How I Stopped My Dog From Pulling on the Leash
If there’s one thing I envy at the park it’s seeing dogs that walk perfectly by their owner’s side. Another dog coming up? Doesn’t phase them at all. A trio of excited kids approaching? The dog doesn’t even seem to notice.
My dog and I used to be the complete opposite. I was the lady trying desperately to keep my dog calm on walks. I’d be holding her back with all my power whenever someone walked by, and I was the one with a tight grip even when nothing “exciting” was around because pulling became her default on walks.
But a few years back I finally found some loose leashing walking tips that helped. After reading and watching everything I could find on the subject I found some methods that worked. In this article we’ll go over why dog’s pull on the leash, methods to stop the pulling, and why consistency is key. Here’s how I stopped my dog from pulling on the leash.
Why Dogs Pull on The Leash
Before diving into the methods that will stop your dog from pulling on the leash let’s take a quick look at why dogs pull to begin with. As with many other behaviors, understanding why dogs pull on the leash to begin with, and how we may be inadvertently encouraging it, can make managing the behavior easier.
Dogs pull on the leash because it’s normal canine behavior. Is it desirable? No, but it is natural to them. Pulling gets them where they want to go, and it gets them their at their own pace.
Your dog doesn’t pull on the leash because they’re trying to be dominant, they do it because it works. In other words, if you’re behind your dog on walks and they’re pulling you’re teaching them to pull even more. That pulling is being rewarded because it keeps them moving forward and getting to where they want to go.
If your dog has always pulled on leash it’s going to be a hard habit to break. Because they’re used to moving forward while pulling the behavior itself has been encouraged, and a dog’s natural reflex is to oppose restraint. But if you’re consistent you can break that habit, and over time you can put and end to all that pulling by showing your dog that walking by your side is much more rewarding.
Not All Methods Will Work Perfectly For Every Dog
If there’s one thing you need to before you begin any kind of training it’s that not every method will work for every dog. I’ve tried many methods when it comes to loose leash walking, and I always felt like a failure when one didn’t work. So if you’ve read up on loose leash pulling in the past but didn’t see results you’re not alone.
Much of dog training is about finding what motivates you dog, and building on that. For Laika I stuck with methods that offered good incentives for my dog — ones that included lots of yummy treats and toys as motivation.
Have you ever heard of the be a tree tip? It goes like this — when your dog begins to pull on a walk you stop and stand still. The theory is that your dog will learn that pulling means you’re gonna pause the walk, therefore he won’t pull anymore.
Do you know what happened when I tried that with my excitable dog that was already used to pulling on leash? She pulled even harder to get where she wanted to go and got frustrated when I wouldn’t move. If you’re patient enough you might be able to have success with this method, but it didn’t work very well for my dog. I tried for months, and I was stuck on the side of the road who kept stopping every 3 feet to stand still for a couple of minutes hoping my dog would choose to settle down. But that didn’t happen. At best she’d stay at the end of the leash looking forward, and sometimes she’d stop for a moment but as soon as we started moving again she was right back to pulling.
Being a tree didn’t work for my Laika — part of that’s due to her excitability, and part of it’s due to the fact that she was already used to pulling to get where she wanted to go. When it comes to keeping your dog from pulling on the leash you’re going to have to find a method that motivates your dog.
Now this isn’t to say that be a tree doesn’t work well for some dogs; I’ve seen it work. It just didn’t work well for my dog, and might not be the best method if you have a dog that’s been pulling for a long time.
1. Pick One Walking Method and Stick With It
The first tip when it comes to teaching your dog not to pull on the leash is picking one walking method and being consistent. You need to teach your dog what behavior is acceptable on a walk, so figuring out how you want your dog to walk and being consistent with that goal is the quickest way to get there.
Do you want your dog to walk on your right side, left side, or a few steps behind? Pick your preference and stay consistent. If you want your dog to stick to your right side at all times make sure everyone who walks him sticks to that plan. Sticking with one method will help teach your dog exactly what’s expected of them on a walk, and will make training go smoother.
