Your dog is unmanageable on walks, he pulls on the leash, and you have no pleasure in going for a walk with him.
You have entered a vicious circle: my dog pulls on the leash, so I take him out less, so the rare times he goes out are even worse.
Why does my dog pull on the leash?
Because he’s not being exercised enough
And yes, the less a dog is taken out of his garden, the more he will have trouble channelling his energy during those rare moments. As I explained: it’s a vicious circle!
The solution is in the statement as we say: you have to take your dog out regularly. Of course, this is part of the learning process, but it’s not the whole story, and we’ll see.
Because he has learned that he can pull to move forward
A dog that pulls is, in 9 cases out of 10, a dog that has learned to do so. And yes, sometimes, even unconsciously, we are the ones who teach our dog bad behaviour. If you continue to advance when he pulls, he has absolutely no reason to stop because this behaviour (pulling) allows him to obtain what he wants (advance).
We will come back to the attitude and the coherence of the master, which are essential points in the education of a dog.
Because there is no good master/dog relationship
It’s sad to say, but it’s often the case: the dog is much more interested in the smells and what’s going on around him than in his master. So, of course, if a dog is more interested in the surrounding environment than in its owner, this can also be linked to the first cause mentioned in this article: the lack of outing, but the lack of a balanced relationship can also impact your dog’s obedience.
What should I do when my dog pulls on the leash?
Let’s go back to the three previous points and see how to balance it all out:
My dog is not spent enough: to do so; you just have to propose physical, intellectual and olfactory expenditures to your dog. Moreover, a dog should be walked every day for at least 30 minutes outside its garden with the possibility of being untied or in a 10-15 meter lead during the walk to let off steam. The dog must also have the opportunity to smell new scents regularly and read and answer other dogs’ messages. Then, at home, to always stimulate his sense of smell and intellect: offer him occupying games, research exercises, reflection, etc.
My dog has learned that he can pull to move forward: here we come to a problem of consistency on the part of the master. It’s exactly like jumping: you will allow a dog to jump when he is housebroken, but you will forbid and scold him if he does it when he comes back from a wet walk. How can the dog understand what is correct and what is not according to you?… In fact, for walking on a leash, it is the same; either you allow your dog to pull you and make you a real flag, or you put techniques and work in place to educate or re-educate your dog to a relaxed leash walking. We will see the different techniques a little further down.
My dog and I don’t have a good relationship: to rebalance the relationship you have with your dog, you will have to put in place 3 points:
Your attitude must be consistent and fair. You must learn to read and understand your dog to respect him and have an adopted attitude.
You must meet your dog’s needs (daily physical, mental and olfactory expenditure; controlled and regular play sessions, etc.)
You must reinforce your dog’s obedience by using techniques and methods adapted to you and your dog, by respecting his learning rhythm and by making these training moments positive for your dog, but also you.
What equipment to use?
To be honest, no miracle equipment will make your dog stop pulling on the leash. It’s a combination of things and an overall effort that will allow you to work on a relaxed leash walking with your dog.
However, some tools can help you do this more effectively. So, here is the list of equipment I recommend to work on leash walking with your dog:
A walking aid harness (with an attachment at your dog’s chest), also known as an anti-pull harness.
Why a walking harness? Well, simply because in many cases, dogs that pull and are on a flat collar have over time become completely insensitive at the neck. The walking aid harness will allow to change and create a new “discomfort” but especially to avoid the dog hurting his neck by pulling.
A leash between 2 and 3 meters.
A 5-meter lead.
Your dog’s favourite toy (not a ball, more like a knotted rope).
Treats that your dog likes and digests easily.
What exercises to work on?
To ensure that you work on each exercise progressively and with a view to success for both you and your dog, you must always respect the 3D rule!
What is the 3D rule?
It’s a rule to apply that allows you to work progressively on each exercise, making them more complex as you go along without putting the dog at fault. I often give the example of division! Before knowing how to divide, we were taught to add, subtract and multiply! If these three steps were not acquired, there was no point in starting to divide. Well, it’s the same for the dog, so we will make sure to work progressively on three aspects:
Duration (of the exercises).
Distance (more used for recall and relinquishment exercises).
Distractions (of the environment)
In short, to start walking exercises on a leash, choose a place with little stimulation that your dog knows (your garden, for example) and propose to your dog short exercises but repeated regularly. Because yes, it is repetition, consistency and assiduity that will be the three ingredients of your success.
Here are some exercises that I suggest you do, first in your garden, then in the countryside, then in a busy park, then in town, etc. (see the progression in terms of distractions).
Exercise n°1: the stake
Place yourself in a stationary position (yes, yes, this is indeed an exercise to work on walking on a leash), with your legs firmly planted on the ground (one foot slightly in front of the other to keep a certain balance), and your upper body relaxed (arms at your side). Hold the 5-meter lanyard, rolling it up slightly so that it doesn’t drag, and make a “U” shape between you and your dog.
