The following are the five most common mistakes I see people making while walking their dogs, assuming a goal is to stop the dog from pulling.
Of course, I have made all of these mistakes as well. Many times.
Mistake #1: Walking in a straight line.
Most of us want to walk in a somewhat straight path to get to a certain destination or to complete a certain “route.”
However, when you’re training your dog to heel or walk on a loose leash, this makes it way too tempting for him to pull forward in an attempt to get to some random scent or object as fast as possible.
Solution (or at least a tip): Mix it up.
Talk to your dog in a happy voice and walk in all sorts of random patterns.
Zig-zag. Walk around trees. Randomly turn around. Walk in tight circles. Walk in huge circles (like in an obedience class). Speed up. Slow down. Whatever.
Do this while popping treats at your dog’s face when he looks at you. At the very least, change up your route every day so it’s not so predictable.
Mistake #2: Walking too slowly.
Dogs are generally much faster than us. We move at a painfully slow pace, so when they’re barging ahead, they’re generally not doing so to be “dominant.” They’re just being dogs.
Solution: Jog, walk faster or run with your dog for at least part of the time.
I agree that dogs should learn to walk at our pace. But while they’re still learning, we can make it easier by walking faster.
Mistake #3: Tightly gripping the leash.
Most dogs will naturally pull harder if the leash is tight. It’s a natural reaction as they try to free themselves from the tension, right?
Solution: Instead of holding the leash as tight as possible, hold it loosely. Don’t wrap it around your hand or wrist. Hold it really loosely, like with two fingers in your left hand with the slack held loosely in your right. When your dog pulls, simply turn and walk the other way.
Mistake #4: Not using the right treats.
And I mean treats! Not dry Milkbones, but hot dogs, real hamburger, pieces of chicken, etc.
(It doesn’t hurt to train your dog when he’s a little hungry, either.)
Mistake #5: Getting frustrated with that damn dog!
It’s super frustrating when a dog is pulling and making those awful choking and wheezing sounds. It’s also embarrassing!
I’ve been there and I remember feeling like people were judging me for being unable to control my dog.
Solution: Stay positive, and don’t worry what others think.
Most people don’t really care how someone else’s dog is or isn’t walking. And if they do? So what!
If you find yourself getting frustrated often, I highly suggest buying a training collar that will give you more control. Walking your dog should be fun, not stressful.
For me, having the right collar makes all the difference and helps me keep my sanity, especially while the dog is still learning.
Other tips that can help:
Stop moving if the dog pulls.
Blog reader Margaret P. said she can’t walk very fast due to arthritis in her knees. She found that to stop her dog from pulling it worked to stop dead in her tracks, refusing to go any further.
“Generally she comes back to my side and looks up at me at which time I start to walk forward again. She has learned that in order to keep moving, she must be close to my side and not pulling me. It took awhile, but she got the message.”
Using your other dog as a teacher.
Karen B. said she taught her boxer mix to walk nicely on a leash by using her older dog to help the new guy gain confidence. While her boxer mix was scared to walk on concrete at first, he eventually learned to walk nicely.
“Now that he’s older, he’s running 3 to 5 miles every other day with me. He loves it.”
I would also suggest:
– Making sure the dog gets off-leash play at least a few times per week to burn energy.
– Using a dog backpack to help burn some energy and give him something to focus on other than pulling.
Do you have any tips to teach a dog to stop pulling?
Let me know if you do!