It is common for most dogs to pull when you first start walking them on a leash. Why? Because dogs don’t really walk, per se; they prefer to trot or run.
Think about it: when was the last time you saw a dog off-leash casually walking like a person? People walk, dogs run. The problem is a natural imbalance between humans and dogs: you want to walk but your dog wants to run.
When you walk your dog on a leash, your dog cannot understand for the life of them why you are moving so slowly, so they begin pulling as hard as they can to speed you up. That is because the dog does not understand that you are walking them; they think it is the other way around.
The way to get your dog to stop pulling is to teach the dog that the two of you are walking together. Your dog must learn to understand that when you are walking, it moves at your pace. If you stop, the dog stops. If you move left, the dog moves left, and so on…
How to Train Your Dog to Walk Properly
Now that you understand why your dog is pulling on the leash, let’s go over the steps necessary to correct this problem. When practicing these steps, it’s best to look at it this way: you are not training the dog to stop pulling, you are training the dog to walk properly on a leash. If the dog knows how to walk properly beside you and ignore distractions, pulling won’t be an issue anymore because it won’t happen at all.
Step 1. Use a Head Collar
Star by walking your dog with a head collar. If you try to walk the dog with a regular collar or harness, the dog is going to pull relentlessly and they just won’t get it.
Your dog will likely hate wearing the head collar, but they won’t pull you. That is to say, the dog will attempt to pull you but quickly stop once they realize they can’t.
It may take several days, or even weeks, for your dog to get used to walking with the head collar on, but eventually they will get the hang of it. Occasionally, they may still try to pull you – like if they see another dog or something they want to chase – but for the most part, the pulling will stop.
Once your dog has learned to properly walk with a head collar, you are ready to move on to the next step.
You may be wondering: why not just walk your dog with a head collar all the time? Because your dog hasn’t learned to stop pulling, they’ve just been prevented from pulling, which is why they don’t do it as much. As soon as you take the head collar off, the dog is going to start pulling again. The point of the head collar is to get your dog used to the idea of walking next to you rather than pulling in front of you or dragging behind.
Step 2. Reward Your Dog for Walking Properly
This step should be practiced in your yard or some other area where you have lots of control over them and it is unlikely they will see another dog or something else they may want to chase after. You can even practice this inside your home.
Leash your dog to a regular collar or harness and begin walking in a circle, keeping your dog to one side of, and only one side of you. Most trainers choose the left side, but it is up to you.
Any time the dog tries to change sides, pull ahead of you, or drag behind; stop in your tracks and command the dog to return. When the dog returns to the proper side, reward them with a treat, then continue walking.
Every so often, you should reward your dog with a treat simply for walking beside you, as well. Eventually, the dog will begin to associate walking beside you with getting a treat.
As your dog improves, reduce the reward frequency. You don’t want your dog to start begging for a treat every time they walk next you.
Resist the urge to yank on the dog’s leash or yell at them when they do pull away. This is only going to confuse them. Simply stop walking, and do not move any further until the dog returns to the proper walking position. Then reward them with a treat and continue.
Step 3. Take it to the Streets
Once your dog has learned how to walk properly in a controlled environment, it’s time to practice in public. Don’t be discouraged if your dog returns to their old ways the first time you do this. Just be patient and repeat the process you practiced in Step 2.
Teaching your dog to walk properly on a leash is not something that will happen overnight. It is a gradual process that takes lots of time and practice. The most important thing is that you do not get frustrated and give up.
You must be the one who remains in control. If you do not complete the training because you get too frustrated, it is like you are basically telling your dog, “Okay, you win. I give up. You are the pack master.” However, if you stick with the training, your dog will eventually learn that if they want to go for a walk, they need to walk with you on your terms.