Pulling On The Leash

Loose Leash Walking Part I - Inside

Leash issues are a huge problem for the dog-owning public and a leading culprit for why so many otherwise healthy dogs are doomed to life (or usually more accurately, an early death) in animal shelters. Whether it's simple leash-pulling or more significant leash reactivity and leash aggression, the primary thing to keep in mind is that these issues are almost always preventable and manageable when using positive training methods.

Contrary to popular belief, dogs do not pull on the leash while being walked because they want to be pack leader, top dog, alpha or dominant over their human. There is a much simpler explanation that does not give credence to the myth that dogs are on a quest for world domination!

Dogs love to be outside, and the walk is a stimulating and exciting part of their day, so the desire to push ahead is very strong. Humans do not make ideal walking partners since a dog’s natural and comfortable walking pace is much faster than ours. Having to walk calmly by a person’s side when the only thing a dog really wants to do is run and investigate his environment requires a degree of impulse control that can be very difficult for some dogs to utilize.

That being said, all dogs need to be taught how to walk on a leash in a positive way without pain or discomfort so that a walk becomes enjoyable for everyone.

Leash lunging /reactivity and/or leash aggression are all behaviors that are caused by a dog feeling restrained, frustrated and uncomfortable in a social situation. In normal circumstances, an unleashed dog would be able to put sufficient distance between him and a fear source. But if the same dog is leashed and unable to increase that distance, he will react or behave defensively in the hope that the fear source will go away.


How To Stop Your Dog From Pulling On Leash:

Loose leash walking - Outside

  • If you are overpowered by your dog’s pulling and cannot start the teaching process for fear of being pulled over, then there are humane equipment solutions to help modify the pulling while you teach your dog to walk appropriately.
  • A chest-led harness is a perfect training aid, as it takes pressure off a dog’s sensitive neck by distributing the pressure more evenly around the body. When the leash is attached to a ring located on the chest strap and your dog pulls, the harness will turn his body around rather than allowing him to go forward. I recommend this kind of harness for anyone who needs extra help, as safety has to come first.
  • Leash pulling is often successful for the dog because the person inadvertently reinforces the pulling by allowing their dog to get to where he wants to go when he pulls. But you can change this picture by changing the consequence for your dog.
  • When he pulls, immediately stop and stand completely still until the leash relaxes, either by your dog taking a step back or turning around to give you focus. When the leash is nicely relaxed, proceed on your walk. Repeat this as necessary.
  • If you find this technique too slow you can try the reverse direction method. When your dog pulls, issue a 'Let’s Go' cue, turn away from him and walk off in the other direction, without jerking on the leash.
  • You can avoid yanking by motivating your dog to follow you with an excited voice to get his attention. When he is following you and the leash is relaxed, turn back and continue on your way. It might take a few turns but your vocal cues and body language will make it clear that pulling will not be reinforced with forward movement, but walking calmly by your side or even slightly in front of you on a loose leash will allow your dog to get to where he wants to go.
  • You can also reinforce your dog’s decision to walk close to you by giving him a motivating reward when he is by your side.
  • Once your dog is listening to you more, you can vary the picture even more by becoming unpredictable yourself. This means your dog has to listen to you at all times because he never knows when you are going to turn or where you are going to go next. Instead of turning away from him when you give the let’s go cue, reverse direction by turning towards him. You can turn in a circle or do a figure of eight. Any of these variations will get your dog’s attention. Do not forget to praise him for complying, because the better you make him feel walking close to you, the more he will chose to do so.

Check out Victoria's No-Pull Harness solution for easy leash-walking:

Victoria's Positively No-Pull Harness

 

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  • meadowlark

    I am requesting that the NO-PULL harness be available in an Extra-Small size. I have a 9 pound Deer-type Chihuahua that needs one. I am a small framed older lady (73) that walks my VERY athletic 3 year old Chi 2x a day. She is a fabulous dog in every way except for this one hazardous situation of impulsive strong sudden pulling and even sometimes crossing in front of me. Since she already wears a harness to prevent tracheal collapse I am hoping you might consider this request. Her harness/chest size is 15" of 1/4 inch nylon + a small 1" snap closure = 16" maximum total.

