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How to Stop Your Dog From Pulling on the Leash

My dog Remy is like many other dogs – he pulls hard on the leash! I make sure to spend time training “heel” and loose-leash walking but it will always be a work in progress. I thought I’d share my tips on how to stop your dog from pulling.

Below are some of the tips that have worked with my strong puller.

If your dog pulls on the lead, just know that this is a very common problem and normal dog behavior.

How to stop your dog from pulling on the leash

It’s up to us to teach them not to pull – and it takes a lot of time, consistency and patience. So hang in there!

1. Find a collar that makes your dog’s pulling less extreme.

As you know, people can get emotional and opinionated about training tools. You kind of have to ignore all that and use what works for you.

It truly doesn’t matter to me which training collar you prefer. It needs to be something that you are comfortable using and something that allows you to safely control your dog without hurting your dog.

Training collar options to minimize a dog’s pulling on the leash:

Stop your dog from pulling on the leash

2. Use a specific collar for training and another for “fun” walks.

Dogs are pretty good at recognizing specific “gear” for specific situations. I like using a training collar for training walks and a harness for oru “fun” walks.

My own dog is a 63-pound weimaraner and he pulls hard if he can get away with it. For him, I prefer using either a Gentle Leader or a prong collar while we’re working on training.

We also have an EasyWalk no-pull harness that he wears on “fun” walks where we’re not working on training. For example, when I want to head out for an hour and just get exercise or hike on a trail.

This gives me some control but when he wears it I allow him to sniff and walk ahead of me.

I also recommend a six-foot leash vs. a retractable leash for all of your walks. My favorite leash is a simple 6-ft leather leash because it’s easier for me to grip than nylon and usually lasts years and years.

3. Use highly motivating treats!

To train your dog to stop your dog from pulling when you’re outside, you’ll need to use the best treats! Think hot dogs, cheese or jerky.

Indoors, dogs are less picky because there’s fewer distractions.

how-to-stop-a-dogs-pulling

Outside, I use bits of deli meat, bits of cheese, soft treats and sometimes pieces of chicken. I mix it all together in a treat pouch and add in some dry dog food.

Total, I use about 1/2 cup of goodies per 20-min walk. Obviously, you might need to cut back on your dog’s meals if you do this.

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3. Wear a treat pouch around your waist.

At the very minimum, carry a TON of treats in your pockets.

Once you start heading out for training walks, you’re going to need to carry about a 1/2 cup’s worth of small treats. That probably won’t fit in your pockets easily.

A treat pouch fits around your waist (yep, like a fanny pack!) so you have quick access to treats. I walk with Remy and give him treat-treat-treat for walking at my side.

I can fit my whole hand in the pouch so treats are easily accessible at all times.

I reward Remy for looking at me, walking at my side and not pulling. I also use treats to lure him back when he pulls or gets ahead. I simply stop and wait for him to return or I lure him back.

4. Practice indoors a lot.

This is what really helped Remy. We worked in the living room for five minutes a day and it really clicked for him on the third day.

I used a leash at first and simply popped treats into his mouth for being at my left side or making eye contact. I walked along the wall so he had few options of where to go and lured him where I wanted him to be (my left side).

I would stop and have him sit, give a treat. Then take a step forward, have him sit, give a treat. Then two steps, etc. He really caught on quickly.

Practicing indoors is what made a huge difference for us because Remy seemed to finally “get” what I wanted and with no distractions it was easy for us to succeed.

Practice in every room of the house, the basement, the garage, perhaps the back yard or the driveway. I like to practice in quiet, open parking lots like church parking lots on weekday mornings.

5. Practice on walks.

Stop your dog from pulling

Of course, outdoors is the challenging part.

Our obedience instructor actually told me not to walk Remy for now if he’s going to pull. She said to stick to really boring walks up and down the driveway or in circles in the yard or perhaps down the street at quiet times.

She’s right.

If you want to stop your dog’s pulling you need to remove his opportunity to pull. Practicing indoors makes sense until he gets the hang of it. Then move on to “boring” outdoor areas before adding more exciting outdoor areas.

However, in the real world, I need to be able to walk weimaraner for exercise purposes and potty breaks. I don’t have a fenced yard. so a leash is his only access to the outdoors.

So … I am not perfect.

Sometimes I just need to get my dog out for a quick potty break and he pulls. This sets our training back. Sometimes I just want to be “normal” and check out from training … and he pulls. Like, really bad. This sets our training back.

This is why it’s helped me to use a specific collar for our training walks and a different harness for our “checked out” walks. I try to be consistent.

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6. Take a short break every 5 minutes during walks.

This is really important.

On your walks, ask your dog to heel for 5 minutes or so, and then use your release word – “Free!” or “Break!” – to let him sniff or play or walk ahead for at least 30 seconds (but stop moving if he pulls).

There are a few reasons for this:

  • Dogs have short attention spans
  • This helps remind you to take breaks and keep this fun!
  • Heel is very, very difficult for them
  • It helps if they understand “heel” means “heel until I release you.”

So, try rotating between focused heeling for 5 minutes, quick break, heeling for 5 minutes, quick break.

Other tips that can help:

  • Walk in zig-zags or figure-8s. Turn around a lot.
  • Work on random obedience or obstacles.
  • Pick up the pace, jog a little, run.
  • Sign up for a basic obedience class.
  • Try different types of treats!
  • Try different training collars (prong collar, Gentle Leader, no pull harness, etc)

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Other helpful articles:

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Lindsay Stordahl is the founder of That Mutt. She writes about dog training and behavior, healthy raw food for pets and running with dogs.

How to stop your dog from pulling on the leash

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Maggie

Sunday 4th of April 2021

Lindsay, Thank you so much for your blog. I just got a 3 year old rescue who is smart and I love training her but after just four months of watching every youtube and instagram dog trainer with the "perfect" dog and the "perfect" training I got burned out as did she. Your blog helps me not feel like a failure with a rambunctious 3 year old that I will never train or fail at training but like I can do the training that will help her even if its not perfect. And she does not need to be perfect. Again thank you!!

Lindsay Stordahl

Monday 5th of April 2021

Oh you are welcome! Training is ongoing and never a straight path, as you are well aware!

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Sarah TB

Friday 13th of November 2020

Thank you for this blog post! I have a rescue who is a major puller, and I found your ideas here very helpful.

Lindsay Stordahl

Saturday 14th of November 2020

Oh good, you're welcome!

Carol North

Thursday 16th of May 2019

Excellent tips! Murphy does fine on the leash as long as no other people or dogs are nearby. How in the world do you get a dog's attention when he's determined to get to the German Shepherd across the street to play. Doesn't matter if said German Shepherd isn't the least bit interested in him. Murphy is going, regardless. So it becomes a battle. I'll be working on the consistency you talked about.