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How to Stop Your Dog From Pulling on the Leash

By Caitlin Ultimo



We all have that friend, relative, or rival who walks their dog with expert leash-wielding skills. They aren’t being pulled down the block, tied 'round trees, or tangled up with the friendly neighbor dog who’s also out for an afternoon stroll. I don’t know about you, but I silently envy the person and pet that can walk side-by-side without breaking a sweat. 


And I have to admit, good leash walking skills are important for more than just showing off your pet-parent talents.


“From a relationship perspective,” explains Sarah Fraser, a certified professional dog trainer and co-founder of Instinct Behavior & Training in New York City, “if your dog is walking nicely on a leash, it likely means that your dog is paying more attention to you, making it easier for you to provide direction and guidance as needed along your walk.” 


A leash-puller can also run the risk of accidentally breaking away from your grip, which can pose multiple dangers to your pet if he or she continues to run, not to mention the danger for yourself if you end up face-first on the sidewalk. Having proper leash manners minimizes the risk that you will be pulled over in a moment of overzealous leash yanking and will make the time more about walking and less about tug-of-war. 


“Teaching your dog to walk nicely on a leash allows you to take her more places and for longer walks, because it’s more comfortable and enjoyable for the both of you,” Fraser says. 


Tips for Better Walking Behavior


Whether your dog is big or small, here are six ways to improve your dog’s behavior on a leash:   


Adjust your attitude. 


First, ask yourself: “What would I like him or her to do instead?” Instead of teaching a dog to stop pulling, think of it as teaching your dog how to walk nicely beside you.


Remember it’s all about the rewards. 


One of the easiest and most effective ways to start teaching a dog to walk properly on a leash is to reward the dog for paying attention to you and for being in the desired position (next to you or close to you) when out for a walk.


“As the dog learns that walking next to you is a pleasant, rewarding experience, she’ll spend less time pulling and more time walking nicely beside you,” says Fraser. Try using very special treats in the beginning, like small pieces of boiled chicken or roast beef, to really get your dog’s attention, she advises. 


Play the “follow me” game. 


Hold on to your leash and take several backward steps away from your dog. The backward movement is inviting, so your dog is likely to turn and follow you. Say “yes!” as your dog approaches you, then immediately reward him or her with a treat.


“The game helps your dog focus and move with you,” says Fraser. Then back away several steps in another direction. Once again, says “yes!” as your dog approaches and reward him or her with a treat. Repeat this pattern eight to 12 times, until your dog is actively pursuing you when you move away.


Practice on your regular walks.


Once you’ve started your stride, each time your dog looks up at you or walks next to you, says “yes!” and immediately reward him or her with a treat.


Reward often. 


"Frequent rewards will help your dog figure out more quickly what behavior you’re looking for and make the learning process easier for her,” Fraser explains.


“The trick to making this work is using very special treats at first, and keeping your rate of reinforcement high, which just means that you are marking and rewarding often — maybe every 4-5 steps at first — for any and all ‘good’ leash behavior.”


Over time, you can thin out your rate of reinforcement, rewarding your dog less frequently throughout the course of the walk, Fraser adds.


Consider additional assistance. 


“If your dog is already a practiced puller, consider purchasing a quality front clip harness to provide extra control on walks,” Fraser recommends. But if your dog already pulls hard on a front clip harness, consider working with a certified, positive reinforcement-based trainer.


Finally, remember that walking on a leash is a skill that takes time and practice for both the pet parent and dog, so celebrate incremental improvements and successes!


Did you know walks help your pet digest food? Find out more: Top 10 Health Benefits Walking Provides Your Pet


See Also:



/via Shutterstock


Comments  7

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  • Pulling on Leash
    10/20/2015 03:45pm

    Attaching a leash to the collar of dog that like to lead you around is simply insane. Get a harness! The difference is immediate! No pulling! No lurching! Just walking. It takes a few walks to get used to but worth it. Harness--no choking, coughing, gasping. All bad for your pup. Get a harness. Yesterday.

  • 10/20/2015 06:09pm

    Although I agree with you re harnesses, it does not prevent a dog from pulling. I have two sweet dogs (small breed), and one pulls (they've had harnesses since puppyhood) at various times during our twice daily walks. Also, there are harnesses that (if the dog is a puller), that won't protect the dog from gagging. It depends on where the ring is attached. The further the ring for the leash is (ideally, at end of the back away from the neck), the less likely to gag--if the ring that attaches to the leash is closer to the neck, the more likely they will gag.

  • 10/20/2015 09:35pm

    The Easy Walk Harness hooks under the chest with the O ring for the leash also under the chest. If the pup pulls the leash will pull the pup's attention to you--no pulling, they just turn towards your direction. I have a 50-lb., 7-1/2 month old Golden puppy. Pulling is a distant memory. Couldn't walk her on a trail without putting my life and limb in danger. Walking is now a pleasure. You will, however, need to pick up your tempo when walking. No lallygagging around anymore.

  • 10/20/2015 09:47pm

    Thanks, from your initial comment, I thought you were referring to the average harness (not the Easy one). To be honest, I did purchase one of these when my "tugged" was a puppy, and I had a heck of a time with it as I couldn't find one that would fit properly (they were all too big).

  • 10/21/2015 08:08pm

    You know, the Easy Walk was a bit too big for my Golden pup but she's growing into it and I am so thankful each time we "gear" up, which at this point is normal and routine for her. The harness is so comfortable and I know she's grateful (though she doesn't know why) that the walking is now a pleasure. I always thank my neighbor who recommended it--he has one for his pup. She can still chase her ball when we have free leash time and she swims in the lake with it on without any problems. I think I got it on Amazon (of course). It was about $25 and worth every penny. Good quality and lots of colors. They have harnesses that fasten on top but you get more of a sled dog effect. This one is underneath and gently lets the dog look to you, depending on what side you're holding the leash, when they move a bit too aggressively. You, of course, can still pull them a bit when they're sniffing excursions last too long.

  • Positive way to teach dog
    01/18/2016 10:24pm

    Thank you for sharing this information. I have and do always use positive cues and provide positive verbal reinforcement when appropriate. I actually use the exact cue, "walk nice". Works very well.

  • She's looking for food!
    12/11/2016 05:48pm

    I have the Easy Walk Harness because she tends to pull. When we are walking on private property everything is fine. But when we walk in public areas there are WAY too many people who simply drop their chicken bones on the ground. She's half Beagle and has an excellent nose. Once she's discovered that "this is an area of food," she is a TERRIBLE puller. We adopted her at age one, and we think they fed her only when they remembered. She will always be hungry.
    It destroys the pleasure for me when I am literally dragging a dog who has all four paws "dug in" and scraping along the sidewalk.
    We live on a boat and follow the seasons north or south. I can't always be choosy about my walking area.

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