One of the top complaints among dog owners is that their dog pulls on their walks. What should be a fun activity for both dogs and owners turns into a battle of wills. Learn how to change your dog's behavior for the better and make walks an enjoyable part of your day.
First, it's good to know why your dog pulls. The simple reason dogs pull is because it works and we follow behind them. The other reason is because the environment is more exciting than you are. So what is an owner to do?
How to set your dog up for success:
1. Have high value treats like freeze dried meat or dog food roll. You are competing with a world of smells and other interesting things on your walk. Grab some high value, nutritious treats and make your dog work for his dinner on his walk rather than a free bowl of food.
2. Use a no pull harness initially like the Freedom Harness.
3. Exercise your dog with a game of tug, fetch, or find it before you begin loose leash walk training.
Next, teach your dog what you want from him:
1. As soon as your dog pulls, stop and go the opposite direction for several steps. Continue when there is slack on the leash.
2. Reward your dog for the desired behavior:
a) When the leash is loose
b) When your dog looks at you
3. When you train, think in terms of time instead of distance (i.e. 15 minutes rather than around the block.) The first few times you go on walks, they may not be far but after some practice, you will retrain your dog to learn that slack on the leash means less stopping and longer walks.
5. Change your pace from slow to fast sporadically to keep your dog excited and engaged.
6. Be consistent and aim to work on behavior several times a day for short periods of time.
1. Start with baby steps. Before you take your training outside, practice with your dog in a quiet, low distraction area like in your house. Once your dog is successful (responding correctly 8 out of 10 times,) you can increase the distraction level.
2. Have the right kind of motivation for your dog. A high value treat like cheese or a small piece of hot dog works well. If your dog is toy obsessed, use a brand new toy. Remember you are competing with the environment (smells, dogs, squirrels, etc.) and you have to up the ante.
3. Be fun and engaging. Instead of just saying “come” and standing still, run away from your dog and make kissy noise or whistle. The more interesting you are, the more interested your dog will be in you. Running away from your dog, sparks your dog's natural instinct to chase so use it.
4. Only use the word “come” for positive things like toys, treats, and praise. If you call your dog to you and then do something unpleasant to your dog (like bath him or put him in his crate), you are punishing your dog for doing the right thing.
5. Practice, Practice, Practice. The more you practice, the better equipped your dog will be when come is necessary.
Check out this video of Mijo, the chocolate lab. He comes as soon as he hears his name, which is great so he can go on lots of outdoor adventures off leash.
CPDT-KA and Animal Behavior Consultant