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How to stop a dog from pulling and whining on walks

Jack Russell terrier whines and pulls on the leash

A reader emailed me recently with a question:

  • How should she stop her Jack Russell terrier’s frantic whining and pulling on the leash?

Here is her email, edited for punctuation and length:

I just got a 2-year-old Jack Russell. She is a timid little thing and has come from a home with another Jack Russell. She will not sit anywhere but my knee 24/7 and doesn’t stop licking my face. She is so jumpy, the poor, wee thing.

She hasn’t been whining much at all in the house but when it’s time for her walks, she whines a lot. She is terrible on the leash because her previous owners didn’t use one so she is pulling like mad constantly. The pulling is even worse when she sees people or dogs. I’ve only had her a week, so I’m hoping all this will calm down.

Do you think she cries because when I take her out she thinks she is going home? I am a very caring dog lover and want to do everything I can to make this little lady happy and content 🙂 Any advice would be appreciated.

Here is my response:

I can tell you are a committed dog owner. Congrats on the new family member.

Here are some suggestions:

1. Don’t allow your dog to sit with you all the time.

It’s not healthy for a dog to sit with her owner all the time. This makes the dog too dependent.

Make a point to ignore your dog for 30-minute blocks, especially if she is frantically licking you or whining. Do not allow her to sit in your lap or on the furniture next to you during those times.

Physically block her if she tries, or connect her leash to a piece of furniture across the room. I wouldn’t even let her sit at your feet. You want to ignore her until she is calm and quiet. Then invite her back for some attention.

You could also train her to stay in her kennel for short periods. This can be her time to appreciate chewing on a Kong toy with peanut butter or another special treat. The point is to help her feel comfortable when she is not with you 24/7.

See my post on how to stop a dog from whining for attention.

2. Teach your dog solid obedience skills.

Jack Russell terriers are generally intelligent, active dogs. Working on obedience gives them much-needed mental challenges, so teach your dog the basics like sit, down, stay, heel and come.

Work up to the point where she will obey these commands in nearly all situations. I highly suggest attending group obedience classes or hiring a personal trainer for individual lessons.

Before you take her out for a walk, teach her to sit and stay calmly and quietly before you put her leash on her and again once it’s on.

This will be a challenge for her, but you can start with just a few seconds and eventually have her sit for a few minutes. You should also teach her to walk calmly at your side through the door, rather than pull like a maniac.

3. Keep walking and socializing your dog.

I don’t think your dog is trying to find her old home. I think she’s anxious, excited and overwhelmed to be outside, and she doesn’t know how to act on a leash. Keep taking her out every day so she has a chance to burn some physical energy. You could try getting her a dog backpack to wear for extra exercise.

Make sure you are using the right training collar to minimize her pulling and to teach her to walk on a loose leash. Personally, I would try a martingale collar for your type of dog. Other options could be an Easy Walk harness, Halti or prong collar.

Next, decide whether you want your dog to walk in a formal “heel” position at your side or if you simply want her to walk on a loose leash (no pulling). It doesn’t matter what you prefer, but you should be consistent.

Here are some links to help you improve your walks:

How to teach a dog to walk on a loose leash

Should I teach my dog to heel?

How to stop my dog’s excitement/aggression on walks

It’s hard for me to give advice without actually meeting your dog, so I hope you’ll take away some general ideas and apply them to your specific situation.

Let me know how it goes.

Does anyone else have any tips for this reader?

Pictured is Janee, another Jack Russell, who is one of my dog walking “clients.”

Janee the wirehaired Jack Russell terrier

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