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I can’t stop every time my dog pulls because she needs the exercise

The title says it all.

My foster dog Lana is a strong leash puller. I’d love to train her not to pull, but what she needs more than anything is lots of exercise. (Update: Lana has been adopted.)

I’m wondering if any of you have some advice on how to balance the two (leash training + providing adequate exercise).

A little more info on us:

Lana is around 10 months old, and I’ve been fostering her for two weeks. She is a medium-sized dog, about 40 pounds, and her breed mix is anyone’s guess.

We do not have a yard or an off-leash area I can safely take her for exercise. She can’t go to a dog park yet. So, all her exercise is through walking and running on a leash with me, and she’s usually pulling.

Stop a dog's pulling when she needs lots of exercise

We go out for a minimum of an hour a day for combined walking and running. Usually 30 to 45  minutes in the morning and another 30 to 45 in the evening. Around 4 miles total, which really isn’t enough.

I’ve been walking/running with her using a Gentle Leader (that fits around her face). I basically force her to stay at a heel position. Whenever we’re walking, she pulls. When we’re running, she trots nicely at my side.

A common tip: Stop moving forward if your dog pulls

When teaching a dog to stop pulling on the leash, a popular tip is to stop moving whenever the dog pulls. (Here’s a great post about this method from Lola the Pitty.)

The goal is to teach the dog you’re not going anywhere unless the leash is loose. It’s effective, but it requires a lot of time and patience.

While following this method, if the dog pulls, you stop and wait for a loose leash, which can take awhile. Then you take a few steps forward. If the dog pulls, you stop again and wait for a loose leash … repeat, repeat …

This is great, but what do you do if your young, slightly psycho dog, truly needs to run, run, run?

How do I train my dog not to pull while also providing enough exercise?

I don’t know, but here’s what I’m thinking I’ll try:

I’ll continue using the Gentle Leader when we’re not focused on training. This at least minimizes the pulling. A no-pull harness would be another good option.

Then, when we’re specifically working on leash training, I’ll clip the leash to a collar around her neck like a martingale collar or a prong collar. These training sessions will be short, just 5 to 10 minutes at first.

Most of our leash training may need to be in my apartment at first, and then in “boring” areas like a parking lot.

I tried searching for any blog posts or articles addressing this issue of exercise + leash training, and no one seemed to address the two together. The closest thing I could find was Patricia McConnell’s wonderful post on making leash manners fun. She suggests using whatever tool you need to at least manage the pulling for the time being.

What do the rest of you think? We could use some help!

What are your ideas for training a dog not to pull while also providing exercise?

Related blog posts:

Gentle Leader vs. prong collar

Should I teach my dog to heel?

Tips for teaching your dog to heel

*Lana has been adopted!

Kimberly Gauthier

Sunday 1st of March 2015

I learned a really cook trick from a dog walker - walk in a zig zag pattern to get the dog to pay attention to you instead of the destination. It worked really well with Rodrigo who no longer pulls.

Jen Gabbard

Saturday 21st of February 2015

I don't have any advice; this is something that I'd like to be able to control better. If we're not using a harness or backpack Laika pulls - a lot. I thought maybe I was walking too slow so I started going faster, but that in turn makes her speed up even more. I've done a lot of loose leash training with her but when we're out at a park or somewhere new her excitement still gets the better of her.

Lindsay Stordahl

Sunday 22nd of February 2015

Oh Laika! :) She's so cute.

Rachel @ My Two Pitties

Thursday 19th of February 2015

Not sure I can add much to all that great advice but a couple thought. Kaya is was a huge leash puller. When she was young, I managed her pulled with a prong collar & made her not get in front of me. And the most important rule was that she had to sit & look at me when I stopped. That at least kept her a bit focused on me.

I honestly think that some dogs will always be pullers & are best managed with a no pull collar, harness or halter. I think the best outcome might be that they are not dragging you & you can get their attention when you need/want it. Kaya has learned to heel very well but give her free reign on the leash & she will always get to the end & keep pulling.

Lindsay Stordahl

Sunday 22nd of February 2015

I think you're right that some dogs will always be pullers. I like your tips of teaching them to sit when you stop for a treat. Lana could definitely benefit from that, and it's a great place to start.


Thursday 19th of February 2015

When Misty pulls I turn and go in the opposite direction until she is walking and not pulling. Then turn around and go where we were going. I have a big yard so I play with her back there.

Lindsay Stordahl

Thursday 19th of February 2015

I really like that advice! I think that's what I should do with Lana.

Jana Rade

Thursday 19th of February 2015

I always say that ideal would be to take Cookie for a walk before taking her for a walk. No-pull harness certainly does take the edge of it. But I'm always open to some genious ideas. Cookie can walk really nicely. But when she wants to get some place quickly, she wants to get there quickly ...