Company of Animals

Pulling on the lead

A dog wanting to get in the sea on a lead

Why does my dog pull?

Most of the time it’s sheer excitement! Just think, pulling usually starts even before you leave the house! If the production of your dog’s leash sends them into a whirling dervish, you are already ‘on route’ to being pulled to the park. While this endearing and fun behaviour is understandable, most dog owners would like the option of having anyone in the family walk the dog without the risk of being pulled over. In order for your dog to effectively learn how to behave on the lead, they need to be calm so training needs to start before you leave the house.

At Company of Animals we would also recommend that all dogs are fitted with a harness. Recent studies have shown that dogs pulling on a lead that is attached to their neck can cause irreparable damage to their delicate throat and the effects are similar to that of a tourniquet! Ideally, collars should only be used for ID purposes. Check out our range of Halti Training harnesses, leads and collars here

What to do

Here are some top tips but for more details on how to stop lead pulling for good, you can also check out our 3 step series below!

Top tips

Leaving the house

Start to perform your walk routine at least twenty minutes before you actually want to leave. Putting on your coat, walking shoes, gathering walking necessities and locking the door should all be spaced over a period of time, continuing to the next step only once your dog is calm.

Next, attach the lead, if your dog becomes excitable simply drop the lead and walk away, ignoring them completely until they are calm. Once calmed down; approach again and pick up the lead, if your dog remains calm then you can proceed towards the door. If at this point the dog becomes excitable and at any stage and starts to pull forward, simply drop the lead, walk away and again, ignore him until calmed down. While this may feel harsh, your dog needs to learn that behaving excitably and pulling actually delays the fun rather than inducing it.

Note: You should also remain calm and show little reaction at all times. Try to not say anything to your dog as you practice this exercise, allowing him or her to work it out for themselves will bring more consistent, long term results!

Next, walk to the usual exit door with your dog on lead; open the door a little, if your dog lunges forward and attempts to push through ahead of you then simply close the door (gently using your lead to ensure no toes or noses are trapped in the closing door!). Repeat this by gradually opening the door a little wider each time until you can fully open the door without your dog attempting to go through.

Note: Repetition and patience is key! Set aside some time for this as it may take quite a few repetitions until he learns that attempting to leave the house ahead of you is a pointless behavior!

Once you can open the door fully with your dog remaining stationary; you should step through the door yourself, if your dog attempts to follow then immediately step back inside and close the door as above. Repeat until your dog remains inside and you can them a command such as ‘ok’ or ‘come through’ to give permission to follow. This behavior should be practiced every time your dog leaves the house (even if you are taking them out to the car) and can be repeated at yard gates etc until you are able to completely leave your property with a dog who is under control, listening to you and in thinking mode!


Loose lead walking

The golden rule for teaching your dog to walk on a loose lead is not to punish him for pulling but to make the act of pulling unsuccessful. A good idea is to practice training in the garden before your walk so that they are naturally a little calmer than they would be in the park.

Note: when you are going to remove your lead and allow your dog some freedom (whether at home or during a walk) the lead must be slack before you remove it. Battling with your dog to unclip their lead while they are pulling desperately to get away just reinforces to him that pulling is successful!

Initially don’t attempt to go for a long walk; a short, successful walk is what you should aim for. Have your lead long enough that your dog can walk comfortably beside you whilst it remains slack, too short a lead will mean that the dog feels pressure all the time so it will be difficult for them to differentiate between pulling and non-pulling.

Set off walking at a comfortable but brisk pace; use your dog’s name encouragingly to invite them to come with you. As your dog walks beside you praise him or her enthusiastically and aim for just a few successful steps initially before you reward. The key to reliable training is to build on success, don’t just keep going until your dog makes a mistake, praise and reward when they are getting it right!

As soon as your dog begins to create any tension in the lead (by starting to pull) you should immediately move backwards while encouraging your dog to come back to your side. Continue to move backwards until the lead is once again slack, at which point you should immediately walk forward again. The idea is to calmly teach that a tight lead actually results in moving in the opposite direction than that your dog’s wants to go, as soon as the lead becomes slack forward movement recommences! Happy days!


Walking nicely forever

It is extremely important that you keep your arms relaxed and do not tighten the lead yourself. Your dog can do nothing to stop you tightening the lead so they will never understand the consequences of a tight lead if it is actually you that is doing the pulling!

You need to repeat this every time your dog starts to pull so it does require patience! Another good reason to only attempt a short walk initially!

Note: Whenever your dog is walking nicely, keep praising them enthusiastically. If you are going to use a command such as “heel”, say it whilst your dog is walking beside you not when they are pulling, this way, your dog will associate the “heel” command with walking nicely.

Your dog does not know it is wrong to pull on the lead, they simply have not learnt that loose lead walking is the only successful way to walk on lead. Getting cross with your dog will not teach them to walk nicely on the lead, but more likely motivate them to get to ‘off lead’ areas more quickly.

You can also invest in one of our Halti Training products to help you and your furry friend to have happy adventures together without anyone getting hurt!

Fiona Whelan ~ Pet Behaviourist

Fiona has been working at the Training and Behaviour Centre as a behaviour specialist since 2002, and previously ran her own training and behaviour establishment in Lincolnshire for seven years so has a wealth of experience as a behaviour counsellor.