There’s nothing worse than heading out for a nice stroll with your dog, only to be yanked around at top speed for an hour as your dog speeds off, pulling your arms out of the socket as they go. Learning how to stop a dog pulling on the lead is an invaluable skill if you want to do regular (pleasant) walks.
Otherwise, you’ll be exercising your dog without walking for the rest of their lives.
But before we can get to the how, let’s look at the why.
Why is my dog pulling on the lead?
Some people might say a dog is pulling because they’re trying to be dominant, or lead the pack. There’s also a misconception that dogs should always walk behind the owner and those who want to walk ahead are asserting their leadership and showing no respect. This isn’t really true.
In most cases, dogs pull on the lead for one main reason: it works. They’ve learnt pulling gets them where they want to go. It’s simply a habit which has been reinforced (often accidentally) by rewarding the behaviour – that is, your dog pulls and ends up getting their way. This could be because they’re keen to get somewhere or because the surrounds are more interesting than you (sorry!) and they want to investigate them.
Another reason your dog pulls is simply that they’re faster than we are. This is especially true of energetic, fit dogs and bigger breeds. But they’re just excitable and don’t know why you can’t keep up with them.
To stop a dog pulling on the lead, you have to actively teach them to walk alongside you.
How to stop a dog pulling on the lead
There are a few different ways to go about teaching your dog to stop pulling, but they all revolve around one thing: rewarding your dog for being by your side.
Things to remember when walking a dog on the lead
Keep in mind that not every method used to stop a dog pulling on the lead will work for your dog. They all have different characters and experiences, and one training method might suit yours more than another.
Whatever training method you use, keep the below in mind:
- Always start somewhere “boring” for your dog so they focus on you, not the environment. Your home or a place they’re used to is the best option.
- Choose where your dog should walk and stick to it; whether that’s the right or left side, next to your leg, or slightly in front of you doesn’t matter. Just keep it consistent.
- Set aside enough time. It’s important that you set clear boundaries. In the initial stages, this means a 10 minute walk might become a 30 minute walk as your dog gets used to the new rules. So if you’re in a rush, don’t take your dog along.
If you have a puppy, get it right from the start. Here’s our advice on teaching your puppy to walk on a lead.
Be a tree
The first option is to “be a tree.” Every time your dog pulls on the lead, you simply stand completely still and don’t budge until your dog eventually faces you or comes toward you. You then reward them with treats, a stroke, or a toy and start walking again.
Remember not to pull against them actively. Simply stand your ground.
Sometimes, your dog will be too interested in other things to turn and face you, and will just strain at the lead. In this case, you may want to try a different method!
Teaching your dog to follow
Another common training method is to teach your dog to stay next to you before they start pulling. You can even do this without a lead initially.
Simply show your dog a treat and walk a few steps away from them. They’ll likely follow you. Then stop, stand still, and wait for your dog to sit quietly next to you. When they do, give them a treat. You can also pair this with a command, like “heel.”
Repeat this a few times and then try it with the lead, walking a few steps further each time. You can gradually start to test them by turning around, doing it in new places, and increasing the length of time between standing still and treating.
Get the right equipment to stop a dog pulling on the lead
Training is always the best cure, but using the right equipment helps greatly.
Firstly, don’t use a collar. Switch to an anti-pull harness for your dog. This limits their ability to pull you but also means you’re less likely to cause an injury. If you have a dog prone to IVDD, for example, you should always use a harness to limit pressure on the neck vertebrae.
Speaking of IVDD… Did you know pet insurance can offer you cover for illnesses, accidents, and even hereditary conditions (as long as they aren’t pre-existing)? That includes a run-in with another dog in the park or an illness they picked up from eating that discarded KFC you told them to leave alone.
It’s best to take out pet insurance for dogs while pup is still young, before any major health issues emerge. Once you have your policy and know your dog will always have access to healthcare, you can enjoy all those walks and runs worry-free.