Ask the Trainer

Ask the Trainer: How to Stop Dogs From Pulling on the Leash

Dear Kevin,
How do I stop Augie and Laxer from pulling me while on the leash — particularly when they spot something of keen interest ahead. What are some key techniques to stop this behavior? I have tried to get them to respond to the command “heel”. —- not really working.
-Phil

 

Hey Phil,

Good question, and its common one. The number one rule when training a dog to walk on leash is they are never allowed to move forward when there is tension on the line. The punishment I use is if they start to pull in a direction, we go the opposite way. The idea is that if you want to go that way, you will not be able to if you pull. In fact, if you try to pull in that direction, you will actually get further away from it. I do like to use the direction that they want to go in as a reward too. If the dog really wants to go pee on the tree, I will let him, as long as he does it on a loose leash.
This is an exercise that you really want to practice inside the house. Get your dog in the position you’d like and start to walk around. Use a lure to get him to follow in that position. ( I typically use pieces of string cheese for training.) When he is doing very well following the lure inside the house, move to the most boring part of your yard outside. When that is going well, move to the next place that has more distractions. Its also a good idea to use a cue for this exercise. I say “lets go” and then we start this process. With the repetition when you say your cue, your dog will get into position and get ready for the task at hand. I talk to the dog the entire time when training this process. I am constantly letting the dog know when it is doing the right thing, and the wrong thing.
Consider purchasing a device that will help give you more control like a head halter, or a harness that the leash hooks in the front. This will give you the most control when going to turn around. Also, when doing the turn around method, make it a fluent turn around. We don’t need to do any jerking.

 

Thank you for the question!
Kevin Duggan CPDT-KA

Kevin is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer through the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT.org)  and is a Canine Good Citizen Evaluator through the American Kennel Club. He currently resides in Ohio with his dog, V, a six-year-old Shepherd/Lab mix, where he operates All Dogs Go To Kevin, LLC, specializing in helping build positive relationships between humans and their canine companions using clear communication, not pain and fear. For more training tips and tricks, and to meet his amazing dog, V,  follow him on Facebook by clicking here.

8 Comments

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    Dec 5, 2013 at 2:46 pm

    My dog hollie is almost 5 and she always pulls on the road no matter what I do she has done it since she was a puppy. Even if I make sure there is no cars coming what so ever. She will pull a little bit on side road, but yanks you across on main roads, then will walks normal again once back on the path. How can I make her feel more safe. Nothing has ever happen to her and I always walk on the side the car is coming from.

  6. John Hadfield

    Dec 4, 2013 at 5:56 pm

    This punishment route didn’t really work for me. My Akita really loves going to the park. He must walk at loose lead for about 6 blocks until we get there – then flexi lead and he can run, play, sniff, etc. I got tired of the distractive pulling, so when he got a tight lead I’d say – “OK, Let’s go home” – and take him home. We did this three times, and each time he’d make it closer to the park before we changed direction. The third time he resisted going into the house. It was obviously frustrating him, but I can be very stubborn and was willing to take all afternoon to teach him that if he didn’t cooperate there would be consequences. We headed out again and he was the perfect gentleman, walking right beside me all the way to the park. When we got there, he looked at me, lifted his leg and peed right on my left foot.
    I took him back home (no park). I was mad at first, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that he must have been pretty frustrated to blatantly do something like this. It wasn’t a can’t hold it pee, it was a lift leg and mark pee (and he hit his mark). I adjusted my expectations, and later that day I grabbed a treat bag and we headed out again. I kept him happy and more focused on me, and we both felt better when we got to the park (and home).
    When I told my instructor this, she laughed and reminded me that Reggie is a great communicator. Now when we walk and I change directions because he’s pulling or not paying attention, I watch him until he looks at my face – then say “good boy” and we head back toward the park, so our change of direction gives him a chance to give me something positive. His looking at my face gets him a reward and a Premack reward of heading back where he wants to go.
    Love your articles, Kevin, and and just wanted to add this incident about changing direction as punishment, and want to remind everybody to give their dogs a chance to be successful and learn from my mistake. John H

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