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When dogs pull on leash like freight trains, it’s frustrating, exhausting and downright dangerous. It feels like your shoulder is dislocated during and after each walk, and your back muscles scream for mercy. Pulling strongly on leash is painful for dogs too, especially if they’re wearing a collar. While it may not seem painful to your dog, it’s important to note that his neck hurts just as bad as your shoulder. Over time, strong pulling dogs develop permanent shoulder and neck issues and so do their pet owners.
As pet owners, it’s our job to teach our dogs that hanging out with us is more fun than pulling on leash. While it may seem impossible, it’s actually very easy to teach.
If It Hurts, Why Does My Dog Pull on Leash?
Dogs pull on leash because they don’t know what to do instead of pulling. Dogs get excited, so they pull forward and their pet owners follow. This starts a vicious leash pulling cycle, which isn’t safe for anyone. If your dog pulls on leash, it’s important to teach your dog polite leash manners.
Ditch Your Leash
Until your strong pulling dog learns that staying next to you is rewarding, ditch your leash. Strong pulling dogs get really excited when leashes appear, and they immediately pull once the leash is attached. Plus, it’s difficult to manage your pulling dog, provide treats and reward good behavior at the same time. Since you’re ditching the leash, make sure to only practice this behavior in your home first.
Hanging Out With Me is Fun
Grab super yummy treats, such as cheese sticks, and practice in a low distraction area of your home. Practice while children are napping and other dogs are happily licking food stuffed Kongs in another room. Remember, you don’t need a leash for this exercise.
- Holding treats in your hand, take one step forward and wait for your dog to return to you. Don’t worry, your dog will likely hang out with you because treats are present. This sets you both up for success.
- When your dog chooses to walk back to you, say “yes” the moment he walks next to your shoes and give him a treat. When handing him an earned treat, drop the treat next to your shoes.
- Take another step and wait for your dog to stand next to you. If your dog hangs out with you, while you’re taking a step, immediately say “yes” and drop a treat at your feet.
- Take a step backwards, and reward when he returns or stays with you.
- Continue one step at a time.
- Keep dog training sessions short about 1-2 minutes long.
Take More Steps
Once your dog will remain with or return to you 90% of the time, it’s time to take three steps forward. Continue adding one step at a time, and walk around your home. If your dog chooses to hang out with you, while you’re walking around your home, say “yes” and reward often. Practice daily and keep training sessions short.
Time to Add a Leash
Once your strong pulling dog learns that hanging out with you is rewarding, it’s time to add a leash. Some dogs may regress a bit, because their leash is super exciting, so start with one step at a time. Check out this article and video for teaching your dog polite leash manners while wearing a leash. Usually, most strong pulling dogs zoom through this process because they’ve already learned that hanging out with their pet owners makes treats rain from the sky!
Reward this behavior often, and it will stick around!