Why dogs pull
Dogs have an opposition reflex, which means that when pressure is put on them, they will resist it. So when pressure is put on their neck when you are trying to pull them back on a walk, this will only encourage them to pull more as they will naturally want to pull against the pressure.
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There are many training tools that you can use to help train your dog not to pull. Many of these tools are band-aid solutions. They curb the dog’s pulling but they are not actually teaching the dog what is required – a loose leash at all times.
This article is written with a flat collar or martingale collar in mind. Some training tools are suitable for some dogs and not for others. Some tools that are very popular can cause serious damage to your dog if you do not know how to use them properly. And some tools, such as harnesses that attach at the back, can encourage your dog to pull even more.
TIP – Retractible leads can actually teach and encourage a dog to pull. When the dog pulls they get more freedom and extra length which is exactly what they were after when they started pulling. So they are being rewarded for their efforts and the behaviour is strengthened.
What to do
If your dog pulls, this method can help you to teach him to walk on a loose lead. If your dog is a chronic puller and has been pulling for a long time, extra help may be needed and you should consult your trainer.
The trick is to start from the very beginning – in your house where you put the lead on your dog. Your dog should patiently sit and calmly wait for you to clip the lead on. If your dog is used to walks and jumps, whines, barks or displays any other over excitement when you are trying to clip the lead on, take the lead off and put it back away. Continue this as many times as necessary until your dog sits calmly and waits for the lead to be put on.
Begin walking around your house in a quiet area such as the living room. If your dog charges ahead of you, stop, change direction and start again. When your dog walks nicely at your side, mark the behaviour with “yes,” “good dog,” or a clicker, and give a high value food reward.
When your dog has this mastered in a few areas of the house, start the process over again in the back yard. Once mastered there, progress to the front door. Be patient and do not move on to the next step until your dog is making no mistakes.
THE FRONT DOOR. It’s time to really test your patience. With your dog on lead, open the front door and prepare to walk through with your dog. EVERY TIME your dog pulls ahead out the door in front of you, stop and bring your dog back inside and shut the door. Repeat this as many times as necessary until you dog calmly walks through the door without pulling ahead. Even if it takes one hundred times.
THE WALK. Now that you are outside, repeat the same method you used inside. Start in an environment with less distractions and only move on to a more distracting environment when your dog has been successful. Remember to give your dog lots of praise when he is by your side. If you are patient and persistent with this method, you will soon be walking a well-mannered dog by your side. Like all training, it takes patience, dedication and consistency.
If you have a puppy who is just learning to walk on a lead, you have the advantage of a blank canvas, a puppy who is just learning with no ingrained bad habits! Make the most of this and train your puppy at a young age what is required. Training the right way now is a lot easier than fixing a bad habit later.
The method is simple. Each time your puppy is at your side, give her lots of praise and you can also use treats if your puppy is food motivated. Each time your puppy pulls ahead and makes the lead tense, simply stop. Wait or encourage your puppy back to your side. Wait a little while, give some praise and then continue walking, as long as the lead is loose. Your puppy will learn that as long as the lead is tight, she gets nowhere. When the lead is loose she gets to move forward.
Sounds simple and easy doesn’t it? That’s because it is. All you need is a little patience and consistency. If you are consistent with this from a young age, your pup will learn what is required in no time.
If you have more than one dog, always train dogs separately until they have mastered the skill being taught. Then put the two together and start from the beginning with the both of them.
Only use a flat collar or harness on any puppy under 6 months of age.