Pulling On Lead

Dogs pull for a number of reasons, from anticipation to fear. Teaching a dog to walk on a loose lead is essential, if you want to be able to enjoy walking with your dog. Loose lead walking is about getting the dog to pay attention to you. Basically, if your dog pulls it’s because they are confused as to who is really in control.

Here’s how to get your dog to walk beside you:

  • Start on a normal walk, at a slow pace.
  • If you run or jog with a puller you are encouraging them to pull.
  • Whenever the dog starts to pull, immediately stop. Hold the leash firmly, but do not try and pull the dog back to you.
  • When your dog turns his head to look at you, give a hearty “WELL DONE” then move forward and keep on walking. Every now and again when this happens give them a treat as well as the well done. This is called yielding to the leash.
  • Do not try to take long walks with this method. Your dog will soon become restless, get tired or just get bored with this training.
  • After about a month of taking walks like this, your dog will no longer be taking you for a walk! It takes time to undo the habit, but you can replace one with another.
  • Your might think that’ll never work. The only reason a dog pulls is to try and get you to move faster. This can be motivated by anything from excitement to fear. However, when the dog tries to get you to move faster and the result is stopping altogether, the dog will quickly understand that you are in control of the walks. You determine the time, place and speed. Once the dog has established this, it will no longer pull.

Jumping Up

Jumping up for attention is cute in puppies, but not in an adult dog. Sadly, we often reinforce this behaviour in puppies so they continue doing it into adulthood. They do it for reward, because they are result motivated – they are closer to your face, get some much wanted attention (even if it’s negative attention) and release their excitement and frustration at wanting to greet you.

1. Ignore

  • When the dog’s feet first leave the ground, quickly turn your back on the dog.
  • As the dog paws at your back or legs, ignore it completely. Do not even look at it. If it circles around in front of you and jumps up again, turn your back again.
  • Continue doing this until the dog chooses sitting, standing still, or even turning to leave. The instant this happens, immediately turn your attention to the dog and praise and pet them.
  • If the attention makes them jump up, start all over again.

2. Stop

  • When your dog jumps up place your open hand against their nose and say down. Dogs noses are sensitive and they don’t like them being touched. Repeating this will cause the dog to eventually stop jumping up.

3. Sit

  • When you are in a situation, like coming home, when your dog would normally jump on you, give the sit command before they jump up. When they sit, reward them for doing so.

The key to this being successful is making sure that no one is inadvertently rewarding bad behaviour. If everyone in the family is keeping it up, but then big brother comes home and has a big jump up and wrestle session at the door, all your hard work is undone.

When people come to the door, have your dog in a different room or tied up at first so that you can control the situation and educate your visitors before they allow him to jump up. When he is out and about on lead and you stop to greet someone, ‘park’ your dog by placing your foot over the lead at a length so they cannot leap up on them.

With a little time and patience, your dog will learn that jumping up isn’t the way to get any attention and that all four paws on the floor is a much better option.

Coming When Called

Having an effective recall is important for the safety and welfare of your dog, but is often the most struggled with. If yelling and running after your dog as he gallops into the sunset sounds familiar, read on.

Teach Them The Word

You need to set up for success, so don’t start recall training in a high traffic area, where distractions abound. Start at home. Giving your dog the tools to be successful is the very first step in training.

You need to teach your dog a definitive ‘come here’ command. Choose a word, and stick to it, whether it’s ‘come’ or ‘here’ is not important, as long as it’s always the same. Sometimes saying ‘come’ and sometimes saying ‘come here’ is not going to work.  Do not use their name, they need a different word, for clarity.

Begin by saying the word in a fun and exciting tone, around the house. When your dog approaches to see what’s going on, reward them with a treat or game. They’ll soon get the hang of it, and begin racing over as soon as they hear the word ‘come’. This is what you want – a dog that loves to come back to you because it means good things are happening.

Out and About

Once your dog is reliably coming when called at home, you can start to move it outside. Have them on a long lead at first, so that you can enforce the command if you have to.

Brings lots of toys and treats – using a treat pouch can make things easier and keep your hands free. As soon as they respond to your command, respond with as much excitement as you can, and reward them heavily.

Try not to call them when they are heavily engrossed in a game or smell – they are unlikely to respond, it is setting them up to fail and it may actually cause them to associate “come” with actually not coming. Instead, wait until they are finished, and then call them.

Always reward

If over time you begin to drop the toys and treats, and only call your dog when it is time to go home, they are going to begin to associate coming when called as a negative thing again. Instead, call them to you regularly during the walk, and then let them back out into the park as a reward.

Keeping It Going

They should occasionally get a toy or a treat when they come back for the rest of their lives. This keeps them listening, in the hope that this time might be the time with a treat!

Walking Equipment Options

Training your dog to have lovely lead manners can be made a lot easier if you have the right equipment, especially when paired with some lovely treats and rewards for loose leashes. All of these options come in different colours and styles, so with a little experimentation you’re bound to find something to suit you both.

Flat collar – the most popular for a reason, these traditional buckle collars can be made of cotton or leather, and are simple and easy to use. Fuzzyard dog colours have a variety of patterns, from space invaders to pink cupcakes, and have a secure locking buckle to prevent breaks and escapees.

Martingale – these are like a flat collar but with a chain link or separate material section that will tighten a certain way, and then stop, if the dog pulls. These are ideal to stop canine Houdinis slipping out of their collar, or for a little extra control with high-spirited hounds. Rogz half-check collars are good quality and come in range of basic colours.

Harness – these were originally designed for sled and tracking dogs, and were intended to encourage pulling against the lead. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t use one; some dogs will pull less when put into a harness. It is simply a case of trying and seeing. In particular they are perfect for low energy or well trained dogs, or for those with back or neck problems. Ezydog have a range of options for different body shapes and preferences.

Front Attach Harness – ideal for medium pullers, these are designed to turn the dog around to face you if they forge against the lead, allowing you to regain control and bring the dog back to you. Although chronic pullers will find a way to brace against it after a while, when paired with training and treats they can be just the edge you need to have a loose lead walker. Gentle leader ezywalk is a nice example.

Head-Halter – for strong pullers, these are designed to sit around the dog’s face just like a halter on a horse. Generally they are used for dogs that can pull you off your feet when they tug, or for dogs that bark and lunge whilst on the lead. They do stop pulling completely, but many dogs can find them invasive and will need to be taught to enjoy wearing one. Try a halti head-collar if you have a particularly exuberant dog.

Check chain – a thin metal link chain that will tighten when the dog pulls, these are designed to be used with a jerk on the lead to issue corrections to the dog. Check chains should only be used on the advice of your qualified trainer, and be a high quality chain in good condition. If you are looking for a check chain try Grizzle Four Legged Wear.

Prong collar – illegal in NSW anyway, these are not necessary except in very exceptional circumstances.