Friday, July 14, 2017

Stop leash pulling & start loose leash walking.

Your dog pulls on the leash when out on a walk. You've tried everything, to no avail. So, what's a great collar or leash or harness or go-cart that can help with this? . . . I'm going to tell you. I'm going to reveal my secret . . .


Here it is: There isn't one.  The secret is that you train your dog how to walk on a loose leash.

[You look at your screen with disdain.]

It's really pretty simple.  May not be easy but it's simple.  All dogs can be trained to walk on a loose leash.  You just need the correct handling skills, attitude, feedback, and rewards.  That's it. Simple? Yes! Easy? Not as much. However, with some consistency and dedication, you can achieve this in a shorter amount of time than you think!

Polite leash walking is one of the most requested things to work on by my clients.  So, I'm going to tell you what I tell my clients.  Dogs pull on leash because they learn that you keep going forward when they do.  I mean what happens when your dog pulls on the leash? You either pull back, jerk the leash, stop, something. You react in some way, however, after that moment you continue to move forward in the direction your dog was pulling, right?  So, why would they think that there is anything wrong with pulling if they are still going to move forward at some point?

I often hear dog owners say, "But he's choking himself! Doesn't that bother him enough to make him not want to keep that up?!"  The answer is, no.  Dogs don't care much for slight discomfort if they have a mission in mind.  When walking, most dogs just want to go.  They will take some choking, if it means they still get to go, go, go!

Your dog obviously needs some equipment to be worn while walking. You can find loads and loads of tools that are marketed to the desperate dog owner and boldly boasts "Stop leash pulling instantly!" or something to that effect.  However, the bottom line is that the tool isn't going to be the factor that stops the pulling. You are.

But ... your dog has to wear something, so ... I like harnesses hands down better than anything else. It eliminates choking and it gives more control.

My favorite is a body harness. I have three, at the moment, that are on my favorites list.  The Freedom No-Pull Harness, Perfect Fit Modular Harness, and the Balance Harness.

Freedom No-Pull Harness
Yes, this has the wonderful buzzword "no-pull" in the title to market it.  However, this harness does in fact help with pulling (help not fix) and does make the training much easier, in my professional experiences.

The harness is nice and padded with a soft, velvety material under the arms. It has a hook on the front and the back, and has a double leash designed for the harness, ... although I prefer the leashes I mention below for this instead.  The back piece does tighten up slightly if the dog pulls, like a martingale collar, unlike the other harnesses on the market. This one also has a huge variety of neat colors for any dog.  You can purchase here.

Perfect Fit Harness
This harness is padded all over and comes in a size for literally any dog, from super tiny to really giant!  I love how well it fits, as the name suggests.  It's a front and back-clip harness as well. This harness literally fits any dog of any size, even those with deep chests that are often not good candidates for other types of harnesses.

It comes in 3 pieces that all connect together to get the perfect fit for any breed or size of dog. This harness also comes in an array of colors for the fleece lining on the harness. You can purchase here.

Balance Harness
This harness has a front and back-clip but different than the other two listed above, it's not padded but it doesn't fit under the dog's armpit area.  The dog shouldn't wear a collar around it's neck while wearing this harness, for the best fit. It works with pressure points on the dog to help balance as well as give it complete freedom of movement.  I have not used this harness myself as I have the other two.  So you'll have to judge this one on your own. I listed it here because several trainers I know highly recommend this harness. You can purchase here.

The best leash is 6-foot leather leash.  Most durable, most reliable and will last you a lifetime. You can get a double leash that's leather as well, if you need one for a harness that has a front and back-clip for a leash.  You may also just clip the leash to either the front or back clip, depending on what your dog works best with. This is my favorite leash by far, as far as quality and use click here to purchase. This is also a good one, which is quite similar.

Some people are sold certain types of collars that "are the only thing that worked for my dog's pulling", according to your neighbor or best friend with a huge strong dog.  I'm not going to discuss training tools I dislike or do not approve of, in depth on this blog post. I'll just say that with my training I don't recommend choke chains, pinch (some call prong) collars, or electronic, or vibration collars.  If you want to use one you'll need to hire a trainer that utilizes one or all of those tools, as I do not. I started my training career using choke chains and prong collars, so I'm not unfamiliar with them at all. However, I've learned a lot over the years (and continue to do so) and therefore I no longer use these tools at all. I can and will gladly discuss my thoughts with anyone who has questions.

... Now ... for other collars to wear on a walk ... I really do prefer just a harness for walking.  I do like dogs to wear a flat collar at all times, except when in a crate, with an ID tag for safety reasons.  However, for walking on a leash I prefer a dog wear a well-fitted dog harness.

So, now you're thinking -- yeah, yeah, I just wanna know how to teach my dog not to pull!  Well, many factors go into why a dog pulls or doesn't pay attention when outside, or sniffs too much, and on and on . . . Therefore, the absolute best way to accomplish good leash skills is to hire a trainer that can show you and work with you and your dog on this skill set.  Yeah, I know. Not what you were hoping for, but it's quite honestly the best way to accomplish the goal of loose leash walking successfully.

Side note: If you have more than one dog, you must teach this skill separately.  Once all dogs are well-behaved and walking on a loose leash you may then decide to walk them together.

1. Start with pre-leash attachment.  By this I mean, don't let the dog start getting crazy, attach the leash and then head out the door. You've already lost. Your dog has pulled you to the door and out the door. Now, you get to the driveway or sidewalk and suddenly you want to start showing your dog that pulling from here on out isn't acceptable.  Don't let it start in the first place.

2. Work on leash skills without a leash indoors first.  Add the leash later.  I simply get the dog on the side I want her on (I prefer the left) and give rewards while the dog is on that side, next to your leg and walking with you. You'll be dispensing a lot of food, one right after the other (like a Pez dispenser!) at first. These are great videos on how to start this and train it. Part I and Part II.

3. Don't rush! Sure, this may be time-consuming and you just want to walk your dog but ... if you rush it you'll have a dog that pulls on a leash.  So, don't rush, you'll be so happy in the long run that you didn't!

4. Set your dog up to succeed! Remember that each time your dog is on a leash he's learning
, even if you aren't actively training!  So, is he learning what to do or what not to do? You control what he's learning. Don't allow the dog to pull, ever. If this requires you to skip a walk altogether until leash skills are better or until you have time to make a walk a training walk (training is being done the entire walk), then so be it!

5. Hire someone to help you.  I know, you really didn't want to hire someone. However, it really is best to learn leash skills when a trained professional can come in and help you do it. It's invaluable to learn how to walk on a loose leash in person because so much coaching can take place for your specific dog and what may be best for her.

Part I
Part II
Here are two lovely illustrated posters of loose leash walking, illustrated by Lili Chin of Doggie Drawings

If you'd like to have these enlarged to read better and/or to have these in printable PDF formats please click here: Part I and Part II.

Stacy Greer
Sunshine Dog Training & Behavior, LLC