How to stop a dog from pulling on the leash

To correct any problem behavior, you need to find out why it occurs and eliminate the cause. That is, if you want to stop your dog from pulling on the leash you should actually find out why they do so. Let’s take a look at the main reasons why dogs pull on their leashes and how to address this behavior correctly.

Why do dogs really pull on the leash?

There are several reasons why your dog may pull on their leash.

1) Unintentional learning, that is, reinforcement of such behavior. The dog pulls the owner, and the owner follows them. This is how the dog learns to pull on the leash to get what they want. And why give up this habit, if everything works smoothly? Your four-legged friend simply does not have a clue that the person on the other end of the leash feels uncomfortable!

2) Leash jerking. This may sound ironic, but the advice of some dog trainers to make leash jerks to stop the dog from pulling actually has the opposite effect – the dog begins to pull even harder! The thing is, that before the jerk, the person loosens the leash and then pulls hard, causing the dog pain or significant discomfort. That’s why your pet starts to think that the weakening of the leash will be followed by pain, and that means that the sagging of the leash should be prevented by all means. 

3) Overexcitement. You’ve probably met dogs that constantly rush on a leash in all directions, bark, and are unable to concentrate. These are signs of overexcitement. In this case, you’ll have to work with your dog’s state — train them to be calm and to control themselves in any situation. Only after that can you deal with pulling on the leash. 

4) Using a tape leash. You may be teaching your dog to pull on the leash by using a tape leash. The principle of a tape leash – you need to pull to get where you want – actually teaches the dog to pull. In addition, having gotten used to the fact that the tape leash creates constant tension, the dog simply perceives it as normal.

5) A lack of training. Walking on a loose leash is not a natural behavior for dogs, it is a learned one. It should be explained to the dog that pulling is bad.

How to stop your dog from pulling on the leash

You can teach your dog to walk on a loose leash by using the following rules.

1) To cope with your dog’s overexcitement,  you need to train them to be calm and to control themselves in any situation. For this, you can use relaxation techniques, reduce stress and increase predictability, adjust their daily routine and create useful rituals.

2) Stop reinforcing pulling on the leash. If the dog pulls, immediately stop and wait. Don’t jerk the leash, don’t scold the dog, simply wait. As soon as the dog turns to face you (and sooner or later it will happen, as the dog will want to understand why you suddenly turned to stone), praise them and continue moving. When you feel the dog is pulling on the leash, you may also stop, turn around and move in the opposite direction. The dog will soon realize that the scheme, “I pull on the leash and I get where I want,” is no longer working. Instead, they’ll learn that “if I don’t pull, I get to where I want to go faster”.

3) Always use the same leash length so your dog will understand how far from you they can go. This will make the learning process faster and easier.

4) Never use a tape leash, not even occasionally. Otherwise, you will have to go back to square one of training, over and over again.

5) Don’t scold your four-legged friend. If you scold your dog and move towards them, they will naturally try to stay further from you to avoid your aggression. And they’ll pull on the leash to do that.

6) Encourage the right behavior. Is your dog walking on a loose leash now? Perfect! Praise them and give a treat. The more you reinforce the desired behavior, the more often it occurs.

7) Change directions. This is how your dog will learn to follow you and not move along one and the same route without paying attention to what is happening at the other end of the leash.

8) Start simple. Start training in quiet places where no dogs, cats, cars or cyclists can distract your pet from learning. Increase the complexity level gradually, as well as the duration of training.  

9) Start training only when you are in a good mood. If you are anxious or upset, you may unwittingly transmit your emotions to your pet. In this case, learning will be useless and ineffective.

Some dog owners believe that it is impossible to stop an adult dog from pulling on the leash. However, this is a misconception: the dog is able to learn at any age.

August 20, 2020

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