How to Stop Your Dog from Pulling on the Leash

This post provides a step-by-step guide for dog behaviourists to train dogs in loose-leash walking. Learn how to select the ideal Y-shaped harness with front and back D rings, establish a rewarding system using treats, toys, or praise, and teach marker words or clicker training to clarify desired behaviours. Create a distraction-free training area initially, gradually introducing more stimuli. Employ management techniques with a lead attached to the front for untrained dogs, and reward them behind you to avoid teaching them to walk in front.

Incorporate a change of direction and reward dogs walking beside you. Remember to have purposeless walks and gradually increase distractions while maintaining consistency. Reinforce loose leash walking even after mastery, and celebrate progress and small victories. With patience and consistency, you can achieve improved loose-leash walking skills following the same methods dog behaviourists themselves use.

1. Start with proper equipment: Choose a well-fitting harness Y-shaped harness with a D ring at the front and on the back. This can be used for management when your dog isn’t fully trained not to pull on the lead. When not training, attached a double-ended lead to the front and back so they can’t pull you too much. When training, either attach the lead to the back only or to the collar, whatever you ultimately want your dog to walk on. When training, all the rules apply. Otherwise, use management with the lead clipped to the front.

2. Establish a reward system: Determine what motivates your dog—whether it’s treats, toys, or praise. Use high-value rewards during training sessions to keep your dog engaged and focused.

3. Teach a marker word or train your dog to understand a clicker so you can mark your dog for the behaviour you want and make it clearer to them what you want them to do.

4. Set up a training area: Begin training in a low-distraction environment such as your garden or a quiet park. As your dog improves, gradually increase the difficulty by introducing more distractions.

5. If you are in your garden, you can start training without the lead, just by encouraging your dog to walk with you and marking and rewarding them when they are at your heel.

6. Then attach the lead and do the same thing! Initially, you want to reward your dog very regularly, such as with a tiny treat every other step so that it’s so rewarding they want to engage as opposed to explore other things.

7. Take care to ensure your dog isn’t rewarded in front of you, as this will teach them to walk in front of you and quickly become a trip hazard. Use your marker word or clicker then reward them just behind you so they don’t learn to cross over you for the reward.

8. Use a change of direction: If your dog starts pulling, just stop or change direction and walk in the opposite way. This teaches your dog to pay attention to your movements and discourages pulling. Reward your dog when they have walked a couple of steps beside you. Don’t reward them immediately for coming back after you have stopped or you may inadvertently teach them to yoyo back and forth!

9. Have purposeless walks. Don’t think about distance or time, just practice walking around with your dog so you don’t have any pressure. Give them regular training breaks by picking out a scenting area and telling them to ‘go sniff’.

10. Remember to keep training sessions short as this will be a lot for your dog to focus
on in one go!

11. Gradually increase distractions: As your dog becomes more proficient in the garden, gradually introduce distractions such as other people, dogs, or enticing scents. Start with mild distractions and gradually progress to more challenging situations while maintaining your training techniques.

12. Be patient and consistent: Remember that training takes time and consistency. Reward desired behaviours consistently and don’t let your dog take you anywhere that they are pulling towards when you are training. Celebrate small victories and
progress, and don’t get discouraged by setbacks.

13. Continue reinforcing loose lead walking: Even after your dog has mastered loose leash walking, continue to reinforce the behaviour during walks. Occasionally reward your dog with treats, praise, or a chance to explore their environment when they walk politely on a loose lead. Remember to keep training sessions short, positive, and fun for both you and your dog. By following this plan and being consistent, you should see improvement in your dog’s loose lead walking skills over time.

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