One of the biggest client complaints is their dog pulling on the leash. Before we get into different ways to combat this unpleasant behavior, the first thing to remember is…It isn’t the dog’s fault. Being quadrupeds by nature, dogs walk faster than us and also want to explore their environments. The leash, as a man made invention to keep our pets safe near busy roads, directly interferes with all of these innate responses in a dog.
Whether we realize it or not, we also reinforce this behavior. That one time your pup took too many steps to go sniff that blade of grass and you went forward with them? That let them know that if there is something desirable to interact with, all they have to do is give a little tug. There isn’t acknowledgement that a counterpart exists on the end of this troublesome tether. The world is that little nugget’s oyster and it’s up to us to educate them on manners while they are attached to us.
If they’re still young and haven’t developed a pulling habit, consistently reinforce a loose leash. This could mean that the dog gets to actively sniff when the leash is nice and loose. Carrying treats and plopping one in front of the pup’s face when he isn’t putting tension on the leash also works. Just be absolutely sure that you are restricting movement, or stopping, whenever the leash gets taut. Preventing them access to a reinforcer will help to discourage the behavior. The more you pay the desired behavior, the more consistent it will become.
Say you have a dog whose reinforcement bank is already a bit high in the pulling department. This dog knows that pulling gets them whatever their heart desires on a walk and no amount of stopping, cookies, or otherwise is deterring their progress. If you had skis, this dog would take you for a ride. This is all workable! Consult a local trainer about appropriate walking tools. Depending on the way they pull and how much power there is behind it, your dog may require a different tool. It is also important to remember that once you begin the use of a tool, it isn’t a quick fix. The tool is meant to serve as a stronger deterrent to the pulling so that you have the opportunity to let your dog know what is correct. Dogs can still learn to pull in tooks if their desire is strong enough, so don’t slack on the reinforcement.
It is frustrating to not be able to have a peaceful stroll with your pup. If you’re having any issues, give our office a call! We are always happy to guide you to having a happy, well-behaved, canine companion.