How to stop a dog pulling on the lead

So your dog is pulling on the lead when you go out for a walk? It’s actually something almost every dog owner experiences and tackling it is quite straight forward. 

The golden rule of lead-pulling is this: WHEN THE PULLING STARTS, YOU STOP.

…remember this and things will quickly get easier. Here is a bit more details to help you overcome this often frustrating behaviour. 

Tips to stop your dog from pulling on the lead:

EQUIPMENT

It’s important to have an appropriate lead and harness that is strong enough for your dog but comfortable for them to wear. If you are going on a learning walk – one where you are expecting them to behave – then a fixed length lead is best.  For walks where you can allow them more freedom to explore, get a nice long extendable lead. If someone other than you takes your dog out give them the fixed lead until good habits have been established. 

STOP AND START

A technique that the RSPCA swears by is to simply stop walking. Even one step forward after they have pulled will tell them it’s ok to pull. So do the opposite – when they pull you immediately stop walking. Don’t make a big deal of it, just stop quietly and wait for the pulling to stop. Only start walking again once your dog engages with you by paying you attention or coming back beside you. You may need to lure them if they are particularly distracted by something (did someone say squirrel?!?)

When you are lead training your dog, iIt may be that some days you are stopping and starting more than walking. This may be a necessary part of the process, so plan enough time to not be in a rush for these learning walks.

PRAISE IS EVERYTHING

Reward correct behaviour and hard work with lots of attention or a small treat. Teach your dog the simple equation of the right thing = a good result. It’s called positive reinforcement.

(When is pulling not just pulling? Be aware of your dog’s behaviour and check that this outburst is not about something else. They may be alert to danger or alarmed, naturally going into fight or flight. Get their attention back onto you and, again, reward them for doing so.)

PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT

If you think your dog will need a bit of time to get the hang of this, maybe it’s been pulling for years, or is a rescue with a background that’s caused anxiety, then it makes sense to give them the best opportunity to succeed.  Practice in a quiet area with few distractions, like other dogs and people. Make enough time for this to be a rush-free experience. Make sure you stay calm and quiet to help them stay calm and quiet too. Try walking them in different, unexpected directions so they can learn they need to stick close by. 

FREE TO DO WHAT THEY WANT (BUT NOT ANY OLD TIME) 

Allow them some time to be more free. If off the lead is out of the question then letting the lead right out while you stay in one place gives them an opportunity to be freer than they are expected to be at heel.

EVERYONE’S ON BOARD

Consistency across all dog walkers – make sure everyone who might walk your dog knows the rules and sticks to them.

For some ideas on a great open space place to take your dog for a walk, read our blog here