One of the first things puppies learn about walking on a leash is that when they pull on it, they get to move forwards. This is a form of reward and reinforces the behaviour of pulling.
It might not seem to matter much when your puppy is small, but by the time they grow up they could be making walks unbearable for you, not to mention the damage they can do with the constant pressure on their neck or chest (pulling on harnesses isn’t ideal either and pulling on any dog equipment can cause damage in various areas).
With this in mind, here’s what I recommend to prevent your young pup from growing into a strong puller – because walks should be enjoyable for both of you.
- Never follow the puppy when the leash is tight. If only we could all be 100% consistent with this, we would have a lot less pulling dogs. Remember that moving forwards rewards the dog for pulling. So teach your pup from day one that pulling simply never works. No forward movement for pulling, ever.
- Teach your puppy to respond towards you when they feel gentle leash pressure. Practice the leash pressure exercise. Like we mentioned, if puppy puts pressure on, they won’t get anywhere. Teach them next that when you put pressure on the leash, the next thing to do is to move towards it instead of away from it. You can reward puppy for moving towards the leash by immediately dropping the tension in the leash. You can also add in a food reward or praise if you like – but make sure they feel that release of tension!
- Reward your puppy for being next to you or looking at you. Both of these behaviours contradict pulling ahead of you and whatever you reward will happen more often – so reward the heel position and eye contact a lot!
Remember your puppy is a baby learning all of this for the first time so give them lots of encouragement and celebrate all your little wins. They add up!
If you need help with puppy training, check out the resources at our website including my online puppy course that goes through puppy raising essentials in more detail.