How to Train Your Dog to Stop Pulling on the Leash
A behavioral rehabilitation specialist explains three methods.
Walking your dog provides the mental stimulation and physical exercise that your dog needs in order to stay healthy. For you, it's also a great time to get outdoor exercise and bond with your canine companion. But it can be rather daunting when your dog constantly pulls on the leash. "Teaching leash manners can be challenging because dogs move faster than us, are often full of energy, and excited about exploring outdoors," explains Monica Body, behavioral rehabilitation specialist a the ASPCA Behavioral Rehabilitation Center. "Some dogs are determined to run around as fast as they possibly can. Other dogs want to stop, sniff, and urinate on anything and everything in their paths."
While walking on the leash may not feel natural to your dog at first, but it is possible to train your dog to not pull. There are different methods that you can use to train your dog. "Until your dog learns to walk without pulling, consider all walks training sessions," Body explains. "Keep training sessions frequent, short, and fun for your dog." Let your dog still explore and sniff his environment. The goal is to eventually be able to walk with a loose leash instead of one that is pulled taut from beginning to end.
Body recommends letting your dog have a play session before you go on the leash walk. This will expand pent-up energy and make the walk more leisurely for your dog. You'll also need to give your dog rewards during the training sessions. It will provide positive reinforcement to the behavior and make it enjoyable for him. Then, employ one of these training techniques as explained by our expert.
Method 1: Red Light, Green Light
For this to work, your dog should already be able to obey "come" and "sit" cues. Every time your dog pulls on the leash, stop the walk, and wait. When he no longer pulls on the leash, then call him toward you and tell him to sit. Give him a treat and say "yes." Give another great and say "yes" again. Continue the walk with praise for good leash behavior. But stop whenever he pulls on the leash and repeat this process.
Method 2: Lure and Reward
"Start with your dog standing at your left side. With several treats enclosed in your left hand, hold your left hand right in front of your dog's nose (within an inch of it)," Body says. "Say the cue, 'let's go!' and take one big step to start, pop a small treat into your dog's mouth and praise her for walking with you for that one step."
Repeat these steps and continue to lure and reward your dog for taking big steps by your side. You can increase the amount of steps in between treats as training progresses. Immediately stop if he pulls ahead, call his name, and tell him to sit. Praise him for obeying and let his smell the treats, then commence the walk again.
Method 3: Catch Me If You Can
Start the walk by going in one direction. If your dog pulls on the leash, stop walking, and wait. Call for him when he no longer pulls on the leash and say, "let's walk!" when he looks back at you. Turn the other direction and say "yes" with a treat when your dog catches up to you. Walk in the new direction. "As you're walking, praise and reward your dog frequently for every step they stay next to you or slightly ahead and for looking up at you," Body says. "If you do this consistently, he'll learn that it's way more fun to stick close to you."