An Easy Way to Stop a Dog From Pulling on the Leash

By: David Codr

Published Date: April 19, 2021

Gilly 1 scaled - An Easy Way to Stop a Dog From Pulling on the Leash

For this Omaha dog training session we worked with Titus (not pictured) and Gilly, a pair of Kelpie mixes who like to pull on the leash.

The dogs were both pretty upset when I arrived for the session. Because of a previous fight, the guardians had kept them separated and Gilly was in a fenced in area in the kitchen while Titus was on a leash in the living room.

I used some dog behaviorist tricks to get the dogs to settle down, but the calm was short-lived. Titus repeatedly took treats and settled down before he circled back to barking at me and that caused Gilly to bark in-kind.

Any time that you have dogs that are reactive, they are going to be too worked up to listen or learn anything. Not only is the barking a sign of the dog’s being unhappy, its a stressful experience for everyon e involved. After about 20 minutes, we decided to put Titus into his kennel in another room which allowed Gilly to settle down.

The dogs were adopted through the Nebraska Humane Society so I reached out to one of their behavior experts Christine who was familiar with their behavior. Christine informed me that the dogs were in a home with other dogs prior to being adopted into their current home. Often the Humane Society will try to keep dogs together if they are buddies or it’s in their best interest. While that used to be the case with Titus and Gilly, now that they are the only two dogs, they were getting into fights and clearly not happy with one another.

The guardians suspected that having both dogs may not be the ideal situation. They really didn’t want to give up on either dog as they wanted what was best for them. I love working with dog guardians who have this mentality because many people say they are dedicated to their dogs, but refuse to make any changes.

After chatting with the guardians about the dog’s day-to-day routine and backstory, it sounded like they were both bored and under exercised at times. I shared some physical exercise and mental stimulation tips with them such as feeding out of snuffle mat, snacks in puzzle toys, using to lick mats when the dogs are together, tug of war with toys, scent games and even basic training.

Making sure that the dogs physical needs are being met and that they are mentally stimulated will go a long ways towards helping them feel calm and relaxed.

I recommended that the guardian start walking the dogs separately. While I agree with Christine from the Humane Society‘s assessment of having the dogs walk together, because they are currently so reactive and have poor leash manners, I suggested that the guardians walk them separately in shorter walks more frequently. You always want to establish a new action or behavior in one of the easiest scenarios possible and then work up to the more challenging situations.

Gilly had been on a exercise restriction after one of her fights with Titus and had only now been cleared for walks. But her guardians didn’t like taking her on a walk because the dog pulled so much on the leash. The guardians were concerned that Gilly was going to re-injure herself. I recommended the guardians start using harnesses instead of collars as fearful, anxious or reactive dogs caan feel triggered when pressure is applied to a kneck collar.

I showed the guardians a few tricks that they could use in the house to help the dogs settle down before going for a walk. I recommended they practice this simple activity of going to the door and telling Gilly to sit then rewarding her multiple times without bringing out the leash or leaving for a walk. By removing the exciting thing from happening after (the walk), the dog was able to calm down and listen while the guardian practiced opening the door.

Next we headed outside so that I could share some loose leash training secrets with the guardians. Many people think that if a dog pulls on the leash, you need to pull them back or use some sort of a tool to prevent them from pulling. But there is no tool that will ever stop a dog from pulling on the leash. If you want your dog to stop pulling on the leash on walks, you need to teach them to walk with a loose leash or at the very least to pay attention to you. Our loose leash walking class may be an option to explore down the road.

I got out some very high value training treats and gave them to Gilly’s guardian so that we could practice an exercise to help the dog pay more attention to the human and walk with a loose leash.

It took a couple of minutes before Gilly started to figure out that every time that she looked at her human, she was rewarded for doing so. This is a result of the dog being too aroused or excited while on the leash. But as we practiced, the looks came more and more and the loose leash was more and more pronounced.

I recommended that the guardian practice this exercise in the house, then in the courtyard, than in the front yard before going out for actual walks. The more that Gilly is rewarded for checking in with her guardian, the more present she will be. When this is the case, it will reduce the dogs pulling on the leash and make it easier for the human to get the dog’s attention.

The guardian was very pleased with the progress that we made as the dog was no longer yanking her arm out of the socket lunging on the leash. I recommended that they try to walk both dogs in this fashion, for short 5 to 10 minute walks multiple times a day, separate from the other dog.

Pulling on the leash is a skill that takes a little time to become a habit. Same thing with walking with a loose leash. But because the dogs are so aroused by the side of other dogs, the guardians need to focus on some loose leash basics first.

After a week or two of multiple walks each day using these loose leash training tips, the guardians should be in a better position to lead their dogs on a healthy walk. When that is the case, I recommended that they find a park or area where they can walk the dogs parallel to one another, but with enough distance so they are not staring, barking or lunging at each other.

The more the dogs to positive or even just calm and non reactive things together the better. It seems normal for many people to keep dogs apart after a fight, but that makes the last memory both dogs have (of the fight) the most recent memory. That’s why its important to get dogs back together once they settle down to share a positive experience together as soon as possible. Then repeat that often.

I wrapped up the session by recording a roadmap to success video summary of all of the dog behavior tips and secrets that we covered in this in-home Omaha dog training session.

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This post was written by: David Codr

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