  • Cindy the Pet Sitter in AZ

    Try http://walkyourdogwithlove.com/km1/ These are front-leading harnesses...come in the x-small sizes, and work great!

  • S.C.
  • meadowlark

    Thank you so very much Cindy!

  • meadowlark

    Thank you so very much S.C.

  • they have extra smalls in petco and petsmart stores and online at their websites as well.

  • Cora-Leigh Fetherol

    I know this isn't exactly on topic tonight, but I have been having issues with my young male rottweiler following my commands to go to bed at night. He is normally so well behaved and a great listener. I don't know if it is because Ares is getting to the age where his hormones or kicking in and he doesn't want to listen, or what. I understand that sometimes he gets bored in his crate when I have been at work, and I have let him take his favorite toy to bed with him, but tonight was a struggle to get him to bed. I was actually home all day today with him, and we had fun playing out doors and relaxing inside, but for some reason, he absolutely would not go up the stairs tonight. I had to carry him up the stairs, and mind you he is a 50-60 pound pup who is 5 months, but to do that seemed a bit extreme. Am I not being firm enough? I just don't understand. I could have him outside going potty and he gets a whiff of something, and all I have to do is call him and he comes running. What could be so different about tonight?

  • Meg Matsa

    In reference to the leash article above....we react on leash when we see other dogs on our walks. What our 5 y.o BSD male (neutered) does is he turns on me snapping...has bitten me....with a glazed over look in his eyes. We have been dealing with this for a few years and so he wears and accepts a muzzle when we go out...for my safety. He is ok with our 2 y.o. male GSD through lots of careful positive associations in baby steps. However, it breaks my heart to see him so freaked out with strange dogs along our walks. (We walk at odd hours to enjoy our exercise but not have 'encounters'). Any new suggestions would be appreciated. I had bad luck with 2 separate trainers and refuse to deal with another as the boy suffered for our mistakes. Thank you.

  • In addition to what is noted in this article, if you're working with your dog to stop leash-pulling, it would be best to practice in a low-stimulus environment. With less stimuli to distract or entice him, he can pay better attention to you, and learn. Once the dog consistently shows that he can walk without pulling in the low-stimulus setting, you can start again in a slightly more stimulating location... and so on, and so on. 🙂

  • o g

    Can someone please do an article on the OPPOSITE? Dogs that refuse to walk? I have a very subborn mini bull terrier who puts the brakes on and will let me drag him rather than walk. After about 10 minutes of fighting he is fine for most of the walk and seems to like it but if he isn't feeling it, he makes it known, which is EVERY single morning.

  • Carol Dodd

    The chest harness was a life saver for me. My dog hates to have anything around her neck. I think it's baggage from life before she wound up on the streets and in the shelter. I'll never know what baggage she has left over from then, but I am pleased that we found a compromise that's as pleasant for her as it is for me.

  • Gidget Church

    I notice that the halti or other head collars were not mentioned. I have a breed that is just made to pull and I have finally found a head collar that works for us although I would love to modify the part that goes over the nose. (I actually have purchased two of similar design and a mix of the two would be ideal) The person who makes the one I am using is a bit of an um, interesting character on the fb page and on the web but thus far the apparatus works really well for control. I really don't want my dog at heel for the whole walk, but as the article says, the dog's idea of walking right along and mine are pretty different, particularly as I am now more disabled and use a cane. We used to walk one to two miles a day, but that has become impossible so we are mixing a play date with a friend and shorter walks a couple of times a week. What the walk has always been for us is a time to practice those things his fluffy brain would like to forget!!

  • arlysmills

    I recently adopted a 5 year old beagle. Sometimes she pulls, but other times she just stops and refuses to move. This dog never plays. ignores the ball, tug rope and toys I have purchased for her. I use the chest harness for her but sometimes she tries to get out of it by backing up. She has succeeded a couple of time. I have tried all the options mentioned in the blog. Some days I can get her to walk nicely but other days she is very obstinate.

