That’s a great question! If you have never had to train a dog before, you probably assumed that they just all nicely on the leash. After all, that’s what all the dogs do at the park, right? Sadly, not. You actually have to teach your pup what to do and how to expect walk time to go.
Before we begin, an important point to remember is that choke collars and other adverse training methods are not recommended. You should never use aggressive or domination-based training, and scolding your dog is going to do more harm than good. When you train, the focus is on making the process as enjoyable as possible so your dog can learn what you want them to do. We will focus on three primary ways that people like to train their dogs to stop pulling so much: Training with treats, corrective training, and using no-pull harnesses. The best way to train would involve all three together, allowing you to reinforce your training in several ways.
Leash Training with Treats
Leash training with treats is simple: you want to reward your dog every time that they walk next to you rather than pull. This can be done either by holding a treat in your hand so your dog will naturally follow along and sniff at your hand as you go. Then, with your pup walking alongside you, you reward him or her.
If your dog is too small to follow at your hand, you may try putting something like peanut butter onto a long kitchen ladle, and holding that as you walk so your dog gets that reward as he walks along. This teaches your dog that walking next to you is fun, pleasurable, and what you expect. You can do this in your home at first without a leash before heading outdoors.
Over time, you want to stop treating as much. At that point, walking alongside you should be natural for your dog.
If you have a pup that pulls a lot, using a no-pull harness that clips to the leash will help to teach your dog to stop pulling so much. When your dog tries to pull while wearing a no-pull harness, they end up unintentionally flipping themselves around instead. This is very similar to the corrective training that was recommended just prior and further reinforces the idea that your dog needs to stop pulling if he or she wants to enjoy the walk. Check out our review of two great no-pull harnesses.
Corrective Leash Training
You can also correct any attempts to yank at the leash with a simple technique: spinning around. Your dog usually pulls because he or she wants to go see something, something is exciting and your dog is trying to lead you there. However, you should be leading your dog, not the other way around! If at any point, you notice that your dog tries to pull you, you must make sure that you turn around. Lead your dog away from what the dog wanted. In doing so, you teach your dog that you both go wherever you want to go, not where the dog wants you to go.
If your dog pulls, immediately correct by turning away from the direction that the dog has pulled and walk the other direction instead. Your correction should be joined with a quick, sharp vocal cue that shows that you are unhappy with the dog. Something like “Uh-uh,” or “Ack ack!” tells your dog that you do not approve. As your dog learns that pulling causes you to go away from what he or she wants to see, the pulling should stop.
By putting these three methods to work, you should see great improvements in your dog’s temperament. And, you should find that walking with your dog becomes much more enjoyable!