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Mastering Leash Control- Is Your Dog Walking You?

Mastering Leash Control- Is Your Dog Walking You?

Scott 9 August 15, 2023
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Mastering the Art of Leash Control: Effective Techniques to Manage a Pulling Dog

Walking a dog should be an enjoyable experience for both the owner and the furry friend, but it can quickly turn into a frustrating ordeal when your dog is constantly pulling on the leash. Whether you have a big, strong dog or a small, energetic one, leash control is essential for a safe and stress-free walk. In this post, we will explore effective techniques to help you master the art of leash control and manage a pulling dog. From understanding the reasons behind your dog’s pulling behavior to implementing positive reinforcement training methods, you will discover practical tips and strategies that will transform your walks into enjoyable bonding experiences with your canine companion. Say goodbye to leash pulling and hello to a well-behaved walking partner.

1. Understanding the reasons behind leash pulling

Understanding the reasons behind leash pulling is essential for mastering the art of leash control. Dogs, especially those who are energetic or easily distracted, often pull on the leash for a variety of reasons. One common reason is simply excitement. When dogs are eager to explore the world around them, they may instinctively pull ahead on the leash. Another reason is the desire for social interaction. Dogs are highly social animals, and if they see another dog, person, or animal that they want to approach, they may pull to get closer. Additionally, some dogs may pull on the leash out of fear or anxiety. In these cases, they may be trying to escape from a situation that is uncomfortable or overwhelming for them. Understanding the underlying reasons behind leash pulling can help you address the issue more effectively. By identifying the specific triggers that cause your dog to pull, you can implement appropriate training techniques to modify their behavior and teach them to walk calmly on the leash.

2. Choosing the right leash and collar/harness

Choosing the right leash and collar or harness is essential when it comes to mastering leash control and managing a pulling dog. There are several options available in the market, each with its own advantages and considerations. Firstly, let’s talk about leashes. The most common types include standard flat leashes, retractable leashes, and slip leads. A standard flat leash is a dependable choice, offering durability and control. Retractable leashes provide more freedom for your dog to explore but can be challenging to control, especially with a pulling dog (we don’t recommend this type of leash for leash training). Slip leads are a popular option for training purposes, as they combine a collar and leash in one and offer greater control.

Next, consider the collar or harness. For large and strong dogs that tend to pull, a no-pull face harness is a great choice. This harness is very similar to a horse bridle.  These harnesses have a front attachment point that redirects the dog’s pulling by turning its head, just like a horse’s head would turn by pulling on the harness.  This is by far the best solution for a dog that is walking you through your neighborhood.  Most dogs object to having it on at first, but with simple rewards you can overcome this issue quickly.  This is our prefered harness for training our dogs for past 30 years.  It teaches your dog to walk in step with you and not in front of you.

Martingale collars are another option, providing a gentle correction without choking the dog. They are particularly effective for dogs with narrow heads or those prone to slipping out of traditional collars. It’s important to consider your dog’s size, breed, and specific needs when selecting a leash and collar or harness. A smaller dog may benefit from a lighter weight and more comfortable harness, while a larger, stronger dog may require a sturdier leash and a harness that offers more control. Additionally, take into account the materials used. Opt for high-quality, durable materials that can withstand the pulling force of your dog. Nylon and leather are popular choices for leashes and collars due to their strength and longevity. Remember, choosing the right leash and collar or harness is just the first step in mastering leash control. Consistent training and patience are key to effectively managing a pulling dog. With the right tools and techniques, you’ll soon be able to enjoy stress-free walks with your furry friend.

