Teaching Your Dog Not to Pull on a Leash

apl-smWalking nicely on a leash is not a natural behavior for a dog.  Therefore, you have to teach your dog good leash manners.  It is essential that you are consistent in your training.  If your dog sometimes gets to pull, he will learn that pulling works to get him where he wants to go often enough that he will keep it up.  Instead, treat every walk as a training session.  While your dog is learning good leash manners, you may want to provide him with alternate forms of exercise because training walks will be slow and short.

Method One: Red Light, Green Light

While you are walking, if your dog pulls on the leash, stop!  Wait until he stops pulling or puts slack in the leash by looking back at or walking back towards you.  As soon as the leash is loose, say “Yes!” give your dog a treat and continue walking.  If your dog begins to pull again, immediately stop and repeat these steps.  During the walk, reward your dog for staying near you or looking up at you.  This method teaches your dog that if he stays near or looks at you, he gets rewarded and gets to keep moving.  It also teaches him that as soon as he pulls on the leash, the walk stops.  If your dog pulls to sniff something, follow the steps above, but reward him for putting slack in the leash by walking with him to the object in which he is interested.  The chance to sniff becomes his reward.  You must be consistent when teaching your dog to walk nicely on leash, and always stop moving the instant your dog pulls.

Method Two: Lure and Reward

While you are walking, have several treats in your left hand (if your dog is walking on your left side) and hold your hand in front of your dog’s nose.  Every few seconds, give your dog a treat and praise her for walking nicely on leash.  If your dog begins to pull on the leash, stop immediately and get your dog’s attention.  Ask her to sit, then put your treat hand back in front of her nose and start walking again.  Practice daily for at least a week, then stop luring your dog with treats in your hand.  Instead, treat your dog every other step or so with a treat from your left pocket or treat pouch.  Over the course of many training sessions, gradually increase the number of steps you go in between treats.  First reward your dog every 5 steps, then every 10 steps, and so on.

Things to Remember:

Teaching your dog to walk nicely on leash will require plenty of rewards.  Use high-value treats like hotdogs, cheese, or jerky dog treats.
Teach your dog to control herself before the walk starts.  Do not put your dog’s leash on until she has all four paws on the floor.  Better yet, ask her to sit before you clip on the leash.
It is very important to be consistent when you are teaching your dog to walk without pulling.  Every walk should be considered a training session.  If your dog sometimes gets what she wants by pulling, she will continue to pull while walking.

Equipment:

Use a regular buckle or snap collar, or a martingale collar.  You may also want to use a head halter such as the Gentle Leader or a no-pull harness such as the Easy Walk.  Head halters and no-pull harnesses are effective tools that will make walks more pleasant for you and your dog.  However, they do not teach your dog not to pull.  Your dog will not automatically know not to pull when she is without her head halter or no-pull harness, so you will have to devote time to training her while she is wearing a regular collar as well.  Do not use a regular harness because it will actually encourage your dog to pull.  Also, do not use fabric or metal choke collars, or pinch/prong collars.

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