  • Marta Young

    PerfectFit harnesses have tiny sizes (for tiny dogs, ferrets, etc.), so if Victoria's don't yet come in the size you need, you could have a look on dog-games.co.uk (they also have a list of stockist worldwide on the site should you wish to have one fit in person).

  • Amanda Barrett

    I have taught this to puppies. All you have to do is put the leash on him (don't pick it up and walk, don't tug on it, don't hold it, just let it drag), and feed him or play with him while he has it on. Also let him walk with it on him while he has it on, even though you're not doing anything with him. You will need a few repetitions of this. Eventually, pick up the leash and hold it while you're playing a game, he's being fed, or just wandering around. Again, don't try to tug on it, just let it hang loose while he does his thing. You will start to get to a point where you can start to lead him while he has it on. Hope this helps!

    I should also mention to do this inside the house or in a fenced backyard/area.

  • o g

    Oh my dog can walk fine on a leash, when HE wants to. When we first leave the house I have to literally drag him for half of the time for the first 20 minutes. After that, he's great. Loves it. If he doesn't feel like walking, he will not. If I try to wait him out and see if he'll walk eventually, he'll just stand there...forever I think. lol
    He's very stubborn!

  • Adam El-Bashary

    I recommend walking on and ignoring the resistance. He'll eventually get the message. I did the same.

  • tina

    I have a 3 year golden doodle. Love him to pieces. he's sweet, loving, friendly, etc.I could go on and on. My problem is when I take him for walks which he and I love so much, when he sees another dog being walked he gets very excited, starts barking, and pulling on the leash toward the other dog. Now he is about 65lbs. and is very strong. I can actually hold him without too much issue. But i really do not like how he behaves . I will ask the other owner if there dog is friendly, if yes I will walk over,the sniff each, all good. Usually it works out fine, but the problem is that he does bark and pull and carry on. He will spot the other dog a half a block away sometimes. I get very upset with him.Most of the other dogs we encounter don't do that. I always bring treats that I only use during walks to reward when he doesn't behave that way. He was good for a while but now he is doing it again. What can I do?

  • cspmom

    I love the ideas to try! I've never just stopped and waited for my dog to return. I have also not been unpredictable. New tricks to try! Thanks!!

  • Stella Fletcher

    My doggy is fully prepared! I found an awesome tool to train very well and fast my dog while i'm in home. I learned a very good way to educate my doggy with a lot of tricks and how to modify the bad behavioral problems, for example,jumping, barking, beating and anxiety. "Doggy Dan site" has a complete training system videos that permit you to watch and listen a master trainer how to solve all kind of dogs problems. with another dog and its owner. You can see the exact body language and voice tone to use, and how the doggy react, changing their conduct very quickly. It's good to see how fast my doggy got on these training. My dog behaves excellent now! From what I comprehend, the information on this site:(theonlinedogtrainers.org) works for any age or type of dog. I feel very good to know my puppy is prepared to do my command.

  • Samantha

    My min Schnauzer starts barking,yowling and squeaking the moment you bring the lead in to the room. she doesn't stop for almost the entire walk. She can bark for up to an hour on a walk with no dogs in sight.

  • Sam maccallum

    Have two ladadoodles great fun dogs great in the house when on 1-1 out fantastic but when they are out together can sometimes be a bit of a nightmare what am I doing wrong

  • Kay

    Looks like no one has posted for a couple of years, but I wanted to thank you for the article. I have a 45 pound hound/border collie, and she pulled on the leash and drug me around. I use a harness so she doesn't choke herself. I got a 16 foot retractable leash and used the reverse method, and say "this way." Wow, it worked! She's quite intelligent and eager to learn, as well. Within a half hour she caught on and I noticed her cueing in to me more for direction. Using a retractable leash is really good because it clicks loud enough for her to hear when I push the button, and she stops pulling and looks to me. I even got her walking beside me with no problem. We had the best walk ever and after a half hour we were walking with a loose leash. Most dogs really do want direction and to please their handler. So, thank you again! This was exactly what we needed!

