Dogs pull on the leash for a number of reasons. Walking with your dog when he is pulling like a freight train is no fun for either party. A dog that pulls on leash can put himself and his owner in danger. Constant pressure around the neck can cause permanent musculoskeletal damage in the dog. Most trainers will tell you that pulling on the leash is not only an obedience concern but is a contributing factor in the development of more serious behavior problems like leash reactivity.
It is a pleasure to walk a dog who is well-behaved on the leash. This takes longer to train for some dogs than others, and the amount of time you need to invest in training this skill may depend on a number of factors, including:
- how frequently you practice
- your ability to practice in environments in which your dog can be successful (systematically increasing your criteria while maintaining a high rate of reinforcement)
- your dog’s age
- your dog’s breed
- the type of equipment you’re using to teach the behavior (flexi leashes, for example, actually encourage pulling!)
- how frequently the dog is allowed to self-reinforce for the pulling behavior or “learn that pulling works” (this is measured by the number of steps you take forward when the leash is not loose)
- consistency – if one family member is training correctly but other family members walk the dog and allow him to pull as hard as he wants, it will take a lot longer to get reliable leash walking behavior. In these situations, the dog will eventually learn to walk politely with the person that requires it and has consistent expectations while continuing to pull like a freight train with other handlers who allow it.
Walking is a skill which must be taught systematically. I’m sharing a video I made recently which features the introductory stages of teaching basic loose leash walking behavior using a clicker. These are only a few of dozens of exercises I can think of for working on this behavior. I hope to work on a variety of other videos which will show you additional exercises you can use to build loose leash reliability in your canine companion.
Until then, I hope you enjoy this video of Cuba running through some of the basics at our classroom. When we shot this video, he was seventeen weeks old. Thanks to my client, Nicole Oakley, for helping out with the taping, and to her dog Leila for chiming in with a bark of support midway through the video!
Have a great weekend with the dogs, friends!