Why Do Dogs Pull on the Leash???
So why do dogs pull on the leash? Well the simple answer is…they have never been taught not to. I know that seems very obvious and probably a little on the frustrating side but it really is the truth. You have to remember that puppies and even dogs, for that matter, were not born wearing collars and leashes, and they really have no idea what these contraptions are for, unless we teach them. Dogs, like many people, are instant gratification animals. If they see something they want or are interested in, they go investigate! Unfortunately if you are connected to afore mentioned dog via a leash, they simply drag you along for the ride! A dog that pulls has nothing to do with dominance or malice; they simply don’t yet understand what these tools are for and why on earth you have chosen to make them wear these weird feeling things.
Without getting into name calling, let’s just say some people in the realm of dog training look at the pulling on a leash as a direct challenge to their authority and a way for a dog to dominate them. Really? Come on now, do you really think dogs are in the “world domination” business? Dogs do not have the cognitive ability to make or even attempt these grandiose power grabs…at least in the way some humans interpret them! Dogs, if left to their own devices (without prior training,) simply figure out what works and what does not! I am a firm believer in the fact that dogs will not do anything that is not rewarding to them! Up till now, in Fido’s life he has learned that the fastest way to get to that “crazy squirrel” is to save time and drag Mom or Dad over there as well! It has always worked in the past and Mom & Dad must not mind because all they do is hold on and yell (bark) like crazy on the way. Have you thought that to the dog, it might just appear you are having as much fun as he/she is on the way to see said squirrel??? So how do we go about teaching Fido not to pull, you ask? Well in this guy’s opinion it starts with wrapping the leash around your waist, putting one foot in front of the other and using a basic obedience command! This does NOT mean using choke chains, leash jerk, raised frustration and increased blood pressure for both you and the dog!
As we discussed earlier, puppies/dogs have no idea what a leash or collar are for and it is our job to teach it right from the beginning. So, let’s start simple and use the idea of tethering to teach Fido that being close to mom or dad is a good thing! Start by cinching a 6 foot leash around your waist and attaching it to the dog! Now you have, in a matter of speaking, an umbilical cord between you and your dog! Not to mention, and very important, you have eliminated your hands from the picture! In many cases we create our own problems with leashes by constantly tugging, pulling and jerking on our dogs without even realizing it! Remember Newton’s third law of motion? Every action has an equal and opposite reaction! By putting pressure on the dog’s neck, even without realizing it, you are the one creating the opposite pull by the dog! By simply taking your hands out of the equation you are starting the learning process!
The next step in the process is asking the dog for a sit! If you have not taught your dog this command, stop immediately and go back to the blog posts on this command and learn sit! You cannot continue leash training without this basic command! Now, with the dog attached to you via the leash, but without the use of your hands, take one giant step in any direction and ask Fido for a sit! Once the dog is sitting, CLICK, LAVISH WITH PRAISE AND GIVE A FOOD REWARD! Again, take one giant step, ask for a sit and reward. Before you know it, you are walking all over the house one step at a time, while keeping the dog’s attention and guess what…no pull! As you get better, you will now take two giant steps then up it to three between sits; and as time goes by the giant step become normal steps and now we are walking. When you get really good inside the house, take this show on the road! Remember however, that walking in the living room and the front yard are totally different ball games! The distractions of the front yard are really hard and you will probably have to go back to the one giant step stage for a while before moving on!
This sounds really simple and it is, but it teaches three critical aspects of dog training! First that to walk a dog well, you need to have a loose leash! The dog should follow you and your movements not the directional’s they feel on their neck! Two, that by keeping a close eye on their owner and paying attention (see “watch me” command) Fido is rewarded on a walk, and third that anytime the human stops on a walk the dog should also stop and sit, waiting for what’s next!
This, in my opinion, is the perfect way to teach a puppy or young dog to walk nicely on a leash. But what, if anything, can be done with a dog who has already learned that pulling is not only allowed, but also rewarded? Don’t worry, we can handle that one also, and in many ways it will follow these basic principles, just using different techniques! Be aware, it will take time and practice to change bad habits. So, get your walking shoes, your dog and be willing to admit that it won’t be a quick fix. Then, enjoy the next post on “what to do when walking is already broke?”
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