Walking nicely on the lead: How to stop your dog pulling on the lead
Going out for walkies can be the most exciting part of your dog’s day. It’s easy to see why they might start pulling on their lead to get where they want faster. To make sure you’re safe from being pulled over, it’s important to teach them to walk calmly.
One of the most common reasons dogs pull on their lead is because they’ve learned that’s how they get to move forward. Whenever your dog pulls, taking just one step with them gives a clear signal that pulling works.
Teaching your dog to walk with a loose lead takes a great deal of patience and time. But it’ll be well worth it when you’re out on a lovely, calm stroll with your best pal.
Choose equipment that is comfortable and safe
A quick Internet search will show you equipment that promises to ‘cure’ pulling. Some equipment causes pain or discomfort when the dog pulls by putting tension in a sensitive area. This is unnecessary and can be unpleasant and confusing for them.
Walk your dog using whatever piece of equipment is most comfortable for them (such as a flat harness or collar). If using a harness, introduce it in a gentle, fun way.
Reward your dog when they are by your side
Teach your dog that being near you pays off.
Starting in your home or garden where it’s calmer, reward your dog for sitting or standing by your side. It’s much easier for your dog to learn new behaviours in quiet places where they won’t be easily distracted. Practice without their lead to begin with, and then introduce it once your dog is reliably following you.
You may need to hold some tasty treats or a toy to get your dog by your side to start with. You’ll need to do this less over time but remember to always praise them when they stick close to you.
Next, add in movement.
As you move forward, reward you dog whenever they are by your side. When they begin to get the hang of it, slowly increase the time and distance between rewards.
Changing direction every so often will teach your dog to keep a close eye on you. Gradually build in more distractions but remember to always go at your dog’s pace. If they are struggling, go back to a stage where they were successful and take things slower.
You’ll probably need to use lots of treats at the start, but as your dog gets better you can cut down – eventually just giving them a treat or some praise every so often.
Stop walking when the lead starts to tighten
Teach your dog that walking next to you with a loose lead means they get to move forward – and pulling means they don’t. The second the lead starts to tighten, stop walking. Stand still, keep quiet and don’t move forward again until the lead is slack. Don’t jerk the lead back or tell your dog off – just stand and wait calmly and quietly.
If your dog does not turn back to you, try walking a couple of steps in the opposite direction to get their focus back.
Consistency is key
Be consistent with your training each time you go out with your dog. This may take time but will be well worth the effort in the end.
You should expect walks to take longer while your dog is learning. But if you stick with it, your reward will be enjoyable walkies with a calm, happy dog who no longer pulls.
What to do if you can’t be 100% consistent
If you’re not able to be 100% consistent (e.g. if you’re running late but you still need to pop out with your pooch), it can make things easier to have two different harnesses.
You can use one harness when you don’t have time for training, to give your dog ‘permission to pull’ while they’re wearing it. And use a different harness, or attach the lead to your dog’s collar, for training sessions and for everyday walks once they no longer pull.
Your dog will learn the difference between the two and that they can pull on one but not the other. But be aware, it’s likely to take your dog longer to learn to stop pulling with this method.
If you’ve found this page helpful, please consider leaving a small donation to help us create more useful advice.
You can also sign up to our free newsletter for more tips and tricks, and to keep up to date with all things Dogs Trust.