Humans tend to assume that dogs will instinctively understand how to behave when leashed, but the truth is that it requires training. It is an essential skill that, once mastered, you will undoubtedly value each time you walk your dog. That’s because keeping your dog leashed while walking in public places helps them stay safe, clean, and disease-free.
A common and frustrating behavioral issue on walks that pup parents often face is leash-pulling.
Walking with dogs that constantly pull on their leash is never fun, and it can even be dangerous, which is why, when it happens, so many people tend to avoid walking with the dog altogether. That only exacerbates the problem, however, because the less frequently a dog walks, the more eager the dog becomes when they do walk, causing the dog to walk faster and pull more.
Like humans, dogs need regular walks for exercise and socialization. If you and your pup live in Florida’s Space Coast region and are looking for a responsible dog walker, click here to learn more about our services.
This article will offer tips on training a dog to walk harmoniously with you without leash-pulling.
Use a Front-Clip Harness When Leash-Training
Front-clip harnesses are easy to use and safe for dogs of all sizes. They also eliminate the threat of trachea damage that traditional collars pose to dogs. Remember to limit your dog’s leash size to six feet or less when using front clip harnesses. If the leash is longer, the dog can run fast enough to cause injury when abruptly hitting the end.
While using a front-clip harness on a dog will help discourage leash pulling, it’s not enough. Dogs require proper leash training if they’re going to learn how to walk next to their humans without pulling.
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Leash-Training Using Stop and Reward
The stop/reward method is an easy way to leash train a puppy to prevent leash pulling. This technique involves stopping forward movement whenever the dog pulls and rewarding the dog with a treat for walking at your side. Having your pup’s treat bag with you will be helpful throughout leash training.
The best place to begin leash training is in your yard, rather than when you are out on a walk, minimizing distractions for your pup.
One of the first things you’ll want to do is decide what side you want your pup to be on when walking with you. The left is the traditional side, but the right can also work; it is entirely up to you. Regardless of the side you ultimately choose, the key is to reward your dog with a treat on your thigh corresponding with that side. Over time, the dog will instinctively stay near your chosen side because that’s where the yummy dog treats appear!
You can start this process off-leash and begin to use a leash once the dog begins to respond to the treats. Briskly walk around the yard in random directions. Reward with a treat and plenty of praise whenever the dog walks at your side. Remember to keep the treat next to the thigh of your preferred walking side.
As the dog progresses and walks at your side, offer a reward for every step. As the behavior improves, you can make the rewards less frequent.
If the dog seems entirely disinterested, try again when they are hungrier. If your dog doesn’t care for treats, tossing a ball or using a tug or chew toy as a reward can also work well.
Continue practicing leash training until the dog walks at your side more often than not.
Stopping to Sniff or Tinkle as a Reward
While leash training, your dog will need to be given time for sniffing and relieving themselves while leashed. However, this is also an opportunity for the pup to learn proper manners and not pull on the leash.
While yard training, replace their treat reward, in five-minute intervals, with a sniff and/or potty break, and say, “go sniff.” Remember that letting your dog sniff around and potty while leashed is a reward or a privilege. So, if the pup begins to pull on its leash during free time, simply say, “let’s go,” then start walking in another direction, signaling an end to free time.
Switch it Up for Positive Reinforcement
As your pup gets more practice on the leash, try changing things up by walking faster or slower, stopping abruptly, and switching directions. During challenging exercises like these, reward your pup every time they stay at your side.
Begin rewarding your dog less frequently when walking at your side during normal circumstances while continuing to give rewards for staying at your side in challenging situations or when you encounter distractions such as people or other animals.
Take Leash Training To The Streets
Once you think your doggo has what it takes to get outside the yard and begin walking in public without pulling on the leash, get out there and remember to use the same training techniques that you used in the yard.
Remember that you and your pup will be facing many new challenges and distractions, like other dogs, animals, and friendly strangers. Consider bringing extra-special high-value treats along, like cheese or fresh meat, to keep your dog focused on what they learned.
Remember to say, “let’s go,” each time you begin walking. If your dog forgets you’re there or begins to pull on the leash, say, “let’s go,” turn, and start walking in a different direction. Don’t forget to reward your pup with treats for walking beside you and exemplary behavior in challenging situations. Also, remember the importance of rewarding your dog with sniff and tinkle breaks as well.
Training Your Dog Not to Pull on the Leash Requires Patience
One of the most important things to remember when teaching your dog not to pull on the leash or any dog training exercise is that we humans need to practice patience when it comes to our four-legged friends.
Leash training takes time, but with you and your pup’s commitment, drive, and determination to practice every day, you’ll soon be able to enjoy walking around with your best friend by your side, confidently and with ease.
Melanie is the owner and founder of Brevard’s premier trusted in-home pet care company. With a Sociology & Criminal Justice degree from the University of Tennessee, she took her corporate security background and combined it with her lifelong passion for animals – that’s how Space Coast Pet Services was born in 2016! She is certified in Pet First Aid & CPR, insured, and proudly completed a full background check successfully. She is committed to ongoing training and education for herself and her team. To learn more, click here.
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