulating. A great place to do this is in your living room.

I set up my camera so that I could shoot a positive dog training video on how to stop dogs from pulling on the leash. If you have a dog that pulls the leash when you are on walks, you should check out the free dog training video below.

This is a bit of a pressure release game. As soon as the dog applies pressure to the leash, or if we anticipate it is about to, the handler stops. By waiting for the dog to stop pulling on the leash and then immediately releasing the pressure, the dog learns that it can only move forward to get its objective when it has a loose leash.

By practicing inside without the other dog present, we have removed a lot of the distractions and things that cause a dog to pull giving it a single target. It was amazing to see how quickly these dogs learned to stop pulling on the leash.

After we shot the stop leash pulling video above, I walked the guardian through the technique until she was getting the same results. It will be important for her to practice with each dog separately in short 2 to 5 minute practice sessions in different parts of their home. A pro dog training tip is to have a bucket on either side of the path, that way you can drop a treat into the bowl as you walk away resetting the exercise to return back in that direction.

As the guardian practices this trick to stop dogs from pulling on the leash, she should notice that she’s able to move further along without the dog pulling on the leash. Eventually the dog should walk on a loose leash all the way up to the bowl.

Now this technique to stop dogs from pulling on the leash is really just to teach them to stop putting pressure on the leash. Training a dog to walk next to you with a loose leash is accomplished with other exercises. We will hopefully introduce those at our next in-home Omaha dog training session with Buck and Baxter in 2 weeks.

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This post was written by: David Codr