Does this sound familiar – Your dog constantly pulls you when you are out walking, dragging you in whatever direction he wants to go? Well guess what? When you walk your dog on a tight leash you’re actually training him to pull! Every single time you go forwards when the leash is tight you’re reinforcing that behaviour and your dog is rewarded by getting to go exactly where he wants to! You are also much more likely to have a dog that reacts to other dogs or things around you by barking and lunging as a dog that is pulling is not a calm dog!
Click on image to Enlarge
Is he straining, choking, gasping for air?… If he is, then you are causing it, not him! He probably can’t understand why you are pulling like this and causing him to be in such discomfort and putting so much tension on his neck!
Here’s what not to do!
Do not pull, yank, jerk or “pop” the leash! Do not yell, shout, reprimand or punish.
What you need to do is teach your dog that walking calmly next to you on a nice loose leash is the most rewarding thing to do.
You’re going to start your training in a non-distracting environment for example your living room or kitchen and only when he understands what you want him to do will you progress to your garden or yard. Once he is able to walk on a loose leash in your garden, you can then go out onto the road but I wouldn’t advise going on your normal route where there are sure to be lots of distractions – just practice near home! You can go one way for a couple of minutes and then turn round and go in the opposite direction (as he doesn’t know which way is “forward” he will be more likely to pay attention to you!)
Here is a video showing you a fun, easy and rewarding way to teach “Loose Leash Walking”.
Make sure your dog is wearing a flat collar or a harness (no choke chains, prong collars, e-collars!) and have plenty of treats for rewarding your dog. You will also need a clicker or a “marker word”. A “marker word” is a word that you will say when your dog is doing the correct behaviour – it lets him know that not only is he doing the right thing but also that he’s going to get a reward for doing it! I like the word “yes” but you can choose any short word. I wouldn’t, however, choose “good boy” or “good girl” as you probably say these all the time.
You are going to “click” (or mark) and reward your dog for keeping the leash loose and being aware of you. You are going to teach him that the only time he gets to go forwards is when the leash is loose. If he pulls he doesn’t get to go anywhere. You don’t pull him back, you simply stop or turn the other way, encouraging him back to you and then rewarding him when he’s walking nicely again. Here is video number 2 that will help you build on your “Loose Leash Walking” skills!
Once you have progressed so that you are able to go out on walks with your dog walking nicely and not pulling you can also use the things in the environment that he wants to interact with as rewards. He wants to sniff a tree – that’s fine dogs need to use their noses! Sniffing the tree can be the reward for walking on a loose leash and not pulling you. He pulls towards the tree, you stop and use an “alert sound” to get his attention back on you. Once he is walking nicely again you reward him by running to the tree! Your dog wants to greet the neighbour – that’s fine, as long as the neighbour doesn’t mind. Your dog’s reward for walking on a loose leash is getting to greet your neighbour! If he pulls you stop, get his attention back on you and when he’s walking nicely again he gets his reward, which in this case is saying hello to the neighbour!
Here’s a video showing you how to teach your dog an “Alert Sound”.
Remember to communicate with your dog. If you are about to start walking tell him “Let’s Go”. If you are running along and are going to stop then why not tell him “slow” first? If you are going to change direction quickly use your “alert sound” or tell him “this way”. The words aren’t as important as the fact that you are communicating him! Help him out a bit!
Trainer for, Jambo – The Staffy Bull Terrier Trick Dog. First “EVER” Staffordshire Bull Terrier to be a Crowned Trick Master Champion. for more details click the link HERE.