3. Implementing positive reinforcement training techniques

When it comes to managing a pulling dog on a leash, implementing positive reinforcement training techniques can be highly effective. Positive reinforcement is a training method that focuses on rewarding desired behaviors rather than punishing unwanted ones. This approach not only helps to build a strong bond between you and your furry friend but also encourages them to learn and comply willingly. To start, it’s important to have plenty of treats on hand. Choose small, soft, and tasty treats that your dog loves. Begin by walking with your dog on a loose leash and reward them with a treat and praise whenever they walk beside you without pulling. This helps them associate walking calmly with receiving rewards, making it a desirable behavior. If your dog starts to pull, stop walking immediately and stand still. This teaches them that pulling will not get them anywhere. Wait until they release tension on the leash and reward them when they return to your side. Another effective technique is to change direction whenever your dog pulls. This not only interrupts their pulling behavior but also keeps them engaged and focused on you. Each time you change direction, reward your dog with a treat and praise when they follow you without pulling. Consistency is key when using positive reinforcement. Be patient and practice these techniques during every walk. Over time, your dog will learn that walking calmly by your side is rewarding, and the pulling behavior will diminish. Remember to adjust the difficulty level gradually. Start training in a low-distraction environment and gradually introduce more challenging situations, such as walking near other dogs or in busy areas. With time and practice, your dog’s leash control will improve, making walks more enjoyable for both of you.

4. Additional tips and strategies for leash control

In addition to the basic techniques discussed earlier, there are some additional tips and strategies that can help you further master the art of leash control with a pulling dog.

1. Use positive reinforcement: Reward your dog for good behavior and walking politely on a loose leash. Use treats, praise, and encouragement to reinforce the desired behavior. This will help your dog understand that walking calmly by your side is rewarding.

2. Be consistent: Consistency is key when training your dog. Use the same commands and techniques consistently to reinforce the desired behavior. This will help your dog understand what is expected of them and make the training process more effective.

3. Consider using a no-pull harness or head collar: These tools can be helpful in managing a pulling dog. A no-pull harness or head collar can provide you with more control over your dog’s movements and discourage pulling.

4. Practice in different environments: Gradually expose your dog to different environments and distractions while practicing leash control. Start in a quiet and familiar setting, and gradually increase the challenges by walking in busier areas or around other dogs like a local dog park. Home Depot and Lowes are two of our favorite places to work with distraction and public access training with our service dogs.  This will help your dog generalize the training and remain focused on you regardless of the surroundings.

5. Seek professional help if needed: If you’re struggling with leash control despite your best efforts, don’t hesitate to seek the assistance of a professional dog trainer or behaviorist. Here is a link for trainers in your area. They can assess your specific situation, provide personalized guidance, and help address any underlying issues that may contribute to the pulling behavior. Remember, leash control is a skill that takes time and patience to master. With consistent training, positive reinforcement, and the right tools, you can effectively manage a pulling dog and enjoy peaceful and enjoyable walks together.


9 Replies to “Mastering Leash Control- Is Your Dog Walking You?”

  1. My Service Dog is an Akita. Not a typical Service Dog breed, but their characteristics are perfect for my needs.
    She is sometimes stubborn, typical Akita trait, when not working. I have to remember this while she is on break. Positive encouragement keeps her in step with me, slightly ahead, but not pulling, without a “heel” command.

  2. Thank you so much for the information. I’m sure going to try these techniques with my two very large dogs! As I’ve been frustrated for the past couple of years with them walking me LOL. Thank you again for the information on the no pull collars, and harnesses.

    1. Hi Tina, my advice would be to get the face harness this will give you the most control. When walking them if they are not paying attention to your simply turn in the oppposite direction bring them to sit and give them treat. You should get a little treat pouch and try to change focus to you and not surroundings…good luck!

  3. I’ve been using the face harness on my service dog black American lab. Her attention span is very short with command and within 30 to 40 seconds she’s back pulling again would it be advised to change the he’ll come in to a different word and retrain?

    1. Hi Rob,
      Have you tried clipping on a treat pouch to your belt and try to get the focus back to you? I would also recommend as soon as you see her not paying attention I would change directions on her each time, then get her into sit position and reward with a treat. Good luck!

  4. Sometimes my Little Texas Heeler is a complete gentleman and doesn’t pull at all.
    He tends to pull more if he is going out to go potty or if he’s around other dogs.
    He’s been through a training class and we know all the commands….I don’t know why he is so inconsistent.

  5. I’ve been workin with my 10 month old Maltipoo for several months. She’s my Psychiatric Service Dog, but has a very short tension span. Do I need to wait til she’s a little bit older, when her hyperness has lessened some? She hardly stays right beside me, she’s not doing a good job with the ‘Come’ or ‘Stay’ command.

    1. Hi Heather, if she is food motivated maybe try and have a treat training bag on your belt which should help her pay more attention to you and not her surroundings.

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