I love nothing more than taking my puppy out for a walk. But it is not fun or safe for you or anyone to have a dog take you for a walk, as pulling while wearing a collar can actually damage your dog’s throat. Plus when your puppy is no longer a puppy, especially if they are a large breed dog, the pulling will not be good for your body either. Training your puppy to walk nicely on lead without pulling will be better for everyone.
Also consider using a front clip harness for your dog instead of a flat collar. It is a much safer option to look after their neck and their trachea.
Why do dogs pull?
To get to whatever is out ahead: Great smells, other dogs, open spaces, fun and adventure. Pulling gets dogs to what they want faster. As a strategy, it works. This is why it is best to teach dogs loose-leash walking as early as possible. Pulling is rewarding to the dog, so the more he does it, the harder it is for him to give it up. If you have an expert puller, however, don’t despair. Any dog can be taught loose-leash walking.
When do I start?
Once your puppy has had a couple of days to settle into your home, become familiar with you and your family and starts to feel safe, it is time to begin your training. It’s important to note that a lead and a collar are foreign objects to your pup so they need to get used to wearing them first.
Before your puppy is fully vaccinated it is still important to get them out and about, but in a safe manor. You can practice walking around the house with your puppy first, without even using a lead. You want your dog to want to stay close to you. Use treats. Get him to focus on you. Every time he looks at you and stays close, give him a treat. Make sure to start off doing this inside the house with no distractions. You can then move it outside into the garden. See below for actual steps on teaching this.
Training your Puppy to Walk on Lead – without Pulling!
Step 1: Your dog learns to stand calmly next to you without pulling away.
- Load one hand with treats.
- Praise and treat when your dog is calm and/or looking at you.
- If your dog pulls away from you, don’t yank the leash and don’t reel him back in. Stand still and wait until he returns to you. If he is very distracted, call his name.
- When he comes back to you, praise and treat.
Step 2: Your dog learns to stay close to you while walking.
- With your dog standing calmly next to you, say his name and, “Let’s go.”
- Praise and treat after the first step, as long as your dog doesn’t dash forward.
- Keep walking and praise/treat every other step.
- Gradually increase the number of steps in between rewards.
- If your dog starts pulling, stop and wait until there is some slack in the leash again. Then take a step with him and reward him quickly for walking near you.
- Keep him guessing. Sometimes reward after 1 step, sometimes after 5, then again after 2, then after 7.
Let your Dog Sniff without pulling
It’s also important to note that sniffing is very important for your dog when out on a walk. They learn so much about the world through their noses. They love it and it is great for mental stimulation. Believe it or not – letting your dog walk slowly on lead and sniff everything, will be more tiring for them then a really fast walk. In saying that, letting your dog sniff, shouldn’t mean letting your dog pull you. Creating a “let’s go” command is a great idea too when it comes to sniffing. Let them sniff and then when it is enough, put a treat to their nose and say “let’s go”. As they follow the treat, pop it in their mouth and keep walking. With repetition, they will learn this skill and you will be able to let them sniff but still have a say, when it’s enough and time to keep walking.
The biggest thing I have learnt through our experience with Cooper is that you need to remember that your puppy is experiencing everything for the first time and they are SO curious! So, if you want a well-trained dog on the lead, you need to be patient and persistent. Start out gradually and get it right with minimal distractions before building up to walks in busy places with lots of distractions. They will get it, if you teach them with lots of reinforcement. Always rewarding the behaviours we want to see more.
Disclaimer: Cooper and Kids will not be liable for anything that happens to you, your dog or children by following the advice and tips in this article. If you have real concerns or worries about your dog and/or safety of your children, please seek out a professional to come and assess the situation asap.