  • Holly

    I have a Sibercaan (Native American Indian Dog/Canaan Dog hybrid), and only stubborn persistence works. If I stop, he'll lean into the harness continually and won't back off. One time I tried to out wait him, but after 45 minutes I had to literally lift him off his front feet to turn him around. He has snapped a chest lead, supposed 'large breed' leashes, so I made a harness by serging 2" five ton rigging strap and a leash made of 7200lb test mooring line, with a harness handle. Basically I just lift him like luggage and redirect him before I put him back down. Although he's disappointed, it doesn't hurt him because of the wide straps, and letting a dog strain at a standstill is terrible for their hips and paws. Manual lift and redirect is safer and faster. Granted, this is only as effective as your ability to lift the dog. He's 110 pounds currently with 20 or so more to go, so for most people he would easily pull one off their feet in a linear tug of war. When I say lift,I'm just taking the weight off his front paws, so when he pushes with his hind paws,he just stands up, and it's actually pretty easy to redirect him this way. I've had success with my neighbor's mastiff at 178 pounds with this method, and it works with my sister's behemoth Newfoundland retriever at 190 pounds. The biggest thing is to be patient, his breed is renowned as sled pullers, so the stop and wait thing is more like a challenge to him. If you teach them that no matter how strong they are you can still direct them in a calm manner, they generally become cooperative. Hopefully this will help some other large breed owners.

  • Linda Fitzgerald

    I've been having pulling problems with my dog since 2013. I had a bilateral mastectomy April 2013,she (my great Pyrenees mix) was about 11 months old. And now we couldn't play, go for walks, and she had to learn to stay down. She doesn't jump up on me, in fact she stays away from me still to this day. But on walks she pulls, my boys walk her. I love and she lets me rub her tummy and pat her. How can I help my boys get her to stop pulling on walks?

  • Nukawin

    I don't have a problem with leash aggression with my dogs, but two out of three of them bark PERSISTENTLY on the lead and during walks. They aren't barking at anyone or anything in particular - It's entirely excitement based... And it's so bad that I can't walk them anymore. I improvise their exercise by playing fetch games (making them run) and taking them down to our field to let them run riot there. I miss being able to walk them though. The pulling I don't mind really (I know it's not ideal tho) but the barking at everything out of being so excited...It's incredibly frustrating and embarrassing. 🙁

    The two dogs (Jack Russell mix) that do this are related-by-blood, they're brothers from the same litter (aged 7yrs) and they get on well...They're both hyper active and easily excitable. The third is a recent addition to the family, he's a pure-bred Jack Russell (8 months) and he's a lot more calmer than the brothers. I have no problems with him on the lead but I would love to walk them as a group, something I used to do years ago before the brother's hyper-barking became too much. :/

    I sorta feel like I caused this because when I was getting them used to the lead when they were puppies I always gave them lots of praises and made the experience seem like loads of fun. If I take one away to work with him alone the other kicks off with a mix of howling/barking which I believe is separation anxiety.

    I love my dogs but I do admit their behaviour problems are extremely frustrating, especially when I myself feel like I can't work with them one at a time because the other doesn't like to be left out. I didn't plan on the third dog (originally was just gonna keep the brothers until they passed on, then start afresh with a 'clean slate') but my sister and mum rescued the pup from someone who wasn't particularly good to him. He came to us really thin and has since filled out nicely, and because I love dogs, rehoming him isn't an option anymore (though my fears of a pup learning the brothers hiccups were realised as he's started becoming more vocal x_x).

    They're all very sweet dogs, the brothers are extremely friendly, one especially loves people while the other is more independent, and the pup himself is also really friendly.

