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Walking a dog that pulls on the leash is frustrating, exhausting, and can even cause muscle strain. However, since walks are such an important way for most dogs to get exercise and relieve anxiety, pulling on the leash is a challenge that many dog owners have no choice but to overcome.
In this article, we’ll offer helpful tips to help you stop your dog from pulling on the leash, suggest some equipment that might alleviate your physical strain, and recommend where to look for help if needed.
If your dog is motivated by food, rewards-based training could be a fantastic way to break his habit of pulling on the leash. The Animal Humane Society recommends holding treats in your hand as you walk your dog. As you walk, reward your dog periodically when the leash is slack. If your dog pulls stop walking and redirect your dog’s attention back to you.
Never offer your dog treats when the leash is taught, as this will encourage pulling. The key is to reward your dog at instances when the leash is loose.
Eventually, you should stop rewarding your dog exclusively with treats as this could lead him to cooperate only when you carry treats, and never when you don’t. Remember that praise and affection are powerful rewards too.
Another way to teach your dog not to pull is by abruptly changing directions when he begins pulling. There’s no need to yank on your dog’s leash when you do this. The aim is simply to remind your dog that he needs to pay attention to you during the walk. When you change direction, your dog will be forced to follow along so he doesn’t get left behind.
With consistent reinforcement, your dog will soon learn to look to you for cues during the walk so that he doesn’t miss out on anything.
Harnesses that enable you to clip the leash to the front are a great way of subtly correcting your dog’s tendency to pull. They won’t solve the problem entirely, but they are a step in the right direction.
Each time your dog starts to pull, the leash will pull his chest back toward you which reminds him of your presence and subtly redirects his attention back to you. Using a harness in combination with rewards-based training is a powerful way to correct your dog’s tendency to pull.
If you find yourself becoming exasperated with the training process, it may be beneficial to work with a trainer.
A good trainer will be able to provide encouragement and make adjustments to your training regiment to ensure you achieve the desired result. Your dog trainer will be able to spot minor things you’re doing that may be confusing your dog and limiting your success.
Additionally, a trainer will have a vast knowledge of training methods and be able to recommend one that is best suited to both you and your dog. He will also be able to demonstrate his techniques and help you implement them correctly.
So, while you may be able to train your dog on your own, hiring a trainer could seriously speed up your results, thus saving you a lot of time and frustration.
The key to success when it comes to learning anything new is consistent practice. Make sure you work on breaking your dog’s leash pulling habit on every walk. No exceptions. It's important to remember that some environments, such as the dog park or the beach, may offer extra stimulation, making it harder for your dog to resist the tendency to pull.
At first, you may need to keep training sessions short, always ending on a positive note. In time, as your dog masters this skill, you’ll be able to expand training sessions to last longer. Once your dog gets the hang of walking on a loose leash, don’t be afraid to make the challenge harder.
Remember, dogs aren’t perfect! Even the most well-trained dogs will pull on their leash if they see something extremely intriguing, whether it’s a hot-dog stand or another dog they’re just dying to meet.
Always be aware of your surroundings so you can anticipate any triggers that might cause your dog to pull. If you’re prepared, you’ll be able to redirect your dog’s attention before he starts pulling and save yourself the strain on your arms.
The tips we shared above can be employed individually or in conjunction, and it’s important to remember that your dog may not respond to all of them. With patience and persistence, you’ll eventually find the right formula to correct your dog’s tendency to pull.
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Nothing in this article should be construed as financial, legal or veterinary advice. Please consult your own advisors for questions relating to your and your pet’s specific circumstances.
1 Pet Insurance offered by MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 485 Madison Avenue, NY, NY 10022, and Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886, in those states where MetGen’s policies are available. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is the policy administrator authorized by IAIC and MetGen to offer and administer pet insurance policies. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC was previously known as PetFirst Healthcare, LLC and in some states continues to operate under that name pending approval of its application for a name change. The entity may operate under an alternate, assumed, and/or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions as approved, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota), MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois), and such other alternate, assumed, or fictitious names approved by certain jurisdictions.