Leash training a dog, is effectively achieved by teaching him one simple fact-
Instead, walking properly next to us, is the quickest way to get to his destination.
To teach this lesson, it is important NOT to reward our dog for pulling.
Do not let our dog drag us along, and do not pet or give him any affection while he is pulling. Teach him to walk on a loose leash first, before attempting to walk him close to us in a heel position.
Here are some leash training techniques:
1. Red-Light, Green-Light
A simple way to leash train a dog and teach him not to pull, is to …
- Stop walking when the leash is taut, and
- Start moving again when the leash is loose.
We do not even need to say anything to our dog. Through our actions, he will figure out the rules of the game.
When we stop, some dogs may decide to roam around and smell whatever is available in the environment. To stop this, I usually shorten the leash and bring my dog in next to me. This does a better job at limiting his freedom, which makes this technique more effective.
In addition, I only start moving again after my dog does a Sit next to me. I use a shorter lead in the beginning, then slowly lengthen it if my dog walks nicely, and without pulling. By changing the length of the lead, we can control the amount of freedom our dog has, and further motivate him not to pull.
Initially, we may need to stop very frequently, so be ready for really short walks. However, it is important to be patient and absolutely consistent with the stop rule. Otherwise, our dog will learn that if he pulls enough times, we will give-in and let him go wherever he wants. This encourages him to pull more in the future.
2. 180 Degree Turn
Depending on the age and temperament of our dog, frequent hard stops may cause him to get frustrated. Too much pent-up frustration can make a dog act out in other ways, for example, he may resort to leash biting.
If we are training an easily frustrated or excitable dog, it may be more effective to use the 180-turn technique.
As soon as our dog starts to pull, quickly turn around and start walking in the opposite direction. In this way, the dog can release his pent-up energy, because he is still doing something physical – walking. At the same time, he learns that when he pulls, he just gets farther away from his desired destination.
If our dog walks properly on a loose leash for a few seconds, we can mark him for his good behavior (Good), turn back, and resume our walk. If he starts pulling again, it is fine to walk back and forth on the same stretch of ground until he learns not to pull.
3. Hand Targeting
Start by training the dog to target our hand at home.
First, I put some dog treats in my hand, and make sure my dog knows that it is there. Then, I put my hand close to his muzzle and say Nose. As soon as my dog touches my hand with his nose, I mark him (Yes) and treat him. I repeat this exercise until I am confident that he has learned the command.
Next, I move a few steps away, put my hand out in the same gesture, and say Nose. When he moves toward me and touches my hand, I mark the behavior (Yes) and treat. I keep repeating this inside the house, then continue the exercise in the backyard.
Once we are comfortable doing this in the backyard, we can try using this technique outside.
If the dog pulls, non-mark him (Uh-oh), get him to do a Sit, re-target him on our hand, and continue the leash training session.
In this way, our dog learns that pulling is inappropriate, and walking close to us will get him affection and treats. We can treat less often, and slowly phase out the treats altogether, once our dog learns to walk calmly by our side.
4. Collar Correction/ Leash Correction/ Leash Jerk
A collar correction must be a quick jerk of the leash. There is only tension for an extremely short amount of time (a quarter-second or less), and then the leash should be loose again. Most people tend to do tugs rather than jerks, which will do little in training the dog.
Tugs may actually exacerbate the situation, because it places continuous tension on the leash. This tension may cause the dog to get tense and frustrated.
We must also be properly positioned for the collar correction, so that the force is always to the side rather than directly back. Jerking to the back may encourage the dog to lunge forward to oppose the force, thus causing him to pull even more.
To work well in leash training, collar corrections must be executed with the proper force, proper timing, and proper redirection. This is necessary so that the dog learns that pulling is wrong, without becoming afraid of his surroundings, or distrustful of his owner.
If not properly implemented, a collar correction may backfire and cause additional behavioral problems including dog aggression.
Only use collar corrections as a last resort. Only use collar corrections under the direction of an experienced professional trainer.
How to Stop Dog Pulling
Some dogs and some dog breeds will pull more than others. For example, I have two Siberian Huskies, and they both pull more than my Shiba Inu, because Huskies are bred to pull. However, by starting training early and being very consistent, even Huskies can be trained to walk at a measured pace by our side.
In the beginning, I leash train my dog in the backyard, where there are very few distractions. Once my dog is comfortable walking there without pulling, I move on to more quiet areas of the neighborhood. Another alternative is to walk during off-peak hours, where there are fewer people and dogs around.
By carefully choosing our training environments, we can set our dog up for success, and help build his confidence. Once he is comfortable walking in a given area, we can slowly increase the level of distraction.
Before we know it, we will be enjoying a wonderful neighborhood walk with our dog! 😀