5 Easy Ways To Get Your Dog to Chill On Leash
Some dogs pull more than others and some train easier too but most start out pulling because it isn’t natural for them to be on a leash, they get excited and just wanna go sniff go sniff go! With my Boxer, after training with a prong collar, we’d walk nice and politely most days. Whenever he acted up, all I’d have to do is show him his prong collar and ask, ‘Do we really need to go back to this?’ and he’d immediately straighten up.
Another time, not having the prong on me to show Baron, I scooped his 70lbs up like it was air and walked with him cradled in my arms the length of the block explaining that he had to be a big boy to walk with me or he would be carried on walks like a baby. When we got to the end of the block, I flounced him down on the grass and he sat perfectly upright looking at me for the next direction he was absolutely intent upon following, totally getting it. What I did not understand up until that moment was that dogs get embarrassed too. It’s not just us. Anytime I threatened to ‘carry’ him, asking ‘Do we need to be carried today?’ He would (and my Doberman too) straighten right on up!
I am not recommending either of these strategies above., only sharing the pain and lessons I have personally been through in getting dogs to walk politely on leash. But hey, if threatening to carry them works, why not? I did this on my big boys before they got larger when I could actually physically carry them. And I had the luck of two boys that tended to pull that hated being carried.
Where Baron the Boxer was in short order oh so well behaved on a leash, our Doberman just never ‘got it’ completely. Primarily because he didn’t want to. In fact, it is my dog that provided the old saying ‘Stop Jerking My Chain!’ 🙂 Sure, he stopped jerking my arm out of socket but even years later there was this near-continuous low ebb pulling. The leash was basically taught at all times. Sadly, I thought I had to just live with this until I ended up with nerve damage in my hands and he ended up with spinal trauma and needed thousands in acupuncture, acupressure and massage therapy which is how I got into Canine massage therapy as a practice and why I am writing this today (see my article on ‘Canine Spinal trauma’).
Our Rules Aren’t Theirs – We as people have house manners, leash manners, people greeting and play rules. Dogs are intuitive, with patience and consistency, they pick up on how we wish for them to behave but it is important to understand that they come into this world with a whole other species rulebook. IF your pup spent enough time with their mother and the bitch was housebroken etc, she may very well teach or help coach her puppies on such things as potty training. I’ve seen dogs who suddenly get a new sibling, teach the new puppy potty training and even how to sit! It’s pretty amazing. But when your sandwich gets stolen, your carpet gets peed on and the leash snaps your back out of joint, just understand their rulebook is not yours until you train them appropriately and that can take some time and ample patience.
Consistent Kindness – When I get impatient, I remind myself that I am dealing with the equivalent of a 4-year-old human, both intellectually and emotionally. As smart as your dog is and no matter their age, they are always going to be a bit infantile in the sense that they will be eyes wide open to the world in a very innocent way that we grow up and out of and lose sight of if we aren’t careful. I think this is one of the reasons we love dogs so much. Once they give of themselves, bond with us, they never doubt our loyalty to them, they come to us completely trusting. Animals have a ritual that we have lost sight of in our busy ways; the greeting. If we awaken and allow it to happen, our animals will come from wherever they are in the house and greet us. If you’re in the habit of bounding out of bed to get things done in the morning, try pausing a few moments and see what unfolds. A new day is a gift and they seem to sense this. My cats and dogs have always done this as well as the door greeting when I have left and arrive home again. They are happy that everybody woke up, ready for the new day and that you came back home safely. While our fellow animals can be quite crafty, unlike a few of us humans, they generally don’t do something to intentionally anger us. Therefore, they require our loving-kindness. Every day with them is a blessed gift, even if there’s pee on the floor because there’s an app, crate,pads and a training book for that.
Set Your Boundaries – Firstly, you must be very consistent in what the rules are otherwise you confuse the issue. And when I have new dogs over at the house, I have to be mindful that their rules may be quite different than ones I have trained my dogs to. For example, ours do not counter surf or steal food…ever. Yes, that took a while. With leash rules, this means managing situations during a walk where your pup is not listening, caring or minding you. He will gradually learn to focus on you and your boundaries as they are firmly but gently adhered to.
