When Your Dog Walks Turn Into a Game of “Tug-O-War”

   We (humans) are too slow for dogs and it is normal for dogs to pull on leash. Harnesses that attach to the leash on the back actually encourage pulling (think of sled dogs). If your dog is pulling on leash as part of an aggressive response, see our blog on aggression since the underlying cause always needs to be treated for your dog to be successful. If your dog is pulling without any stimuli present (I.E. they just pull all the time) here are some different ways to teach your dog to walk nicely on leash:

1. If your dog is pulling, stop walking and stand still. Wait until your dog stops pulling, and then begin walking again. In this exercise, walking again is the reward. You may also find yourself doing this several times in a short period of time.

2. Teach your dog a command that teaches him/her to focus on you such as an eye contact or hand target command. Then, use these commands to keep your dog at your side and reward him/her with treats and attention for following the commands. You can use this method to teach your dog to “heel”.

3. Walk forward with your dog on leash. Before he/she has the chance to pull call him/her back to you and give a reward. Repeat this, extending the time before you call him/her back to you (but before pulling occurs).

   Pick one of the techniques and be consistent. Set your dog up to succeed by starting inside in a non-distracting environment, such as your home. Then, add distractions in the house before working with your dog outside. A head collar can also be a useful tool to help with leash pulling as long as your dog does not have neck problems. The leash attaches under the chin, so when your dog pulls, the leash pulls their head to the side.

Here is a great video for introducing the head collar so that your dog likes (or at least tolerates) it:

Another useful tool that gives you some control, but not as much control as a head collar, is a harness that the leash attaches in the front (Easy Walk HarnessTM or SENSE-ation ® Harness).

If you feel that you and your dog would do better with a one-on-one personal treatment plan that would be customized to you and your life style, please feel free to give us a call and schedule a Behavior Consultation appointment: (925) 937-5000

– Dr. Meredith Stepita, Dipl. ACVB