find educational courses in your area
learn with Jan's online workshop
Jan's Weekly Topic
'How do I stop my dog pulling on the lead?'
Posted on 13/07/2015
Filed under: Dogs Outside
This has to be the most common question ever asked in respect of problems experienced by dog owners but the initial problem with the question is the negative feelings associated with the phrase, so firstly I invite you to ask rather 'how do I teach my dog to walk with good manners by my side?' then you can get off to a better start.
This sort of work always begins at home, not outside where the dog will be distracted and stimulated by everything going on around it. In that sort of environment no learning can take place because attention isn’t focussed on what you are trying to do and frankly, you’ll be wasting your time and will become even more frustrated. Working at home we can practice when it suits us, at both our and our dog's pace and above all; we can make it fun too, with no one yelling at us that 'we're not being firm enough!’
To start off, allow about half an hour, make sure that your dog is alert and ready to work with you, get some small pieces of cooked meat or cheese in a small plastic bag and I would suggest putting that in a pocket on the opposite side to the hand you will hold the food in. Holding your hand with the treat in it down by your side, where you would like your dog to walk, invite your dog to come to you and as it approaches, guide it to where you want it to learn to walk with you, which is usually by your side. Remember to call your dog in a loving, happy and gentle voice.
When your dog goes to where the food reward is located, give a word or two of praise 'good girl (boy)' for example. Turn away from the dog and repeat the request and reward system until your dog understands what is wanted and will come back to your side to follow that food reward. By the way, if you have ever been told that using food is bribery I ask you to consider that all dogs are pretty smart and like us will choose to do something if there is a benefit for them, the 'What's in it for me?' instinct that we all share.
As you both get used to the procedure, move in different directions and at different paces but keeping your dog by your side with the food reward and the dog should change direction and keep turning to stay in that same place, by your hand. We keep changing the direction we are facing or walking in because this sends a powerful message to the dog, it knows that it’s only the leader of the group that chooses the time, the direction and the pace of the hunt (walk) and this will help your dog believe in your ability to make the important decisions when you are away from home.
Now obviously, while we are getting the dog to follow the all alluring hand around, we aren’t using the food as a tease and it should actually be given to your dog when he or she is responding in the desired fashion. There is usually going to be a lot of food reward when the exercise is new but as you both get more comfortable with it, less food is needed as the dog has already made the good association with the procedure. Eventually, praise will be enough reward for your dog because it will actually enjoy the process.
You can also use less food reward, as your dog will have started to make a good association with this fun time together.
If your dog becomes excited then just stop the whole procedure and go to do something else, as our dogs, again like us, can only retain information and learn properly when they are happy but steady and calm. If each time the process starts your dog gets excited and you stop what you are doing, it won’t take the dog long to work out that its own actions are calling the proceedings to a halt and it will start to exercise some self control.
This whole process can be done in the house (apartment) or garden and when you know that your dog is really with you then you can add a simple slip lead around your dogs neck, as a safety precaution, in preparation for when you venture into the big wide world. Again, we are doing this in a controlled environment, not out on the street.
If your dog puts any strain on the lead just stand still and refuse to move until your dog is back at your side. Always avoid jerking on the lead in any way, instead let your dog choose to relax any pressure and with a quiet word of encouragement invite your dog to return to the desired position.
I will state the obvious here but experience has shown me that it needs saying; if you cannot get your dog to walk calmly by your side when you are home, with no pressure, what chance do you stand of getting a result when you are in the big outside world with all its distractions and a dog that is deciding exactly where it wants you to go?
Many owners feel they can only teach their dog to walk properly beside them whilst they are actually out on a walk and for many that can happen, depending on the personality of their dog, but in many cases it just isn’t going to work and every time your dog is allowed to pull on the lead or turn in a different direction, any trust your dog has in you as the decision maker is undermined.
Working with your dog in a stress free environment is the way to success and your dog will learn that working with you this way results in you being relaxed, happy and rather proud of what you have achieved and believe me all dogs pick up on this and love it.
"THE WALK" DVD