A Drag Down the Sidewalk? No Yanks!
Some trainers recommend that you stop or turn around every tie your dog pulls. But, it’s nearly impossible for you to walk your dog while stopping every time he pulls!
Pulling on leash is a drag for both you and the dog. Sadly, many good dogs miss out on regular walks because their exuberant pulling makes it too unpleasant for their owner, or in some cases, totally unsafe. With a low center of gravity and “four wheel drive” power, even small and medium-sized dogs can quickly exhaust their owner’s arms and be tough to control.
The good news is that your dog’s pulling can be greatly reduced – and fast – just by choosing the right (gentle) equipment. Then, if/when you are ready to do some training work, you can modify the behavior on a regular flat collar. In this two-part article, we’ll teach you both types of training solutions: first, management (the quick fix) and then modification (long-term behavior training).
To start, let’s explore: why do dogs pull?
- A dog’s natural pace is much faster than ours.
- Dogs are interested in more scents, sights, and sounds than we are and they want to investigate them all, now. This is especially true of young pups.
- Dogs don’t know that the sidewalk is the designated “walking zone” – they follow their interests, not the path.
All of the above are reasons why a dog hits the end of the leash. Once that happens, dogs keep pulling the whole time, every walk, every day, because it works! Every dog quickly learns that when they pull, they go in the direction they want, because we follow (to make it easier on us, in the short term). Some trainers recommend that you stop or turn around every time your dog pulls. But, it’s nearly impossible for you to walk your dog while stopping every time he pulls! So, let’s look at different solutions that work:
Management is a trainer’s term for “get it under control” without having to do any training work. In other words, set the dog up for success, regardless of his behavior issues. Management is great if you don’t have any time to train and you want the problem under control right away. Even if you are planning on doing a lot of training work later, the first step is management, so that the behavior stops getting practiced as soon as possible.
The most humane and effective tools to manage pulling are front clip harnesses and head halters. Both will make it difficult for the dog to have the momentum and control to pull you, and they do so without causing the dog pain. The front clip harness is easily accepted by most dogs, and can quickly reduce their pulling strength anywhere from about 50 – 90%, starting on the very first walk. The head halter takes a little more time to fit and get the dog used to, but it is extremely powerful and can make some of the toughest pullers feel as light as a feather. This “power steering” tool takes away the dog’s leverage by connecting at a point that is hard to pull from – his head and chin. Also, where the head goes, the body follows, hence one popular product’s name – the Gentle Leader.
There are many good front clip harness and head halter products available to you, and they are easily found in pet stores and online retailers. Check out Premier, Sense-ation, Sporn, and Halti – all established brands that have been reducing pulling for years.
Stay tuned: In our next blog/newsletter, we’ll talk about how to modify pulling behavior for the long-term, regardless of what equipment you use. Sign up for the newsletter on the left side of this page.