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Why does my dog pull on the leash and how can I get him/her to stop?

When we are playing with or working with our dogs we need to remember the first rule of behavior, dogs do what works for them. 

If they pull on their leash and we follow them, to the dog it means pulling is ok. 

Instead of following them we need to either stop walking when they are pulling, or change our direction to have an opportunity to teach what we prefer. 

If we use the stop technique we need to also remember to praise them anytime they aren’t pulling. Praise gives the dog feedback from us. Praise can be given many ways: verbal “good dog!”, touch that they like, play, smiling at them or giving them a food reward. 

Being consistent is very important to be fair. This means every time they are on a leash we must stick to the rules. If we prevent the pulling 10 times and then let them get away with pulling us once, we undo about 7 of those previous 10 correct times. This means we are almost back to square one in our training. To a dog that is confusing. 

Remember that bit about them doing what works for them? I like changing direction so we move away from whatever it is they are pulling towards. Speak to them to get their attention before you turn. “Fido, let’s go”. I also use a verbal marker to let them know when they do something that I like. For me it is the word “Yes!” (or the click of a clicker) When they hear this sound it means they did what I wanted them to do and that I will then PAY them for working for me by giving them a treat. You don’t expect to work without being paid, why do we expect any less from our dogs? 

I also have a no reward marker which is “Auh auh”, a sound that means don’t do that. I consider it a human version of a warning growl which translates better than just saying the word no. We understand what “no” means but our dogs typically do not. When the dog is beside you with a loose leash say “Yes” (or click) and instantly give them a treat. Use something the dog really loves and not just a piece of kibble. Do this a few times in a row and watch how much more attention your dog will give you. 

What your dog wears for this training doesn’t really matter, the rules are the same. There are some great tools that can give you a leverage advantage however like the Gentle Leader and Easy Walk harness or the Weiss Walkie. This can help when you are dealing with a large or strong dog. I avoid tools that cause pain because the fallout of using pain in training can be increasing aggression. 

Practice your initial training inside the house and then progress to outside in distracting environments. Once outside please take into account you are competing with smells we don’t notice and sounds we don’t hear. Not to mention how stimulating moving things are for some dogs. As with anything else the more you practice the faster your dog will learn the rules.

FMI you can check out my blog post on the subject:

Happy Walking!
Marie Finnegan
K-9 Solutions Dog Training Inc.

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