Stop your dog pulling on the lead

Our first step is to focus on what we do want, which is loose lead walking.

Eye contact

We train this because our dog cannot be looking at us and pulling on lead at the same time, so we are focussing on what we do want. The first step is to teach our dog to give us eye contact. Start by holding a treat up by your face and when your dog looks at you say  ‘good’ or ‘yes’ and reward. Keep repeating. Then just stand still with your dog in front of you, when they offer eye contact reward it. Now your dog knows what to do to get ‘paid’ so now start to walk backwards, when your dog walks towards you and then offers eye contact -reward. Practice lots! The key is repetition and a boring environment, the house or garden will do to start, then move up to the outside world but tarmac without dog/human distractions and go from there. Once your dog is walking towards you, regularly offering eye contact, then start reducing the rewards a bit. Say ‘good’ every time but only give a treat every second or third time. The last step is to walk forwards, with your dog by your side and reward when they look at you.  If they shoot past you, just turn the opposite way and start again.

The reverse direction technique

This means that your dog learns that pulling does not get him to where he wants to go!

  • When your dog pulls, give a ‘let’s go’ type cue, turn away and walk off in the other direction without jerking on the leash.
  • You can avoid pulling on the lead when you change direction by motivating your dog to follow you with an excited voice to get attention.
  • When dog is walking with you and the lead is relaxed, mark with a ‘good’ and reward.
  • It may take a few turns, but your vocal cues and body language will make it clear that pulling will not be reinforced with forward movement, whereas walking calmly by your side or even slightly in front of you on a loose lead will allow your dog to get to where he wants to go.

As your dog starts to understand and stays by you for longer you can reward their decision to walk close to you by praise every few strides and a reward. You can then increase time between rewards, but continue to give verbal praise ‘good’ or ‘yes’.

Drunk dog walking – be more dog!

One of the main reasons dogs struggle with walking alongside humans is the fact that we are boring! Really! We walk in straight lines, don’t stop to sniff things and go really, REALLY slowly. This exercise is about being more dog- only taking five strides in one direction, then changing direction and also throwing in some changes of pace too!as you turn reward your dog for coming with you. Suddenly you are a lot more interesting to your dog and they want to stay by you.

Loose lead walking- rewarding the smile

Start by walking backwards away from your dog, encourage them to walk towards you on a loose lead by blocking them with your body so they can’t go past you or pull, you can even start alongside a fence/wall or in a corridor to maximise your dogs opportunity to get this right. Mark ‘good’ and reward the steps your dog walks towards you with a smiling lead (loose lead). Then try walking sideways from dog, your dog side on to you and coming towards your leg, again rewarding them for that smile in the lead, if they charge past you just reset. When they are walking towards you with a smiling lead, reward them next to your leg so they realise this is the pace to be. Finally progress to facing forwards and your dog should get the idea that they shouldn’t pass you and only get rewarded for a smiling lead. If they struggle go back a stage or pick a quieter environment.