Nothing takes more fun out of walking your dog than being dragged every inch of the way and having a sore arm to show for it.
So why do they pull us from pillar to post? Well, they pull because they want to move forwards to see what is interesting ahead. Ok, so nothing to insightful there, but guess what, the very fact that we move forward when they pull, fully reinforces to the dog the value of pulling. So, whose fault is it that they learn to pull on the lead – you guessed it.
In the past, many people turned to choke chains as a means to discourage lead pulling. Apart from the obvious discomfort to dogs, methods such as this have been superseded with more positive and reward base techniques.
What are the first steps?
Buying a head collar is the single most useful step to start addressing this problem. Head collars allow you to control your dogs head movement and wherever their head goes, the body will follow. They work much in the same way as halters do for horses. Halti and Gentle Leader and the most popular versions, although others are available (see our article How to use Halti and gentle leader head collars)
Unless you have a very small dog, it is worth purchasing a training lead. Some of these (e.g. the Halti Training Lead) allow you to fasten the lead around your waist or over one shoulder. This allows your body to take the strain of the pulling, rather than your arm.
Now you have taken the strain out of walking, its time to start the training. There is only one way to avoid reinforcing pulling on the lead and that is of course …… not moving forward when they do. So when do you move forwards? Only when you have the attention of your dog and the lead is slack.
If your dog is trying to pull and getting nowhere, it will soon stop and look back at you to see why you have stopped. The action of looking back will slacken the lead and the minute your dog catches your eye, say GOOD DOG and start walking forward again. The second the lead goes tight, stop and repeat the process.
I know from practice, this takes perseverance, but it is worth it in the long run. Once your dog successfully walks without pulling on the lead, you can then start working on the heel command to teach your dog to walk along side of you.