With that, here are the 5 easy ways to halt leash pulling.
#1) Equipment that fits – Everything starts with a proper fit. Collars and Harnesses – Whether you go for a collar or a harness it should fit properly. Collars can cause a lot of damage to a dog’s delicate neck and cervical spine so it is imperative to stop the pulling. This usually means a prong or training collar. When using a prong collar, it should ONLY be worn for training purposes and not left on the dog and certainly not left on the dog while enjoying the dog park. The reason for that is dogs like to rough house and play bite at the neck. This can turn deadly if a tooth gets caught in a prong. The prong collar should fit snug at the top of the neck just behind the ears. It should not be loose enough to slip from that spot, otherwise, you are in jeopardy of harming the dog’s neck and trachea as well as lessening the power of this tool. Leashes – I have horse leads that are thick and soft, easy on the hands, and extending leashes so my dog can get way ahead of me and sniff out things. I do a mix of ‘heel’ and ‘sniff’ commands and I did so because I want my dog to be a dog and enjoy the walk as he would in nature with roaming a bit and sniffing etc. Now, here’s a great tip for those of you who love a long leash but run into situations where your dog goes around something and gets tangled up…I call it ‘spin’ but you can name it how you like. I ask the dog to ‘spin’ and make a spinning motion with my finger in the direction I want the canine to go in. Eventually, he gets it and gets high praise. Meantime, he gets praise for just going partially in the right direction as I coax, show and help him around the obstacle. Teaching this really helps you have a great easy walk! But this command has also come in handy in other situations where I needed my boy to go around something in the yard etc. For those who want hands free, this bungee leash is pretty sweet.
id I mention my Doberman and spinal issues? I stopped using collars except for bling (Rhett really loves his bling) and ID tags. I am a big fan of using a harness but not just any harness and I’ll share why. Typical harnesses, coming from working dog/Shutzhund etc, amp up the dog and we want a calm dog when we are strolling. The typical collars put pressure on the dog’s neck, throat and head. Most harnesses put pressure on the rib-cage and thoracic spine for a dog that habitually pulls. All this promotes pulling and straining against the device as a natural opposition response to restraint. What happened with our Dobie is that he ended up with cervical spine issues. When I switched from collars to a harness, he ended up with thoracic issues. Acupuncture, chiropractic, ANMR & massage therapy made the boy right as rain again. I recommend the BrilliantK9 Dog Harness. The BrilliantK9 girth strap is behind the rib-cage where most are tight over the ribs. The leash attachment is mid-back (behind the core strength), making it hard to pull as there is nothing to pull against. Their spine is in alignment, and they are able to flex at their natural pivot point.
#2 Short Sessions – You want to work on no pulling when you are both fresh and not frustrated. This might mean the 40-minute walk you planned on ends up being down the length and back from your driveway. Keep sessions as short as they need to be, based upon where you are in training your pup to ‘no pull’. I think sometimes we really wanna get that training in, get it done and exasperate ourselves.
#3 The Leash Touch – This is part of the massage training I took and is a gentle signal from your end of the leash to theirs which is simple and highly effective. When walking your dog and he is tugging, gently take your finger and run it down and back a few times on the leash. Your dog will feel this and back off. Repeat as needed with a command such as ‘No pull’.
#4 – Direction Change – SQUIRREL!!! Another great way to get your dog in line is the swap directions. You may think any neighbors watching you believe you’re crazy, but toggling back and forth from one direction to the next whenever your dog pulls will help him understand that you are in charge of the direction of the walk and lessen pulling.
#5 – Just Stop – Our Doberman was v-e-r-y stubborn. So what is supposed to happen is the dog is pulling, you say No Pull and you just stop quietly in your tracks. Your dog will eventually turn around to look at you. Smile. Then when your dog comes trotting over to you looking up, making eye contact and of course not pulling, give him a ‘Good boy/girl etc’. Yeah with Rhett I waited a full 25 minutes for that. Get a Doberman they said. Dobermans are owner focused they said. Seriously, Rhett was a beautiful and amazing companion, albeit hard-headed. But the point is to be their leader regardless of the cajones they came to you with by getting their attention and making them a willing partner. Ps, here’s a fun dog training book!