2. Start in a Non Exciting Area
When it comes to teaching your dog how to walk nicely on a leash one thing you want to avoid is setting them up to fail. So when you’re trying to teach your dog to remain calm and walk nicely it’s important to use a non exciting are for you training. Pick a quiet time of the day and practice walking down the street, go for an evening stroll during dinner time when most people are indoors, or go to a park during non peak hours.
If you take your dog to a crowded park before they have good leash manners (and proper impulse control) chances are they’re going to be far too excited and stimulated to pay attention and learn anything. They’ll be far too distracted by all those exciting sounds, smells and sights — and of course squirrels. Don’t set your dog up to fail like that. Start by teaching your dog how to walk nicely in a calm area and build from there.
3. The Cheater Method: Using a Front Clip Harness
My favorite method when it comes to teaching your dog not to pull on the leash is one I call the cheater method — using a front clip harness. The best part is front clip harnesses are easy to use; the hardest part is figuring out how the hell to put them on the first couple of times.
I have zero regrets about getting a front clip harness years ago, in fact it’s one of the tools I wish I’d had from the very beginning. I’ve never seen a single piece of equipment have such an immediate impact on walks. Using a front clip harness is one of my favorite dog walking tips for that very reason; it’s a nice simple way to help “reset” your dog’s leash manners if you haven’t been using one.
Using a different piece of gear works especially well on dogs that are already accustomed to pulling with a traditional collar/leash combo. From the moment you start using your new harness keep up the praise as your dog walks nicely. Your dog will start to associate the harness with loose leash walking.
It’s the same method used by a lot of police K9s. They have different collars they wear depending on the tasks they’re being given. A simple switch of their collar puts them into a different mindset, and they know exactly what is expected of them.
Before using that harness I had been using a traditional leash and collar, and Laika had already grown accustomed to pulling. She would start pulling immediately as soon as we got out the door, but once I switched to the front clip harness that changed. She wasn’t used to that harness, or having a leash that clipped in the front — so I took advantage of that period and started teaching her nice walking manners while she adjusted to the new piece of gear. It didn’t take long for her to catch on, and since then our walks have been much more enjoyable.
4. Use Treats to Encourage Your Dog to Follow You
Whatever method you end up using to keep your dog from pulling on the leash the most important thing to remember is that you have to keep your dog motivated. To help encourage them to walk nicely you need to show them that good things happen when they do, and the easiest way to accomplish that is by using yummy treats. Giving your dog something positive for a certain behavior will encourage them to repeat that behavior, and loose leash walking is no exception.
So when you start teaching your dog how to walk on a leash remember to use treats (or toys if your dog is more play motivated) to encourage them to follow you. This will show them that walking nicely without pulling on the leash means good things happen, and in time they’ll start to repeat that behavior on their own.
Resources & Recommended Reading
- Loose Leash Walking Fundamentals
- How to Teach Loose Leash Walking
- Loose Leash Walking: Putting an End to Leash Pulling
- Teach Your Dog to Walk Nicely on a Leash
Johr Peters says
I’m so excited to try this one once my ordered Training tool for dogs from CanadaVet.com. I hope this is effective on my part. 🙂
i have never heard of a front clip harness, but am delighted to know they exist as we’ve been treating and being a tree for over a year!
it can be difficult to maintain a positive attitude that we’ll ever succeed, especially when what should be such a nice time, turns into a stop & start struggle.
Went on Amazon, found a front clip harness with great reviews and stories of dog walk life doing a 180°, and am looking forward to giving this a try.
Thanks so much for your article! so glad it came up & i clicked on it
after googling “my dog won’t stop pulling!”
~ Annie & Bonnie
Thank you for sharing the front clip harness. My 8 yr old rotti/lab mix pulls & is dog reactive…i may try a trainer for that problem as it’s difficult to hold her back (i’m not strong)
The best tool for training dogs is food fixation.
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I highly appreciate each of your posts! It sounds like you put effort into to analyze the information and reference to create a reliable and informative post!
