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Pulling on Leash


January 17, 2020

Written by: Janine Allen

Why does a dog insist upon continually pulling on his leash and what can be done to stop it?

First, recognize what you are up against. Does your dog pull because you walk too slow? Because there are wonderful things that he needs to smell? Because there are other dogs and people to see? Because he wants to get back home to eat his dinner?

How can you make things easier for both of you? Walk faster? Walk him in areas where other dogs haven’t left their mark, like the middle of a quiet neighborhood street? Walk him at times where you don’t see many other people or dogs? Delay feeding him dinner when you get home? Feed him dinner from your pocket while you are walking him so he doesn’t need to rush home?

A great way to get a dog to not pull on the leash is to get him to WANT to be by your side.

Practicing at home in a confined space using food rewards before you venture out on a leash walk will increase your dog’s desire to STAY by your side. Once you master being generous with rewards and the technique of moving into your dog so that he backs up it will be easier to take it on the road with a leash in your hand.

I like to use a confined space to teach a dog to WANT to be at my side. I don’t have to hold a leash which simplifies the exercise. The small space ensures the dog will have a higher chance of ending up at my side and getting rewarded. If I am careful in how I step into the dog he naturally moves to my side and gets a food reward.

The secret to success in this exercise is that the dog has to move his hind legs backward, not just pivoting his front legs around and away from you. Once the dog knows he is getting rewarded for stepping back with his hind legs he has a tangible task that he can focus on. Later, when distractions present themselves, your dog can focus on backing up rather than wondering why you are upset with him pulling.

In this video I am working a dog in a small, fenced space. His previous training experience has only been performing a show stance in front of his handler. He has never been rewarded with food for doing anything else so it takes some patience on my part to allow him to learn that I will not reward him for the show stance and only reward him for moving to my side. You can see that it is just a matter of repetition and generous rewarding. No words or hand gestures are needed.

A big thank you to Turk, the Labrador, who is on the fast track to becoming a service dog for his wheelchair-bound owner.

Janine Allen is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer and Behaviour Specialist. Check out her website here

Did you find these tips helpful for your and your FirstMate? Have any training skills you’re dying to learn? Let us know in the comments below!

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