How many times have you walked with your dog and he started
pulling you after seeing another dog or animal like a rabbit? This is very
common and is a result of poor control and training. Your dog needs to be
trained while he is still a puppy that pulling on the leash is not acceptable
behavior and will not be tolerated. Why do dogs pull anyways? One reason is
that they just walk faster than us and want to let us know that our pace is too
slow for them. Another reason is that they get excited after seeing another dog
or animal and want to quickly get to them to play or in some cases their
hunting instinct kicks in and they want to chase the 'prey'.
There are different ways of training your dog not to pull
and correcting this behaviour. One way is to use a front-clip harness or head
halter which will give you more control over your dog while walking and also
stop the choking that the choke collar creates. Choke collars may work for some
dogs, while not for others so first test it on your dog to see the results. A
front-clip harness or head halter can be used as a way to correct an already
established pulling behavior and assist in training. However, these tools do
not have to become your permanent solution. There are many other ways to train
your dog not to pull and establish this as the norm. How can it be done? Let us
start with the basics.
First, train your dog indoors where there are the least
amount of distractions. Start off the training without a leash. Your goal is to
teach your dog to follow you. This training works best when done on a young
dog, but can work for adult dogs as well. Place an object in your hand or palm
and try to get your dog’s attention by asking the dog to touch it with its nose
(giver the command to “touch”). Make sure that your hand is down by your side.
Walk a few steps and then stop. Let the dog touch the object but make sure he
is not in front of you. If the dog walks in front of you, start walking again
in a different direction and stop. Once the dog touches the object and is not
in front of you, give him a treat or reward and praise your dog so that it
becomes a game for him and not something that is laborious work. Do this until
the dog understands that he needs to follow you.
If your dog does not understand the command to touch an object,
then this other method may work better for you. Place a clicker in your right
hand, treat in the left, and walk for a while (still indoors to avoid
distractions). Once you stop, click and then drop the treat on the floor next
to your left foot and tell the dog take the treat. If the dog tries to get in
front of you or get past your left knee before you had the chance to click,
turn around and walk in another direction and then stop, click, and drop the
treat. You should also turn around if the dog goes to the right or tries to
face you. Repeat this click and treat method 10-15 times and if you see the dog
starts jumping on you or gets too excited, take a break. The worst time to
teach your dog something is when he is excited. Once your dog keeps slowing
down next to you on your the left-hand side and looks up each time waiting for
you to click and give him a treat, you know that you can reduce the number of
repetitions and that your dog knows to stay by your left side.
Once your dog knows how to stay by your left side, you can
raise the bar. This time walk even further, around different objects
(furniture), zigzag, speed up, slow down, stop and keep the treats on the
opposite side of your body from the dog until you are ready to give him one.
This will ensure that the dog is not just following your treats in your hand,
but that you are rewarding voluntary behaviour. If the dog does not slow down
each time by your left side, stop the training and leave for a while and ignore
the dog. You have to repeat this training until the dogs sticks to you like
glue. If you have a fenced yard, play the same game now outdoors when your dog
is most interested and still without the leash. When your dog follows you on
command, you can proceed with the next step.
Put on the leash that is 4 to 6 feet long and do not use any
retractable leashes. Do this indoors and start with walking only a few steps in
the beginning. Play the same “follow me” game that you played before but make
sure that you are not using the leash to direct your dog. Do not yank the
leash! You can have the leash attached to you at the waist, rather than holding
it, to avoid accidental yanking from you. There should be some slack in the
leash at all times. If the dog starts pulling repeatedly, take off the leash,
and walk away ignoring the dog. Then come back at another time and try again.
Once the dog is following you without caring about the leash and you feel
confident that he follows you on cue, take him on the road. Walk a few steps
only before rewarding. You need to start slow and then gradually increase the
distance before giving praise or reward.
Keep giving treats every time the leash is loose and praise
him. A loose leash should automatically follow a reward. Practice this
technique and once it has become a habit, phase out the treats and just give
praise unless you want to have to carry a bag of treats each time you walk with
your dog. I thought so. If your dog starts pulling, do not walk a step further
until he puts some slack back into the leash. If he is stubborn and still keeps
pulling, turn around and go the other way. He will know that pulling will not
get him where he wants to go. If there are other members in your family that
walk the dog, they should also follow your methods and be consistent with what
you have been teaching your dog.
There you have it. The method that I just explained is an
effective way to stop your dog from pulling on the leash. It requires a lot of
patience, persistence, and practice but does not require any expensive tools
and is a permanent behavioral correction and not just a temporary fix. Whatever
training approach you choose to implement, it has to be consistent and reward
for the correct behavior.