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Tips for How to Train Your Dog to Not Pull on Their Leash

Boston Terrier sitting in grass with a leash


Taking your dog for a walk is a classic part of being a pup parent. And it can be a great bonding time and exercise for both of you. But if your dog constantly tugs and pulls on their leash, it can feel like your dog’s walking you. If you have a large breed dog, handling them on your stroll can prove incredibly challenging unless you train your dog not to pull on a walk.

Leash training is an integral part of teaching your dog proper behavior. It takes patience, consistency, and lots of positivity, but it’s well worth the effort. If you’re working with a puppy, start as soon as possible to instill good habits. Use a leash no more than 6 feet long and work in small stages, always rewarding desired behaviors.

Walking dog on a leash

7 Tips and Tricks to Stop Your Dog Pulling on a Walk

When you think of the perfect dog walk, what do you picture? Is it your pup walking calmly and obediently by your side and stopping when you stop? You can teach your dog to heel if this is your preference, but it’s unnecessary for a stress-free walk. 

Even your dog zig-zagging along as they excitedly sniff the ground while you walk is fine. But only if there’s no tension in the leash. That’s the main thing you want to focus on when working with your dog to not pull during a walk.

Ready to train your pup to walk politely on their leash? Start slow and steady.

1. Show Your Dog Their Leash and Harness Are Good Things

Dogs don't instinctively know what a harness and leash do. So snapping on a leash and expecting your pup to start walking nicely invites problems and frustration. Let your dog get used to these items first in the comfort of their usual surroundings. 

Give them a tasty treat when you put the harness on your dog. This simple action helps associate the harness with something positive. Let your pup wear the harness for short bouts of time during the day. Play with them and give them treats and repeat for a few days. Then, add the leash into the same routine.

2. Make Sure Your Dog Knows Basic Commands

Before attempting leash training, make sure your dog knows basic commands like sit, stay, and especially how to come to you. These can be valuable during a walk. 

Then, spend some time inside reviewing these commands while your dog is wearing their harness and leash. Make sure to incorporate a verbal cue for these commands, such as a clicker or a specific word. Establishing a sound you can use to immediately get your pup's attention is also essential. For example, if you use a clicker, give them a treat as soon as your dog responds to the sound.

3. Practice Inside First

Start training your dog to walk on a leash inside. You want to begin in a controlled environment with familiar surroundings, which means no distractions. If your dog starts to pull, stop and give the verbal cue. Reward them when they return. Once your pal can walk nicely on the leash and responds to you consistently, you can take things outside. (Bring the treats!)

4. Keep Your First Few Outside Sessions Short

You'll face more distractions when you're ready to up the ante and take your leash training outside. All sorts of exciting and enticing sights, sounds, and smells will add extra challenges to the process. So, keep your initial outside sessions short. 

Start just walking a few houses down, then return home. Gradually increase the distance over several days as you work up to a regular walk.

5. Don't Pull or Yank on the Leash

Don't pull back if your dog starts to get excited and tug on the leash. This will typically make your dog bark and yank even more. Also, be aware of subtle pulling on your part. Is the leash constantly taut during your walk because your dog is ahead of you? 

Do you need to hold on and add resistance to “keep your dog from pulling?” If there’s tension, your dog isn’t walking correctly on their leash. Aim to walk with the leash hanging loosely. The overall feeling throughout your walk should be relaxed and calm.

6. Use a Front-Hook or Head Harness if Your Dog Likes to Pull

If your canine pal tends to pull a lot, you might consider using a front-hook harness or head collar. These special harnesses don’t encourage pulling ahead. Once your dog stops pulling, you can try switching to a regular harness.

7. Stop and Smell the Roses (and Everything Else)

Many people think an obedient dog walks alongside you and doesn’t stop unless you stop. But dogs are dogs, and they like to sniff out fun and mysterious scents, whether a blade of grass, a leaf, or another dog’s butt.

If your dog is being polite, let them sniff and enjoy. A walk should be a fun time for both of you, not just a quick potty mission. Let your dog stop occasionally to sniff and investigate, then give them the verbal cue when it’s time to continue forward.

Dog running in grass with a leash

Handling Common Issues While Leash Training Your Dog

Focus on refining your technique as your dog gets better at not pulling during a walk. The ultimate goal should be to get your canine companion loose leash-walking and keep the experience stress-free. It’s also necessary if you plan to have your dog take the American Kennel Club’s Canine Good Citizen (CGC) Test.

If your dog starts to tug, stand still. Don't yank them back or try to pull them the other way. Use your verbal cue to get their attention and have them come to you. Reward them when they do so.

If your dog tries to lunge or you anticipate he's about to, grab his attention and show him a treat. Then reverse direction. After a few moments, try again. Distractions will happen, so you must train your dog to ignore certain things and respond to you above all. This not only keeps your walk pleasant, but it keeps your dog, you, and others safe.

If your dog loves to bark when they see other people or dogs, repeat the same steps when they try to lunge. You can also work with excessive barking issues as part of your regular training. It's vital to get this under control so you don't end up in a chaotic situation during your walk. Otherwise, you'll have a lunging, barking dog on your hands while juggling the leash, waste bags, and your pet's attention.

Ensuring your dog has adequate exercise and mental stimulation can help your pup behave better in public. Provide your pet with engaging toys, play with them, go on regular walks, and do things together to give them the necessary exercise. If you have an active breed, consider various canine sports or specific doggy jobs that could help your furry pal expend their excess energy.

These Paws Were Made for Walking

Leash training your dog is undoubtedly a thoughtful process requiring patience, but it's a simple concept. If you stick with it and keep things positive. You can look forward to many pleasant walks together. For more helpful tips, check out the rest of our blog. You'll find handy resources and ideas to help you become the ultimate pet parent.


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