When you’re trying to go on a peaceful stroll (and especially when sidewalks are slippery or footing becomes treacherous), the last thing you want to worry about is your dog pulling on the leash.
Unruliness on a leash is one of the most common reasons people seek out professional training for their dogs. And while training polite leash manners is no easy feat, try these five tips to stop your dog from pulling on the leash.
1. Try a training collar
Training collars and harnesses can help keep your dog walking on your side instead of forging forward. Some of my favorites are harnesses that clip on the front of the dog’s chest like the Easy Walk® Harness or SENSE-ation® Harness. And for the strongest of pullers, try a head collar like a Halti or a Gentle Leader®.
Front clip harnesses and head collars work by turning the dog’s body toward you when they begin to pull, stopping their forward motion. So if your dog is constantly lurching ahead of you on walks, these collars will simply turn the dog around to face you when they do.
Dogs learn quickly that walking ahead of their owners will not get them where they want to go, and many times, the dog settles into a nice pace on their owner’s side.
2. Play the red light/green light game
This one takes a lot of patience, but trust me…it works! If your dog steps ahead of you on a walk, simply stop walking and wait (red light!). When your dog stops pulling and focuses on you, start walking again (green light!).
It may take a few times around the block for your dog to get the hint that they need to stay by your side. But if your dog never gets to go forward when their leash is taught, they’ll begin to work with you instead of pulling against you!
3. Reward for checking in!
Reward with treats or praise when your dog makes eye contact with you during your walks. You can encourage your dog to make eye contact by teaching the “watch” cue.
With your dog in a sit, hold a treat in front of his nose and then bring it to your eyes. When your dog makes eye contact with you, mark the action with the word “yes” and reward with the treat.
4. Redirect their reaction
Having a dog that barks at other dogs, cars, people or small animals can make walks a real challenge. If you have a reactive dog, do your best to keep them under threshold! If your dog is too upset to focus on you, take a treat or keep calm, you likely need to give him some more space.
If you see one of your dog’s behavioral triggers coming at you, try to find an area where you can pull off to the side and allow the distraction to safely pass while you keep your dog’s focus, instead of having them burst into a barking fit.
5. Find a trainer
Dealing with reactivity can make walks difficult. But there are some things you can do to help. A competent CPDT (www.ccpdt.org) certified dog trainer or behavior consultant can help identify exactly why your dog is behaving the way they are, and offer solutions for when they react.
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