How to train your dog not to pull on leash

To own a dog who walks nicely on leash is so important to guarantee enjoyable dog walks. It is also important for safety as you want to be able to control your dog, especially if you are the owner a large and strong dog. My 20 kg (44 pound) two-year-old beagle cross is not the most enjoyable dog to walk. He is usually too excited to go for his walks that he has a pretty bad habit of pulling. I haven’t done proper leash training with my dog yet, hence I started researching the subject of how to train your dog not to pull on leash. We haven’t started the training yet, but after writing this article, I’m very keen on getting started!

1. Teach your dog to pay attention to you

This is an important step in any dog training – you need to teach your dog to pay attention to you. A simple way to do this is to reward your dog every time he/she looks at you. When it comes to leash training, stand still and have your dog sit next you on a loose leash. When your dog looks up to you, reward him/her with a tasty treat. First start doing this in your familiar home environment and when your dog is good at paying attention to you at home, you can move outside of your home to a new environment where there are more distractions.

At this stage of training it is also important to pick a side that you want your dog to walk on (right or left). Always stick to the same side whether you are practicing just paying attention or actual walking.

2. Encourage walking on a loose leash

Ok here comes the tricky part – when your dog has learned to pay attention to you, it is time to get moving. The key is to reward walking on a loose leash and discourage pulling. Quite simply, get moving and when your dog is walking close to you on a loose leash, reward this with a tasty treat. If your dog starts pulling, stop and wait for your dog to stop. Refuse to move if your dog pulls so that he/she will get the idea. Once your dog is paying attention to you again and the leash is loose, reward him/her and start moving again.

This step is difficult as from experience with my dog, as soon as we start walking, he takes off due to excitement. So my recommendation is to use extra tasty treats as rewards (for my dog this will be chicken) to get your dog’s attention.

3. Patience and persistence

If you have a hyper excited dog, like mine, patience and persistence are key to success. With my previous attempts of leash training, I’ve found myself getting frustrated if we haven’t succeeded immediately. Contributing to my frustration is my dog’s weight and strength as his pulling hurts my hand (he’s not strong enough to pull me over, thankfully!). But getting frustrated will get you nowhere, so remain patient. Also, be persistent and don’t give up if it takes longer than expected to train your dog to walk nicely. It will likely take a huge amount of repetition until your dog gets the hang of walking on a loose leash.

Dog walking

4. Change environments and people

Once you’ve got your dog walking nicely in your home yard or on your local streets, it is important to change environments and practice loose leash walking in new environments. Whenever I go to a new environment with my dog, he gets even more excited due to all the new smells. So even though you’ve trained your dog to walk nicely on leash in your home streets, this might not be the case in new interesting environments.

Also, if there are other people that walk your dog, it is important to train your dog to walk nicely with these people too. Generally it is my husband or I who walk our dog, but our dog tends to behave quite differently depending on who is walking him. In addition, if the whole family goes for a walk together (me, my husband and the baby), our dog gets waaaayyy more excited than if there is only one person walking him. So be sure to train your dog to walk nicely with other people or with a group of people too.

5. Practice makes perfect

This goes into the same category as patience and persistence, but just to reiterate, you won’t get anywhere without practice! It is also good to remember that dog breeds are different when it comes to learning new things: some breeds will pick up new skills a lot quicker than others. In addition, some breeds are less likely pull on leash than others not requiring extensive leash training (perhaps just teaching them to stick to one side when walking as mentioned in step 1). So practice practice practice!

Collar or harness?

Finally, I’d like to touch on the topic of whether leash training is better done using a collar or a harness. I’ve previously written an article comparing the pros and cons of a harness and a collar which you can read for more information. However, some debate exists about whether a harness or a collar is better for leash training. Some argue that when using a harness, a dog gets “more comfortable” and is more likely to pull. On the other hand using a collar can be slightly more harmful for a dog that pulls excessively due to the pressure being more localized than with a harness.

My opinion is to stick with the “walking device” you have previously been using. I’ve always used a harness on my dog and intend to use it while we go through our leash training. Perhaps when my dog is walking nicely using the harness, we’ll give the collar a go.

What are your thoughts on this?

Wishing everyone many enjoyable dog walks to come! If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below.

To many happy barks & walks,