Let your dog do what he wants but never move when he pulls! He must understand that you are the one who decides where he goes (in the context of this exercise). Don’t pull on the leash either; stay completely still (hence the importance of getting a good grip on the ground).
This exercise aims to make your dog understand that he no longer decides and that pulling does not allow him to move forward when he is on the leash.
Exercise n°2: natural follow
The natural follow-up allows you to focus your dog on you without constraint and to make him understand that you are the one who initiates the changes of direction.
As long as you don’t have good natural follow-through, don’t start working on walking on a leash with your dog because it would only put him at fault (and you at the same time).
This exercise aims to get your dog to look at you and follow you without tension on the leash. Be careful; this exercise does not aim at obtaining a strict walk on the leash; we only want the dog to be attentive to his master.
Step 1: without talking (remember that the less you talk, the more attentive your dog will be to you), move around the area you have marked out, let your dog smell all the smells and become familiar with the place.
Step 2: do not follow your dog; counteract his movements if he passes you: change direction (without talking to him and keeping the lead relaxed: do not pull). In other words, as soon as your dog wants to go in one direction, go in the opposite direction.
Step 3: Don’t hesitate to be dynamic in your movements if you see that your dog is not very attentive: change direction often, change walking pace, etc.
Tip: Adopt an attitude that is in opposition to your dog’s. In other words, if your dog is very excited, be very calm, walk firmly but calmly and slowly. On the other hand, if your dog is not very motivated, change direction often with a dynamic attitude, even if it means motivating him with treats and/or his favourite toy.
Step 4: If you see that after several changes of the direction, your dog is still not with you, you can motivate him effectively with treats and/or toys but also by patting your leg and by having an attitude that “invites” and not that punishes (by pulling on the leash and by scolding him verbally).
Most importantly, reward your dog verbally with an enthusiastic “yay” when he looks at you and pays attention to your changes in direction. Your dog needs to understand what you want him to do, and it’s through these verbal rewards that he’ll come to understand what’s right and, therefore, what to repeat.
Exercise 3: Walking on a leash
Once your dog is paying attention to you, you can shorten the leash (making sure it forms a “U” between you and the dog).
Keep walking, and as soon as your dog pulls: stop. If he doesn’t look at you: change direction.
As soon as your dog pays attention, take a few steps and then stop, saying “stop” in a firm manner. Above all, do not repeat the word “stop” 36 times; once is enough. The goal here is for your dog to stop following your “stop” but without you having to use the handbrake with the leash. Repeat the stop exercise several times until your dog stops without tension in the leash.
Complicate the exercises by doing straight lines. Be careful, as soon as your dog puts tension on the leash, stop, take a few steps backwards while encouraging your dog to come to heel, or do a complete U-turn if you feel the need to do so and then resume a straight line.
These exercises can be tiring for you, but only in this way will your dog understand, without any pain or constraint, that if he pulls, he doesn’t get what he wants.
From now on, after your “stop”, start walking again but passing in front of your dog and changing direction. Specifically, if your dog is walking on your left, stop with the leash relaxed, then walk back at a right angle to your left.
You can also do 360° turns around a stake or a tree (risky if there are too many smells). First, do a lap with the dog inside, then with the dog outside. When the dog is indoors, we come to “bother” him with our leg, and when he is outdoors, we invite him to follow us by tapping on our leg.
Remember to change gaits so that your dog trusts your pace. The changes should be random and very exaggerated at first.
Suppose you do all these exercises in your garden regularly, with the right attitude and with a real desire to improve both your attitude and your dog’s behaviour. In that case, you can then propose these same exercises in a walking situation (with more distractions).
Exercise 4: Going for a walk
Be aware that if you let your dog rush out of the house to go for a walk, he will be in that state for the entire walk. Therefore, work on the controlled and calm departure for a walk so that this state is representative of the whole walk.
Concretely, we will come to work on the passage of door or gate, for example. If the dog is already at the end of the leash, all excited, we stop, go back,, and start again. Be patient, consistent and fair; your dog will eventually understand that his attitude (pulling) does not allow him to start the walk.
Then, I would say that roughly the first 10 minutes of the walk should be devoted to “framing” your dog. Go over all the little exercises seen before (the static, the changes of direction when he pulls . or the slowing down/stopping/backward steps if you can’t turn around, the changes of pace, etc.).
Don’t forget to offer him moments of relaxation during the ride, but always take the initiative. For example: “stop”, “sit”, “go play! “.
To strengthen your relationship, do not hesitate to play with him so that he understands that you are a rather interesting human finally. Don’t hesitate to consult our article on this subject to be sure to opt for games that strengthen your relationship, spend your dog’s energy and channel your puppy at the same time.