Thanks for all the useful information! Good ideas. Dogandcatdeals.com actually has a no-pull harness and other high rated products that are helpful as well.
Dr Carl says
In most of the dog training, giving treats to encourage your dog is the most important of all training 😀
Being a pet owner, I completely understand that learning how to walk on a leash is one of the most important skills you can teach your puppy. In this post, you have explained each and everything in a detailed manner which actually helped me in training my puppy on a leash.
Thanks for sharing the great stuff and I am looking forward to your next post!
Being a responsible pet owner is not always easy, thanks for sharing your great ideas. It will be a great help to me.
Info Hondenrassen says
Your article is good to read, because you have properly stated that every employer has the right to train their dog.
I use a method that stops pulling and it has worked on several dogs of different breeds. When I begin the walk and the dog pulls, I stop and say, ‘That’s ONE!’ After resetting g the dog we begin to walk and when the dog pulls, I say, ‘That’s TWO!’ The third time the dog pulls, I say, ‘That’s THREE!’ Then turn abruptly and head home. Once home,I ignore the dog for about ten minutes. I do not speak while walking home, and I quick walk, not dragging the dog, but rather pulling him…Once the ten minutes are up, i engage the dog normally,, without any outward sign of anger or frustration.. just act as if nothing happened.. After an hour, we try walking again, and on the third pull, same as before. I take the dog walking one more time, making three walks, at nine chances not to pull. You would be surprised at how quickly a dog learns to count! No punishment for the dog, no frustration for the owner. A benefit to the three chances to obey or home is that no matter what the dog is doing that you do not want them doing, all you need do is say, ‘That’s ONE!’ And they know what happens at three..
Thanks for this tip. My dog is smart and I will definitely try this with him.
Angela Crudg says
Great post, nice to give people trying to work through this different options!
Kody Smith says
Great article! We have 2 boxers and they were really hard to train. We got a new lead and now both boxers walk right next to us. It’s amazing how well changing that helped.
Bhavesh Shah says
I hope there could be a way to allow your dog, wander the places he likes with positive reinforcement.
Puppy Foodie says
Being a pet owner is not easy, you have to be responsible enough and treat them like your kids. I think you also need to be strict and tough.
Thanks for the tips though, I got some additional ideas.
eva adams says
As usual love the article Jen. Here is my experience with my German Sgepherd, Walking in front of your dog allows you to be seen as the pack leader. Conversely, if your dog controls you on the walk, he’s the pack leader. You should be the first one out the door and the first one in. Your dog should be beside or behind you during the walk. https://bit.ly/best-dog-trainers
It takes consistency and patience. When she starts pulling, stop and bring her up short next to you. Start walking again when she stops pulling. You’ll need to do it many many times. I also got a halti collar that stops him from jumping.
I Understand the dominance angle and wanting the dog to be last out and last in, but I would rather my dog meet the burger first. I have no issue with my dog in front of me on walks because the walks are for the dog mostly. There are exceptions, but I trust my dogs and they behave for me because I trust and respect them. I have no need to show my dogs who the leader is, they know and this is why I have such well behaved dogs.
dog vitamins says
Thank you very much for your article. I recently acquired a dog and was faced with the fact that she starts to pull the leash for a walk. Around I saw only obedient dogs, mostly. Therefore, at first I thought that my dog has a difficult character or that it would be a one-time occurrence. But it turned out to be quite different. Therefore, I realized that I needed to do something. This is how I found your article. Now I will try to follow your advice and hope that we can overcome this. So that daily walks become a wonderful time for the two of us together, and not a tug of war and an attempt to show which of us is in charge.
Is it necessary to have a leash ?
Can I teach my dog without it?
I don’t want tie my dog’s neck with leash.
Edm Groomers says
Try a front clip harness! It takes the tension off of the neck and spreads it over the chest. More humane and more effective 🙂
Sometimes it’s imperative to have leash, we can surely train dogs to not pull the leash.. for my Labrador the “treat method” has worked very well.
olivia flowers says
Great article. Especially young dogs can be very excited when on the leash. So its good stuff!
