Why do dogs pull on the lead ?
The main reasons a dog will pull on a lead is excitement, they haven’t been taught not to and because it works for them. If you think about it, to a dog the outside world is hugely stimulating, there are lots of smells to be smelt, spots to be peed on, lots of things moving around and lots of different sounds. If a dog is never shown how to walk properly on the lead then pulling will be their ‘normal’. If a dog pulls and the human on the other end is hanging on for dear life, being pulled this way and that, then the dog is leading the walk and the human is following. This will make it very hard for the dog to accept, if and when the human tries to issue commands, as the dog will believe he is running the show, outside at least. To prevent your dog from pulling it is important that he knows that you are leading the walk and you decide what happens. Therefore lead training is fundamental to the relationship you have with your dog. He needs to know that you are in control and that he can trust you to make the decisions when out and about. The walk needs to be pleasant for both you and your dog, it is a very bonding experience and where your dog learns to follow you.
Behaviours such as pulling are the outward expression of the state of mind. So when you reward a physical behaviour you are also rewarding the state of mind that caused the behaviour.
How to stop pulling on lead
If you do have a dog that pulls then it is time to change up your routine for a while, and the time it takes will depend on each dog. A lot of people will have a routine in place for walking the dog ie, an hour before work, but walking a dog that pulls is not a pleasant experience, and can put us in a bad state of mind before even leaving the house. It is important for a dog to get the physical exercise he needs but not at the expense of his training. So while doing this training remember that psychological work is also exercise for your dog. If you really only have that one hour then that is what you work with. The training starts from the minute you decide to take the dog out. Pick up the lead, if the dog gets excited put it back down, repeat until you are holding the lead and the dog is calm. Put on lead and just wait until the dog is calm and more than likely looking at you. Proceed to the door, open it but stop and when the dog is calm, YOU walk through the door and call your dog out. Throughout all of these procedures do not speak to the dog or give any commands, such as sit, stay or anything else he understands, he needs to work out what you are asking for himself He will soon realise that you are asking for calm, relaxed behaviour. If you don’t get it just stop whatever you are doing ie; put the lead down, take off your coat, sit back down, close the door etc. This may be all you manage to do within your one hour slot but don’t worry because this is still exercise for the dog, just a different kind. If you undertake all of this the dog will catch on very quickly and you will be able to leave the house calmly. Once outside, if the dog then starts to pull, just stop, say nothing, wait for calm and then move on. Or if he tries to pull you to something just change direction, letting the dog know that the only way to go anywhere is to walk without pulling. By you taking control of the walk it will be a calm and relaxing experience for you both. This will enhance the relationship you have with your dog as you show him that he can relax and enjoy himself and you will make the decisions. These techniques will demonstrate to your dog that the only way to leave the house is calmly, that you are leading the walk and that he can trust you enough to follow you.