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  • Kristen VanNess

Top 3 Reasons Your Dog Is Still Pulling on the Leash and How To Fix it

Every week we hear from families who have tried everything and still have dogs that pull on the leash. Here are a few areas we focus on to help families succeed.

The Treats Aren't Good Enough

If we are giving a dog treats for walking with us, we would expect a dog to walk at our side more often. This doesn’t always happen - and it tells us that the treats are not appropriate for the task at hand. Unfortunately, the dog is the one to decide what is rewarding - not us! We can look at what your dog might like more. Does he want plain boiled chicken? Canned cat food? Some fish-smelling treats? Each dog is different. If we have the right reward, we will see progress with our training.

Watch your dog’s response as he takes the treat. Does he take it and walk away, or is he taking the treat and asking you for more? We want to see that he’s not just politely taking the treat but eagerly engaging with you. We can change how we present the treat to make it more fun and interactive.

The Environment is Too Distracting

Rather than starting in the park or outside when the school bus drives by, we might need to start in a more boring environment. This might be your living room, your backyard, or driving to a quiet parking lot. We can’t train in an environment with absolutely no distractions. We can help a dog be successful by working in an area with fewer distractions, to begin with.

We can then gradually work towards your goal environments and add more distractions after establishing a foundation. We aren’t avoiding the problem forever - we just need a better starting environment.

Treat Delivery is Off

As humans, it’s easy to offer treats to a dog in front of us. It’s a comfortable hand position, and we can easily see the dog. If we use the same hand position when a dog walks, he will come in front to eat treats rather than stay at our side.

Instead, we want to feed a dog with our fingers pointed behind us so the dog can take treats while remaining at our side. By rewarding them at our side, they will want to stay at our side more often rather than curling in front.

Ping Pong Walking

Many dogs go through a stage of training where they take a treat and then lunge forward again. Some dogs end up thinking they should pull, come back, pull, come back.

We can change our training to teach dogs to continue walking at our side. Try different speeds; sometimes, slightly slower or slightly faster will give better results. Another activity is to vary the number of treats. Sometimes feed one treat, and other times feed three treats in a row. This keeps a dog guessing and not just immediately taking off again.

Tips to Help Manage Leash Pulling

Start in a Small Area

Dogs constantly encounter new sights, sounds, and smells when we walk around the block. Instead, walk back and forth in front of your house, up and down your driveway, or on a 50’ sidewalk area. By going back and forth many times, your dog will get ‘bored’ with the environment. This will make it easier for him to walk with you - and easier for him to earn rewards. Once he settles in, you can then gradually expand his walking zone by 5-10’ every few repetitions.

Some dogs need to work in this small area for several days or weeks to establish calmer responses.

Let Your Dog Be a Dog

While dogs may need to walk at our side in a busy urban environment, it’s not fun for most dogs. Be sure your dog has an outlet for running, sniffing, and exploring. This might be before a walk, partway through a walk, or at a separate time.

When dogs have had their needs met, they often find it easier to walk at our side. Training also goes faster when dogs are not eager for exercise and exploration.

Use The Right Equipment

There are so many special walking harnesses or devices. The bad news is that dogs can learn to pull on anything - we need training for good results. If your dog pulls and you go with him - even for half an inch, he will have received a reward for pulling. For dogs who are very strong or intense, a front-attachment harness can help. This product can give us a leverage advantage to hold our ground or to move a dog away from an overwhelming environment more quickly.

Get Help

Don’t give up - your dog can learn to walk on a leash. Take a look at our walking training series for additional ideas. Give these tips a try and reach out for help. We’re here for you!


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