Are you training your dog to pull on the lead?!
It is so easy to train your dog to pull on the lead. Dogs are simply motivated to explore the exciting world around them and want to see (and sniff!) as much as possible. One of the main reasons dogs pull on the lead is because they have learnt it is a quick way to get them moving forward to explore more of the environment.
If your dog pulls at any point during their walk and you move forward with them, then you are actually training them that pulling works – even if you only take one or two steps forward! Judging by how uncomfortable this behaviour can be for dogs, and I’m sure you’ve seen a number dogs (or maybe even your own dog) who will literally choke themselves in order to pull forward, the reward of moving forward is higher in value.
Another reason lots of dogs pull is due to the 'opposition reflex'. This is the natural instinctual reflex behaviour to push against or away from physical contact in any direction. If someone pushes us, we push back. With a dog on the lead, if they feel pressure on their neck, there is a natural response to pull against it.
If you think you have inadvertently taught your dog to pull on the lead than here are a few quick tips to help you get started on your loose lead walking journey. While we go through the process of teaching your dog to walk nicely on a loose lead, we need to have a few methods of management in place. These methods help to avoid the practise and reinforcement of the undesired behaviour, which is pulling on the lead.
Management method 1: Not walking your dog on lead outside of the house until we have completed the first stages of training. This does not mean not walking your dog at all! The way we avoid walking the dog on lead is to drive to a walk where you dog can be off lead or on a training line for their walk. If you don't let your dog off lead normally when out and about then it would be a good idea to buy a longline/training lead so they have freedom and don't practise pulling on lead.
Management method 2: This one is a little time consuming but if you have no time restraints then it works well. You can walk your dog on lead but if they pull, you stop. Your dog should learn that pulling doesn't get them where they want to go and that their lead needs to be loose to continue walking. You will wait for the lead to loosen before continuing. Just bear in mind that this can get very tedious for you if you do not pair it with a great reward structure to show them when they are doing the right thing.
If you need more help with loose lead walking and how to train it, then check out our ‘Heavenly Heelwork’ course at scdt.online!
Sussex County Dog Training