    Not gonna lie, the brothers in particular have other issues I'd like to deal with (one of them is particularly fond of rugby-tackling me which I fear will cause me to dislocate my knee or close as I have Hyper-Mobility Syndrome) but I would really like to walk the three as a group (atm I dare not in fear they teach the pup how to be a walking-barking-storm). Any suggestions would help. :/

  • Michelle Edge

    Hi
    I have a cocker spaniel rescue dog which I have had now for over a year - he is red colour and is now 18 months old. Hunter has had issues since we got him in that he growls if you go near his toys, food etc he is clearly resource guarding. However during the time we have had him his behaviour has worsened. He now chasing lorries, vans and buses, he growls for no reason whilst in the home, he has snapped, growled and 'gone for' all of us, never actually bitten but I suppose the threat is there.
    Hunter has been to training classes when we first got him and was great however became food possessive with the treats and therefore aggressive towards other dogs. We felt this made him and his behaviour worse so after the course completed we never signed up for the second course.
    We have had a behaviourist out to him who surmised that his behaviour was nothing to with cocker rage but more fearful dominance and she provided us with some exercises to do with him that, to be fair worked. However, over the past 3 month as his behaviour continued I started him on Kalm Aid after the advice of my vert. Hunter has also had the plug in diffuser and the collar none of which have helped. Recently I went back to the vet with him as I was at my wits end. There had been a situation where I had fed him in the morning and my son was ironing his work gear and I was stood near him, Hunter began growling and snarling and basically I was scared to move. I advised the vet that we had tried everything and that he is walked during the week 3 times a day for around 50 minutes a time and at weekends about 4 times a day sometimes one if his walks if around 6 miles, so it surely cannot be not enough exercise. The vet prescribed some anti anxiety drugs which seemed to be working however he has been on these for 3 weeks and seems loads better but we have had two episodes of the growling and snarling the most recent last night. He was lay on my knee (not in his normal position) and he started growling, I talked to him softly to reassure him and my lads talked to him, I tried to move him from my knee but he growled and snapped at my hand, although I could feel his teeth on my hand he didn't mark it. This went on in total for around 10 minutes, he was pushed down but in doing so caught my hand, indented it but he has not left a mark. Whilst all this is going on Hunter is still wagging his tail although his body is stiff! Any ideas what more I can do, he is beautiful mostly well behaved and loveable dog but I actually do not know what else to do. Please help me, any hep/comments/advice would be greatly appreciated.
    regards
    Michelle

  • Kodi Quinn

    my tip is to keep him on a leash. I have seen a . Why would any little dog need to be off leash in a field is beyond me. Sorry just sayin' As for having him behave on the lead, I will have to leave that advise to the experts. I just can't say enough how important it is to keep your dog on a leash. Even a well trained dog can run off if its prey drive kicks in......like seeing a cat, a bird, or another dog to greet (though this one would not be prey drive) But I think that you understand. I learned this lesson the hard way. I thought that my well behaved highly trained dog would always listen to me off leash (I mean really, he ALWAYS did for years) Then, one day, I decided to let him swim in the dammed up part of the river where the water is calm. He wasn't wearing a leash or a life vest. A duck flew by low and over the river..........then off went Yogi. He is a Labrador Retriever........he went for the duck and inevitably got caught in the swift current in the middle of the wide river. He didn't hear me when I called him to come back because of the river's loud noise and cars driving over the overpass. He couldn't see my hand signals either because he was out of view due to the concrete walls holding the overpass up. Plus he was chasing the duck. So, I watched on in agony as he struggled to get out of the current. Then, he went under, he came up, he went under.....I was frantically trying to get him to see me down stream because his only chance of getting out was to see my hand signal and come to me with the current while swimming diagonally. He went under again, and then again. When I had successfully maneuvered into his line of sight; he saw me. I waved the signal that I had for him to come to me. He finally started to ride the current toward me and swam diagonal when he got closer WHEW!!!! he made it out. He was exhausted and scared. shaky. I was relieved and wiser. Now, I NEVER leave him off leash unless he is in a dog park with friendly dogs or in an enclosed space or on my friends 500 acre secluded ranch (which has no river) I hope that these 2 examples help people understand that leashes are important. I also hope that you find some help with your dog issues. There are many utube videos of positive solutions. Seek and ye shall find. Happy trails and tails.

