We are in love with the idea of roaming through the woods and meadows with our favorite four-legged friends and maybe even making new friends in the process.
Does your dog pull on the leash? Have you ever been asked who is walking with whom?
Leash walking is an issue that many dog owners struggle with – so you’re not alone!
In this article, you will learn how to get your dog to stop pulling on the leash and go for stress-free laps with it.
In a nutshell: How to get your dog used to pulling on the leash
Your dog pulls on the leash and you want to break the habit? You must first find out the cause of this. Your dog’s behavior can have different motivations, e.g. pure boredom, hunting ambitions, fear, aggression, or dominance.
In order to train how to walk on a leash, there are individual solutions for every dog and owner. For example, making the walk more exciting for the hunting-motivated taster and incorporating specific exercises to control impulses.
You should carefully confront your scaredy-cat with conspecifics so that he learns step by step that nothing will happen to him in your presence.
Research into the causes: Why does my dog pull on the leash?
Your dog pulls on the leash and nothing helps? In order to find out which is the right solution for you and your dog, we must first investigate the cause.
Your dog was not taught to walk on a leash
Many dog owners give dogs from the animal shelter or animal welfare a home and then wonder about their little “surprise package”.
What they have experienced in their previous life is often not known or only partially known. Especially when it comes to street dogs, it is obvious that very few have enjoyed training or have ever been on a leash.
You should be aware of this when choosing your dog!
Your dog is bored
You see them again and again, the dogs hanging a smartphone zombie at the end of the leash. Some dog owners see walking their dog more as a nuisance than as a joint venture with their faithful four-legged friend.
So who is surprised if some dogs look for their own occupation. By pulling on the leash, the dog can easily get to where it wants to go and it simply drags its zombie with it.
Your dog is motivated to hunt
Does your dog no longer lift its nose off the ground? He meticulously absorbs every smell and hangs fully on the leash?
Then your dog will probably have looked for and found an exciting smell and now he wants to get to the bottom of it!
Hunting motivation can also cause your dog to pull on the leash.
Your dog has more say than you
Does your dog always run away from the front? Up the route, pricked up your ears?
Then it may be that he thinks he has to clear the way for you. Checking the situation so he can take care of you. He sees himself above you in the hierarchy and thinks he has to protect you.
Your dog is scared or aggressive
Does your dog pull and bark on the leash? If you carry a small leash with you, there can also be various reasons.
Here it is easy to find out from the posture whether your dog is bulling on the leash out of fear or out of aggression. Bad experiences can cause your dog to become aggressive or fearful when on a leash.
If your dog behaves like Rambo on the leash, then feel free to check out our article on leash aggression.
Leash leadership: The right solution is often individual
Just like us humans, our dogs are all different. They bring their own character and different previous experiences with them. Of course, the right solution for you also depends on your nature.
Has your dog not been taught how to walk on a leash?
In this case, you just start from the beginning. Have you adopted an adult dog? He can learn to walk just like a puppy without pulling on the leash – even if he’s never done it before.
It is important that your dog connects the leash positively. This means you have a party every time the dog is leashed. The leash should not be associated with limitation and certainly not with punishment.
Take small steps to show your dog that walking with you on a leash is fun. You can also start the training at home. Here your dog will have fewer distractions to begin with and will find it easier to focus on you.
Make your walks exciting and varied
Dogs in particular, which often have to be kept on a leash due to a lack of obedience, quickly become bored.
It’s up to you to be exciting enough for your dog so that he doesn’t feel like he has to drag you into the adventure.
You and your dog just walking around side by side? On your next walk, try to get your dog’s attention.
You can do that with different commands or games, for example:
- Hide some treats in tree bark and let your dog find them – he will celebrate you for it!
- By changing pace – sometimes run faster and sometimes slower, so your dog has to match your pace. You can also teach him the “slow” command.
- Make frequent changes of direction and take varied paths (not always the same ones).
Control hunting instinct
Your dog jumps on the leash as soon as you enter the forest?
If your dog pulls on the leash out of hunting ambitions, doing something together can also redirect its behavior here. You won’t be able to train your dog’s hunting instinct away, but you can control it.
Small training units for impulse control are helpful in this case. To do this, put a treat in front of your dog’s nose, which you claim for yourself first. It’s YOUR treat! Only when you give your dog permission to do so with a command can it eat the treat.
In this way, your dog learns not to follow an impulse directly, but to wait for your permission.
Does your dog like to stray through the forest on its own and is it generally a very independent personality?
Test how attached he is to you and hide in the woods if he’s gone too far for your liking. He’ll be looking for you for sure!
You can repeat this as often as you like on your rounds and your dog will learn to orientate itself more towards you.
Show your dog who’s holding the leash!
Not all of us are authoritarian by nature and some find it difficult to make clear statements. Dogs need this! They need a strong “pack leader” from whom they believe in leadership qualities.
Dogs with a strong character in particular like to put this to the test and feel responsible for checking their master or mistress regularly. If you have such an alpha puppy on a leash, your training doesn’t start on the walk, but at home!
Of course, training varies from dog to dog.
It can help to limit your dog’s space and what he’s allowed to do first. Does every chair and sofa really have to be accessible to him? no Does he always have to get some of your food? no
You have more rights than your dog and especially with dominant dogs you MUST demand them.
It’s not about oppressing your dog or engaging in “power struggles” with him on a regular basis. You are a person and not a dog, your four-legged friend knows that too. The aim should be for your dog to voluntarily subordinate itself to you, trust you and seek connection with you – because it feels safe around you.
Pay attention to your dog’s body language
Is your dog barking at other dogs and pulling on the leash? You should pay close attention to your dog’s body language. Is his perceived aggression forward or is he hiding behind you?
Many anxious dogs want to keep other dogs at bay by barking. In this case, you want to create as many positive dogs encounter as possible.
Go for a walk with other dog owners, let your four-legged friend regain trust, and make new dog friends.
Whether your dog is aggressive when on a leash or frightened, don’t avoid the confrontation. Talk to other dog owners if you can walk a piece together.
The more often you do this, the more your dog will become accustomed to peaceful contact with other dogs.
Always treat your dog respectfully, lovingly, consistently, and with a lot of patience!
Does your dog move to other dogs?
Other dogs mean parties, games, and fun for your dog. He has probably linked this to previous dog encounters and therefore gravitates madly to his conspecifics.
Many dog owners want their pup to socialize as much as possible and let them play with any dogs they come across. Of course, this is good at first, but it can become a problem as you get older.
Because once the dog is fully grown, not all dog contacts are necessarily desired. This can result in your dog developing leash aggression because he doesn’t understand why he is no longer allowed to go to all dogs.
One way to make dog encounters more relaxed is to completely eliminate contact on the leash. This means that your dog is only allowed to go to his fellows as soon as he is off the leash.
In general, good leash handling also helps with more relaxed dog encounters.
In short: train your dog to stop pulling on the leash
Your dog pulls on the leash and nothing helps?
First, you should find out the reason why your dog is pulling on the leash and barking. This can have a variety of reasons, from fear and aggression to poor parenting, negative experiences, and boredom.
There are individual causes and solutions for every dog. It’s also always helpful to seek advice from a local dog trainer before the problem worsens.