Your daily walk with your dog should be a relaxing and enjoyable experience, but if you have an overly excited dog, your walk could quickly turn into a frustrating and stressful activity. Learn how to stop your dog from pulling, and start enjoying your walks again.
Your dog is over the moon excited for every outdoor adventure, so it’s hard to blame them for wanting to follow their nose and run free. If they’ve never been taught a better way, most dogs will continue to pull to the end of their rope... and yours.
This poor behaviour is more than just irritating, it can be dangerous too. They cough, they wheeze, they pant like crazy, all because they are so excited to explore, but the reality is that they can be hurting themselves.
Teaching your dog to walk appropriately takes time and perseverance, but trust us, it’s worth it. Your daily walks can be something that you look forward to. In the end, you will have a happier, healthier, and better-behaved dog.
Choosing the Right Tools for Walking
Before you get started, you need to make sure that you have the best tools to help you achieve your goals. Every dog is sized and shaped differently, so the walking accessories that you choose may vary depending on how they fit your dog.
There are a few different types of walking aids that can help. What you choose depends on your dog's shape and behaviour.
Harnesses can reduce the pressure and stress placed on your dog’s neck, while a collar will prevent chaffing and pressure on their shoulders. A collar should still be worn to display their tags, but these walking aids can be an effective if you choose the right style for your dog.
There are a few different styles of walking accessories that you can choose from, each with their own pros and cons:
1. Back-Hook Harnesses
This style is the most common harness on the market. They are simple to use and available in many different styles to accommodate different sizes of dog. Choose the style that fits most comfortably on your dog.
2. Front-Clip Harnesses
If your dog is strong and consistently pulls, then a front clip style harness will be more effective for you. The leash will attach at the center of the front of their chest, and will hang to their side, forcing them to turn whenever they pull.
3. Head Collar
These are the third style. This option is appealing to some because it guides the direction of their face, allowing you to break their line of sight from whatever they are pulling towards.
4. Two-Touch Harnesses
A two touch harness, have both a front and a back clip.
Using a coupler, or double-ended leash, you can attach your leash to both clips giving you the benefits and security of both styles of harnesses.
A slip lead is a collar and leash as a single unit. According to the team at Nurtured K9, slip leads are a good way to teach the dog the concept of pressure on, pressure off.
When they pull, they will feel pressure. When they relax or slow down, the pressure will be alleviated. This technique gives you the opportunity to reward or give praise as your dog puts the pieces together.
Harnesses can cause damage to their shoulders, especially with strong pullers. The constant turning and jerking can do damage over time, and can chafe the skin around their front legs and chest.
The type of Leash
you choose will depend on where and how you are training. A common mistake when teaching proper walking etiquette is using a retractable leash. This style is not ideal for teaching boundaries. The goal is to teach your dog to give you a loose leash, which is not an option with retractable leashes, as the cord will always be taught.
It's best to invest in a standard 4-6 ft lead, according to the Nurtured K9 team. This will allow you to set a firm boundary for your dog. You want them to know how far ahead of you they are allowed to walk, and this gives you more control when you do come across a fun distraction.
Another option that is effective for this type of training is a hands free leash. This style may come with a belt, or may convert to allow you to wear the leash as a belt or sash. Having the leash as your center of gravity will give you more leverage if you need to stop or change directions, so it’s great for owners of large breeds or very strong dogs.
Choosing the Right Environment for Training
Dogs are easily distracted, excited and spooked, so choosing a suitable environment to train in can make or break your training experience. Your dog's ability to focus on instructions can be the difference between a productive and positive experience, and a frustrating or stressful one.
All training needs to be done in manageable steps, so pick an environment that suits your dog’s level of attention and experience.
In the beginning, limit training to quiet contained areas that you have control over. The backyard is a great place to start. This will minimize distractions and allow you to repeat commands and routines.
Tips From an Expert:
Nurtured K9 recommends working on obedience in a low distraction setting. You want to be the most important thing to your dog, and everything on the walks should be neutral to them unless a cue is given to interact.
Once the obedience is perfect in low distraction settings, you can start to add small distractions at a distance. Treat while you approach these distractions to associate them with a reward.
Choose times and places that won’t overwhelm your dog. Jumping right into a busy walking path will be very hard for your dog to stay focused and listen to your commands.
Make sure that you are focusing on positive behaviours. The goal is not to deter poor habits by reprimanding, but instead reward appropriate walking behaviour. Over time your dog will understand that good walking behaviours are rewarded, and will actively wait for your cues.
To do this, you’ll need to reward each success, each correct response, and even uninterrupted focus and eye contact. The reward can vary depending on your chosen training style, but treat training is the most popular method.
If you use treats to reward your dog, then be prepared to carry plenty of small treats on you at every training session. You will need treats that are high value, meaning that are very flavourful, have a stronger aroma, or are your dog’s favourite.
Avoid larger treats like biscuits, natural chews, and dental treats. Repeat treating with these treats will turn into a lot of extra calories. Look for small, soft, or chewy treats that can be cut or broken into even smaller pieces. Aim for treats that are smaller than a piece of kibble.
This allows you to treat heavily without overfeeding or causing digestive upsets. Try to rotate different treats and flavours into your training sessions to prevent your dog from getting bored or losing interest in the reward.