We have been using a front clip harness for 6 months. It is definitely better than the collar, but the effect lasts about 20 seconds before he pulls again. (We use the start and stop method combined with the harness). I’m ready to give up on walking my dog altogether. Any other tips? He is not at all interested in treats when we are out walking.
Mine is super excited to go out and that’s the problem. He keeps pulling towards the direction he wants to go rather than following me. I beleive “Be a Tree” will not work for my odg since he is very active when out but front clip harness might do a trick if I apply the treat technique ocassionally along with the harness idea.
Hopefully, I will get him to follow me in few weeks 🙂
Im exhausted. NOTHING has worked for my dog. I have had him a year. I tried harnesses. They actually make him pull harder. I tried martingale collar. Nothing. I have nowhere to walk that isnt exciting because deer are what excites him and I live in the middle of thousands of acres if woods. I love this dog but he is ruining my life. I have spent months going 20 feet in an hour. I have even tried a prong collar and kept him by my side for months. Nothing phases him. I work on attention, focus, downs, stays, leave it. He will sit rock solid with a treat in front of him for 2 minutes with me out of the room but he loses his mind with the SCENT of a deer. I have nowhere to take him to run off leash safely. We primarily love to backpack and did literally hundreds of miles with our last dog. We cant even car camp with this dog. He is smart as all hell but he is going to get me divorced. I feel like Ihave given each method at LEAST a month, usually longer. Im tired and Ifeel like a failure and I just want him to have a happy life without getting nagged every two seconds on walks. I dont know what to do. I have worked with three different trainers.
Thank you for sharing your tips on how to stop a dog from pulling on their leash. I’ve found that the treat method and refocusing behavior works great for my Aussie – Border collie mix.
Lari Huttunen says
I like this honest account of the types of troubles we all face especially when our canine companions are faced with an environment that provides too many exciting things that surpass their interest in you. I agree that the most rewarding approach is to start out early and “staying the course” with how you want your dog to behave on a leash. In my experience, there are no magic tricks that work for every dog and the first two years is a long time to wait to see the results. Nice post!
Finally someone that knows not all dogs learn from textbook trainers.
it’s exhausting trying to find someone who understands not all dogs are the same
Camella Condos says
I’m excited to try this with my dog since he’s always eager to go on a walk so he tends to pull me everywhere. Thanks for this!
What if your puppy does not accept the harness in no way shape or form? She stays away from you when you pull it out for walks, prefers to stay at home than going for walks, and avoids you for the whole day?
I always felt like a failure when one didn’t work. /this article really help me
Jack Pyton says
In most of the dog training, giving treats to encourage your dog is the most important of all training 😀
Thanks for another great post. Where else could anybody get that type of information in such a perfect way of writing?
joyce organo says
#2. Start in a Non Exciting Area – this is the best advice for a new owner like me. I had a very hard time to train my dog probably because I have yet to learned about this one. After i read this article, i tried to follow this and it worked like a miracle! No more my dog dragging me, now my dog follows me. Thank you so much!
I am looking at getting a front or side clip harness. Most of our walks are off leash as I wanted her to burn off her energy. Her recall is very good and I believe treats are paramount to achieving this. She is so active and smart. But at eight months I would like to be able to take her more places and have control. Thanks so much for this article and I look forward to reading g more.
Got omnia says
I think using a chest-led harness is a helpful and necessary if a dog frequently pulls on leash. And, the most important thing you must do when your dog pulls is being patient.
I completely understand that learning how to walk on a leash is one of the most important skills you can teach your puppy. Thank you for sharing your tips on how to stop a dog from pulling on their leash.
Team Doggy says
This is one of the most difficult issues to fix in most dogs since there isn’t one solution that works for all dogs. But I like your point about staying consistent – once you find a method that seems to be working stick with it so your doggo doesn’t get confused.
Sarwar Abdullah says
My dog pulls constantly.
There is never any slack on his leash. He pulls in five different directions at the same time. Lol