Walking nicely on a leash can be a real challenge for most dogs.
Never fear: while it does takes some patience, your dog can learn to not take you for a walk. The following easy training tips will help make sure that your dog doesn’t pull on the leash.
#1 – Start Younger
The sooner you work on those good leash manners, the better, so start teaching your dog puppy right away, even at just 8 weeks old. Why wait until he is over 50kg and a teenager to train him when you can do it while he weighs just 10kg?
#2 – Practice Attention
A key to stopping these behaviors is to keep your dog focused on you during a walk. Working on looking at you when you say her name, offering eye contact without a cue, Leave It and Drop are important to leash training.
#3 – Don’t Start With A Harness
All dogs pull with their front shoulders and chest. Putting your dog in a harness, then, actually encourages pulling because it makes it easier for them – hence why they use them for dog sledding. So, while I love harnesses because they are better on a dog’s neck, don’t use one on your dog until he has learned nice leash manners.
#4 – Reward Correct Position
Whenever your dog is in Heel position – walking nicely by your side with a loose leash – be sure you to reward him. You can even turn this into a game by trying to move away from your dog and seeing if he stays with you off-leash in your house or in your backyard. Start off easy and do faster/tighter turns as your dog learns the game. Rewards can be anything he likes, including treats, praise, toys, etc. Dogs repeat behaviors that are reinforced, so the more you reinforce him for being in that spot, the more he will do it. It’s as simple as that!
#5 – Don’t Let Pulling Be Reinforced
Since dogs do what gets reinforced, make sure your dog is not being rewarded for pulling. If your dog pulls on the leash and gets what he wants (to sniff that bush, to greet that person, to play with that dog) then he will continue to do it and it will get worse. Instead, if you feel your dog start to pull you in one direction, you can plant your feet and not move, waiting until he returns to you. Or, if he is stronger than you, turn and walk the opposite way. Once he is walking next to you nicely, you can turn back and go the way he wanted to. This teaches your dog that if he wants to go somewhere, he has to keep that leash loose. An informed dog trainer can assist you with this.