By Eric Letendre
A lot of people have problems with their dogs pulling on leash. Pulling starts from a very young age. Learning what triggers the pulling and how to change it can make leash walking with your dog more enjoyable and fun.
Dogs naturally pull on leash for several reasons. First, it works, period! Your dog learns at a very early age that if they hit the end of the leash and start leaning and pulling, they will make forward progress. The dog is trying to close the distance between themselves and whatever they are looking at – and the leash is restricting that.
Since most dogs can cover distance a lot quicker than humans can, they will pull to the point of gasping for breath. Second, dogs have what is called opposition reflex. As soon as they feel pressure on their necks or chests they reflexively lean into it. So, given this information, it is vital to begin anti-pulling exercises at a very young age.
To begin, you must be able to stand still with your dog on leash without him pulling and straining at the end of it. Have some treats ready to reward your dog when the leash becomes slack. Put the loop of the leash on your thumb and hold the remainder of the leash in your free hand.
As your dog pulls and the leash becomes tight, pull your dog back into you while giving him a verbal correction. Some dogs will run and hit the end of the leash again. You must persevere and pull your dog back into you with a verbal correction as many times as it takes.
Sooner or later he will give up and stay near you with the loose leash. At this moment, heavily reward your dog with food, praise, and pats. Once he is standing consistently with you on a loose leash you can begin your walk.
When you begin your walk, start with the leash hanging loose. As you take a few steps forward, your dog will most likely run ahead and hit the end of the leash. As soon as he takes off and the leash becomes tight, immediately change directions and make a full turn. Your dog will have no choice but to follow suit.
As your dog catches up to you, be ready to heavily reinforce him. Proceed forward and be prepared to turn around again. Try to focus on the times when your dog is walking next to you and the leash is loose rather than on times when the leash is tight.
If you allow your dog to make forward progress when the leash is tight, then you are training your dog to pull. Your dog needs to learn that there will be no forward progress made when the leash is tight. In fact, they will lose distance by making the turn.
Another exercise to try is the red light/green light game. Begin walking forward with your dog. When he hits the end of the leash and begins pulling, immediately put on the brakes. Your dog will most likely fight this and start bucking, but it is important to remain rigid and become a statue.
Do not look at your dog, talk to your dog, or move forward again. You will probably need to put the red light on often in the beginning, but with repetition and consistency, your dog will begin to see the picture; leash is tight no distance is covered, leash is loose forward progress is made. Yippee!
Yet another exercise is to form circles. Begin walking forward with your dog on a loose leash. If your dog runs forward and hits the end of the leash, pull him back in close to your body and spin in a circle once or twice.
Stop and begin to walk forward again. This will momentarily disorient your dog long enough for you to make several steps with a loose leash. At this point you can heavily reward him with a few special treats coupled with heavy praise. Remember that the key to training is information and communication from you.
There are hand and arm saving pieces of equipment on the market for adult dogs with extreme pulling habits. Gentle Leader Head Collars or Haltis are great tools to use until your dog is trained. However, dogs do not generalize well, and if you use a special collar to walk your dog, once you take the collar off the no-pull effect will not filter over. The best prevention is to train your dog on his flat buckle collar and reinforce loose leash walking. Good Luck!
Eric Letendre, author of The Amazing Dog Training Man, invites you to visit http://www.amazingdogtrainingman.com for free dog training video clips, tips, articles, and advice. Free Newsletter.
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