Friday, May 15, 2009

Q & A - Dogs Who Pull on their Leash

In my blog comments I was asked:

"Thanks for the opportunity of sharing information! I have a question regarding the different collars and harnesses available. I have a 10 month old Labradoodle who is 60+ pounds and pulls a lot on walks. I don't feel that choker collars are very humane and I tried a gentle lead which worked for awhile but now he paws at it when we're walking. I just bought a harness that attaches to the leash in front (instead of by his shoulder blades). Do you have any advice on collars and the best use of them - especially for a growing and sometimes ornery puppy?"

Great question! I walk several dogs that are strong pullers. While every dog is different, here are some of the things I learned.

Some dogs seem to have an instinct to pull, and the more you tug the leash, the harder they'll pull against it! In some cases, this can damage a dog's throat, and definitely make the walk much less enjoyable.

I have a few suggestions to help when walking your dog:

1. Loose-leash training: The idea here is to train your dog to walk with a loose leash. Start by holding your dog's leash while he's in the sit position. I recommend starting off with lots of irresistible treats to keep his attention on you. Start to walk with your dog at your side, and if he walks close to you without pulling, praise him and give him little pieces of treat as you walk. Keep walking, praising, and offering treats. If he starts to pull, say "No," (I use a low growl tone for this) and stop walking. Make the dog sit for a minute before trying again. The idea is to teach him that when his attention is on you, and the leash is slack, it's fun and treat time! And when he pulls, fun time is over. While learning, you may find yourself stopping on almost every step. That's okay - it does take time to learn and he will learn if you practice with him every day!

2. Gentle Leader / Halti: I just love these things. :) For those who don't know, a GL or Halti is a halter-type lead, similar to the bridal on a horse, that allows you to control your dog's head (and when you control the head, you control the whole body). This is a very humane way of controlling the headstrong dog. That said, most dogs will resist the gentle lead at first. This can often be dealt with by regular use, letting your dog get used to the new lead, and even using treats and praise to let your dog associate the lead with positive things. I recommend trying it for a few weeks. Your dog will resist (after all, he just wants to pull, pull, pull!) but it is very likely he will adjust after a few weeks.

3. The Pet Sitters Trick: A little pet sitting trick I use when walking a new dog that wants to pull: I will take the dog's leash, run it under their front leg, and then up through the collar, creating a kind of noose around one front leg. This isn't painful to the dog - just a little awkward, and it's usually enough to stop the dog from ripping my arm out of the socket while on our walk. If a dog still insists on pulling, then I discontinue using this method.

I hope one of these methods helps you. And please let me know how your new harness is working, I'm sure others could benefit from knowing as well.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for visiting my blog and THANK YOU for your comment about my handsome boy!

    It's late now and I have to be back at the show at week sometime we'll talk dogs. I have a few good questions for you!

    Love your blog....