  • Kodi Quinn

    work on calming techniques. Do not take her out until she becomes calm. Whenever she is quiet in the presence of the leash give her a treat. at first it will be for any little bit of quiet. then eventually you drag out the length of quiet between treats. It will take some time and consistency. You most likely won't be walking her right away. She has to learn to be quiet in the presence of the leash, while putting the leash on, and wearing the leash. Good luck!

  • Kodi Quinn

    One thing is don't allow it. Just turn around and go the other way as soon as your dog starts in. Avoidance goes a long ways with leash aggressive dogs. also........check our leash aggression advice on this site and utube. there is a wealth of info out there on this subject.

  • Kodi Quinn

    did you try putting a leash on him when he refused? carrying him seems pointless to me. also, you could try enticing him with a treat or just get into a routine/bedtime ritual so that he knows a favorite special treat is waiting for him up stairs. He is male, is he neutered? If not it may be time to do that too. His male dominance may be kicking in hormonally and he is challenging you. And yes, we have to be smarter than them, and consistently more alpha (though I hate that term) I mean just be consistent and insistent that it is bed time. The out smarting part comes in with the positive reinforcement ritual at bedtime. Could it be that he needed another visit outside to potty?

  • Anastasia71

    Puleeeze - I've been doing the "we're stopping and we're not moving until the leash is loose" crap for MONTHS with my 10 month old and he STILL immediately lunges to the end of the lead and pulls the instant I start moving again. When it's tight and I stop he turns to look at me, excitedly, and loosen sometimes, but the instant I move he's jerking me along again. Apparently the consequence of not moving isn't severe enough, so I'm moving up to a choke chain because I'm tired of his crap. I've had 2 MRIs and a trip to the ER because of injuries caused when he's seen a cat (I have to walk two puppies at the same time at least once a day - at least she's smaller and more easily reigned in).

  • Nora

    Very helpful stuff thank you!

  • Amanda

    I found that if I run with my dog, Mastiff, for a minute he stops pulling. He's like a little kid. My pug pup seems to respond to me stopping completely.

  • Steve

    i have been trying this with my 1 year old boxer but he donest really care about me he just wants to do whatever he wants to do

  • Leigha

    I have a giberian shepsky (siberian husky×german shepherd) hes 6 years old now, had him from young, he wasnt trained when we got him, he was abused from his first house so our first go to was making sure he felt comfortable and safe in his new environment, he is a good dog, he sits and high fives when asked too, and walks are fine when there is no one around, but how do i stop him pulling towards other things,like people and animals. I cant keep walking him just early hours and late,id love for him to meet new dogs but because of his size he looks scary and the way he pulls make owners think he will attack, he wont hurt a fly, doesnt even growl at people ...he just pulls

  • HI Nat, we recommend a consultation with a qualified trainer to give you some tips on how to manage or change this behavior. It is impossible to give you good advice without seeing your pup's behavior, I'm afraid.
    For immediate help, I recommend that you visit our website and plug in your zip code or city to see if there is a VSPDT local to you. If there isn't, there is always the option of doing a phone consultation with one of them.
    Here is the link to search for a VSPDT:
    https://positively.com/dog-training/find-a-trainer/find-a-vspdt-trainer
    Here is the link to request a phone consultation:
    https://positively.com/dog-training/find-a-trainer/phone-consultation/
    Either way, you should be able to get some very much-needed help.
    Best,
    The Team at Positively

  • Eric

    There are nose harnesses that work wonders. I’ve had them for my last few dogs because they are larger breeds (80lbs and up) and occasionally my mother walks them. They’re trained wonderfully but with dogs that size compared to her size it just takes one time... but these nose harnesses work a lot like reins on a horse. The only difference compared to the nopull chest harnesses is you need to keep your dog right by your side with them. Gentle Leader is the main brand of these nose harnesses

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