One fact that everyone knows about dogs is that they need walking. While some people are fortunate enough to live in locations where they can walk straight into open countryside where dogs can run off lead, not everyone can avoid walking their dogs in situations where leads are required. For the sake of safety and practicality, for instance for vet visits, all dogs will need to spend some time on lead.
Pulling on the lead is one of the most common dog training issues. Dogs do not automatically know when that collar or harness and lead go on for the first time that they need to walk close so that the lead is loose. They head off up the street, excited to see what the walk will bring until they reach the end of the lead, and then keep going. There is no malice in this, rather the excitement and interest of seeing what is down the road. This does not make pulling on the lead any less uncomfortable for both dog and human.
Unkind methods involve inflicting pain on the dog until they stop pulling, for example with a prong collar, choke chain, or one of the tightening ‘anti-pull’ harnesses. Another is to ‘pop’ the lead, yanking the dog back and causing potential pain and injury, especially if the dog is walked from a collar. All of these are unpleasant for the dog, and can easily damage the relationship between canine and human. There are kinder, more ethical methods to solve the issue of pulling on the lead. Here are two, both of which work on the principle of positive reinforcement.
Be a tree. When the dog starts pulling on the lead, stop immediately. Stand completely still until the dog moves back towards you and the lead goes slack. As soon as this happens, start walking again. The reward for the dog comes from moving forwards again, and heading towards where they want to go. If the lead goes taut again, stop and wait.
The 300-peck method. For this, the dog earns a reward when they walk in your chosen position, whether this is at heel, or alongside you. This is something that is easiest started at home, with as few distractions as possible, before attempting in the wider world with exciting sights, sounds, and smells to investigate. Put the dog on the lead and reward when they are in the chosen position. To begin with, reward for every step in position. When they have the hang of that, start rewarding every couple of steps, every third and so on. Move to rewarding at random intervals, as this really helps to keep the dog in position, never knowing when the reward is coming.
Stopping pulling on the lead is not a quick process. If walking on a harness with two points of attachment, while working on stopping pulling on the lead, attaching a lead to the front attachment can help to manage the pulling as the dog turns towards the handler when they pull, removing some of the power and making walks easier until the loose lead walking can be established.