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Teaching Dogs Not to Pull on Leash

How to Teach Your Dog to Walk Nicely on a Leash continued...

Option Three: About-Face

(Use only if your dog is not wearing a choke, pinch or prong collar, or any head halter, such as Halti®, Gentle Leader®, etc.)

Please Note:Options Three and Four use punishment. Punishment should decrease behavior quickly. If it doesn’t result in a noticeable decrease in pulling after several training sessions of consistent use, then it should be stopped. Ineffective punishment repeated over and over easily escalates and can become abusive. Stop both these methods if your dog yelps in pain, becomes reluctant to walk with you, becomes aggressive, or shows fearful body language like cringing, cowering, trembling, excessive panting, tail tucking, etc.

For some dogs, stopping and waiting or luring with treats is not sufficient for them to understand that they shouldn’t pull. Instead of stopping, teach the dog that when he pulls, it’s a signal for you to turn and walk back the way you came. You need to incorporate a verbal warning into this sequence. Before your dog reaches the end of the leash, say “Easy.” If he slows down, say “Yes!” and call him back to you for a treat (but keep moving). If he does not slow down but gets to the end of the leash and starts pulling, don’t say anything to the dog. Just turn abruptly, letting the leash check your dog. As your dog runs to catch up to you, praise him. When he reaches you, turn and walk in your original direction. If he pulls again, turn around again. He will learn that pulling is unpleasant because he gets checked against the end of the leash and he gets farther away from his destination. Be sure to follow the same instructions as above for rewarding the dog when he walks without pulling.

Be advised that if your dog is running at full speed toward the end of the leash, you could inflict physical damage to his neck if you allow the leash to check him without giving him any slack. Allow your arm to absorb most of the force when you turn so the dog is surprised but not harmed.

Option Four: Collar Correction

(Use only if your dog is not wearing a choke, pinch or prong collar, or any head halter, such as Halti®, Gentle Leader®, etc. )

Some dogs may respond to a jerk on the collar when they pull. Walk holding the end of the leash near your left side, with your elbow bent. Don’t let your dog pull your arm straight out in front of you because then you won’t have the slack you need for the collar correction. You need to incorporate a warning into this sequence. Before your dog reaches the end of the leash, say “Easy.” If he slows down, say “Yes!” and call him back to you for a treat (keep moving). If he does not slow down and gets to the end of the leash and starts pulling, jerk sharply on the leash backward and upward. To do this, you’ll need to reach your arm forward a few inches to give yourself the slack on the leash to jerk back. Make sure your action is a jerk and not a pull. You may need to do this a couple of times before the dog slows down. How much pressure you exert when you apply the jerk depends on the dog. If your dog is small or sensitive, you will need only slight force. If your dog is large and tenacious, you may need stronger force. Be sure to quickly reward with treats and praise any time your dog isn’t pulling and walks with you with the leash slack.

Be advised that if you jerk too hard on your dog’s collar, you can inflict physical damage to his neck. The dog’s trachea is susceptible to bruising and permanent damage, so be extremely cautious using this approach. If this method is effective for your dog, it will decrease or eliminate pulling quickly, within a couple of days. If it does not, try another method or change equipment. Do not keep doing collar corrections or let them become an ineffective habit that is painful and unpleasant for your dog.

WebMD Veterinary Reference from ASPCA Virtual Pet Behaviorist

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