If your dog tends to pull on your leash and try to run off on his own (or drag you along behind), it helps to remember that he doesn’t instinctively know what he’s supposed to be doing. Your dog is a natural explorer, and is born with the instinct to follow his nose, ears, and eyes where they lead him. If you want your dog to follow your lead instead of his impulses, you will have to train him to walk on a leash.
Now, it’s important to have expectations that make sense. You shouldn’t expect to be able to jump right to the point where your dog can heel at any moment, nor should you expect it to be the norm when you’re walking. Many new dog owners do not realize that heeling actually takes a considerable amount of concentration from your dog. This effort is unsustainable over long periods of time. You want to work toward a happy medium where you can walk with a loose leash but allow your dog some freedom and comfort.
There are a lot of different ways you can approach teaching your dog to walk without pulling, but there are some simple guidelines you can observe which will help you to make the most of your training sessions:
- Treat all walks as training opportunities. You need to be consistent to get good results.
- Keep your walks brief and take them often. This will prevent you and your dog from getting frustrated.
- Walk quickly so that your pet has fewer opportunities to get distracted.
- Walking fast will also keep your dog interested in you.
- Train your dog to relax before you head out the door on your walk together. An overexcited dog getting ready for a walk is going to be an overexcited dog on a walk.
- Make sure your dog is getting plenty of exercise. Note that this does not necessarily mean on the walk. In fact, if your training sessions are very brief, you will have to go out of your way to make sure your dog gets exercise through some other activity, like playing in the backyard. Bring your dog on the walk when she is already tired, and you will find it much easier to keep her in line.
- Offer your dog special treats when he walks without pulling.
- Stick with a four- to six-foot leash while you are working on this. Stay away from extendable leashes or long leashes. Avoid regular harnesses as well, which can make pulling worse.
- If your dog isn’t a puller, but rather likes to hesitate when he’s on a leash, you can help him along by holding out a treat in front of his nose. Gradually this will acclimatize him to walking on the leash. Sometimes you can also pick up a small dog and move him a few feet forward and then start again.
Always use methods of positive reinforcement (like giving treats as rewards for good leash behavior) when you are training your dog to walk on a leash without pulling. Avoid punishments, and stay away from prong collars or choke collars (which should only be used by certified trainers). It will take some time to train your dog to walk comfortably on a leash, and with some breeds and temperaments, it will take extra patience. But if you are willing to put in that time and that work, it will be a rewarding experience for both of you!