We see dogs pulling on their leashes all the time out in public. They’re eager to get out of the house and explore the world.
Dogs of all shapes and sizes try to drag their owner along to check out the exciting new sight or smell.
For smaller breeds, some people see it as cute. They’re less likely to injure themselves or their owner with their tugging, because they’re not very strong, but it can still happen.
Large breeds can easily injure themselves or their owner. They don’t always realise how strong they are or what pulling on their leash does.
That’s why it’s so important to correct this bad habit.
In this article, we’ll be taking a look at why dogs pull on their lead and how to prevent it.
What Causes Leash Pulling?
With smaller canines, leash pulling seems harmless enough. If large and powerful dogs pull and lunge, however, someone can get hurt.
Walking your dog should be a pleasant and relaxing activity, but leash pulling can turn this activity into a nightmare.
No one enjoys being in tow of an unruly dog, but pulling isn’t only unpleasant for the person on the other end of the leash: It is also harmful to their dog.
Pressure across their neck from a collar can injure the throat and possibly cause their trachea to collapse.
Before you can stop leash pulling, you need to understand why dogs do it in the first place.
There is no doubt about it: Dogs absolutely love going on walks.
Apart from mealtimes, venturing out into the world together with their owners is one of the highlights of their day.
For the average dog, these daily walks are an opportunity to take in all the scents, sights and sounds their environment has to offer.
In this state of over-excitement and the desire to explore, dogs are eager to move forward as fast as possible. The leash stops them from going as quickly as they want.
This conflict of the dog’s desire to storm ahead, and the leash holding them back, is fertile ground for pulling to develop. Once puppies have learned to walk on a leash initially, many of them instinctively pull against the restraint.
If this is not corrected, the habit of leash-pulling becomes firmly established. Before too long, pulling whenever the leash comes on has become a deeply ingrained habit.
Lack of Training
Many dog owners become accustomed to walking their dog on a lead with constant tension.
They think that being pulled along by their dog is normal and may even envy those who can get their canine companion to walk along calmly with them instead of trying to pull them down the side walk.
They might even be convinced that their dog will never be that well behaved.
The truth of the matter is: this belief that their dog will never be well behaved on a leash is what limits them.
With time, patience, and the willingness to train your dog, you can stop leash pulling.
It won’t happen overnight and it can be a hard habit to break, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t possible.
Lack of Exercise
Another reason your dog may pull on their leash is a lack of exercise.
A tired dog is a good dog. We say this all the time and you probably hear it from others, because it’s true.
A dog that isn’t getting enough exercise is full of energy and can be overzealous when they finally do get out on their walk.
If it’s the only outlet they have, they’re going to want to try and use it to its fullest extent.
They’re excited to go and they have a lot of energy to be excited with.
Leash pulling leads dogs and their owners into a vicious cycle where walking the dog becomes an unpleasant experience.
As a result, the dog receives less and less exercise – and pulls more and more strongly whenever they do get a walk. Then the owner doesn’t want to release the experience again anytime soon.
It’s difficult and exhausting to have a dog that’s reactive on their lead.
But, physical and mental exercise are a must to keep your dog happy and healthy. Most dogs require more of this than you might think.
If they don’t get the exercise they need, it can lead to undesirable behaviours like leash pulling. All of that pent up energy and frustration need an outlet.
If the only time they have an outlet is during walks, then pulling is going to occur.
It’s up to their owner to make sure their dog has safe and constructive ways to release their energy.
Some dogs are naturally very energetic, boisterous and lively. To some degree, such high energy levels are breed related.
Many terriers, herding breed and working breeds, for example, have strong prey instincts, high levels of energy and endurance. Several of these breeds also have a short recharge rate.
This essentially means that they can keep moving intensely for long periods of time. Then, after a short nap, they are ready to do it all over again.
However, breed is not the only factor. Age and individual temperament also play a role. So, if you own a high-drive canine, chances are that this dog will pull on their leash consistently – even if you walk them for 2 hours or more.
Dogs like this need considerably more exercise, mental stimulation and structure in their lives than low-energy dogs.
How to Stop Leash Pulling
Now that you understand the main causes of leash pulling, we’ll take a look at what you can do to prevent it.
Remember, this is a process and you might not see results immediately. That’s okay!
Training takes time and this isn’t going to be an exception to the rule.
There’s no doubt that dogs love to explore the world. They want to look around and see what’s going on.
However, they shouldn’t be paying attention to the world around them more than they’re paying attention to you.
You need to engage your dog while out on walks.
You can use a command like “Let’s go!” to get your dog’s attention. When starting out, use the command to mark a change in direction.
Make sure they’re following you when you turn around to start heading in the other direction.
Don’t use food rewards when working on this. You don’t want your dog to associate food with this sort of command.
It should be tapping into the relationship between you and your dog to get them to pay attention to you and do the right thing.
You want to be excited and lively, so that your dog wants to engage with you.
Once your dog gets better at this, you’ll be able to ask them to sit and stay while they’re on the lead as well.
If at any point your dog gets distracted and isn’t paying attention to you, all you have to do is apply the smallest amount of pressure on the lead to get them to focus on you again.
Eye contact is another form of engagement you can work on with your dog.
Make a noise or call them. Whenever they look at you, praise them. They’ll quickly learn that looking at you causes good things.
Use a Proper Lead
A normal lead that clips onto a collar or harness isn’t the correct tool to correct leash pulling.
You're going to want a slip lead. They’re designed to safely correct your dog with only a small amount of pressure and are a game changer when used correctly.
They sit high and snug around the top of your dog’s neck. When placed correctly, they will be just below the base of your dog’s ears.
This allows for you to correct your dog without causing harm with a “popping” motion.
You’ll quickly and firmly tug up on your dog’s lead while giving a verbal command. Because of the placement of the leash, the tug will be felt upward.
This can be used when you need to get your dog’s attention, want to change directions, or need to recall them.
Most dogs respond very well to slip leads and the training they provide, because you redirect them without adding any backward pressure.
Your lead is how you and your dog communicate. A tense lead may make them anxious.
A slip lead allows you to make small, quick pressure adjustments without feeling overwhelming.
An anxious dog is much more likely to be leash reactive, so keeping your lead nice and loose unless correcting is an important part of preventing leash pulling.
Sometimes walks just aren’t enough for our dogs. They can have so much energy.
A dog with a lot of pent up energy is much more likely to pull on their leash.
Try walking them more frequently throughout the day or take them out for a game of fetch before walks if you have a yard.
You can also play a game of tug-o-war beforehand or work on obedience training.
Whatever you need to do to get your dog more active. They might need more exercise than you realise.
Leash pulling can be frustrating and it can ruin walks for you and your dog, but it’s not impossible to correct.
Whether it’s a learned behaviour or due to a lack of exercise, there’s a solution out there that will work for you.
Maybe you’ve dealt with leash pulling before. How did you correct the behaviour?
Do you have any tips you’d like to share?
Come over to share on our social media page. We’re always happy to hear from you!