The following information is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not constitute pet medical advice. Paws&Furs is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more.
Your dog is tugging on the leash, pulling your arm with it, and trying to veer off the straight and narrow path that you’ve set for your walk together.
It’s aggravating, but it could also be potentially harmful to your dog if it goes unchecked. We want to talk about the issues with your dog pulling, and guide you through the steps needed to stop this behavior.
If you want to know how to stop a dog from pulling, this was written for you. Some of the issues are surface-level, while others are going to be very testing and trying.
Why do Dogs Pull?
Because you’ve been rewarding it, and you might not even know that. Your dog is only going to pull on that leash if they have some working knowledge that it will get them to where they want to go.
Think about it: Fido pulls on his leash, you tend to feel that jerking motion in your arm, and then you gently let him move towards what he wants.
You do it because you want your dog to feel free and be happy. Maybe your dog is pulling and you don’t want them to get hurt, so you gently release pressure on the leash handle until they near their destination, but with the line still being taut.
That says, “If I pull on the leash, I get to go where I want.” You’re obliging them. The original nature of why they want to pull is irrelevant, because they just know that pulling equals whatever they want.
The original reason that they pull could be rooted in adventurousness and wanting to explore their environment, or it could be that they want to chase a squirrel or fight with another dog. It could be rooted in aggression.
Regardless, they need to know that you’re the one running the show. Dogs will pull if they can get away with it, because it serves their interests. It’s time to put a stop to it in a gentle, calm manner.
How to Stop Dogs From Pulling?
The number one thing you can do is to just simply refuse to move when they’re doing a behavior that you don’t like. That could be pulling, it could be barking – this applies to a whole range of things. No dog wants to be standing still during a walk.
To get your dogs to stop pulling, you have to identify when they’re pulling, and put a stop to it.
You don’t want to pull on the leash at all and stop them, you just want to stand still, not move your arm (keep the leash loose), and let them continue to move forward without really going anywhere.
Eventually, they’re going to stop pulling. They’re going to realize that nothing is changing. They can pull for five or six minutes before coming to this realization in the beginning of their training, but it’s going to set in sooner or later.
Depending on your dog’s breed and how stubborn they are in general, this training method should only take a few weeks before it’s a natural response from them to stop when they realize pulling isn’t doing it for them.
Then they’ll stop pulling altogether because before they do, they’ll know that it’s not going to work in the slightest.
Here’s a step-by-step way to get them to stop pulling that includes this core top.
- Stand still after leashing them up. Even if you’re still in the mudroom at home, just stop moving altogether. Talk with them (most dogs understand one-hundred words or more by the time they’re a fully mature adult), and set your expectations.
- Do not move until they’re sitting still for five seconds or more. They’re going to be rambunctious and excited about the walk, but you need to just let them get that energy out and realize that it’s not taking them anywhere. Once they remain calm for five seconds or more, then you can go on a walk. Don’t wait too long here once they’ve calmed down, or you’re going to send mixed signals about your expectations to your dog.
- Verbally reinforce when they are good on a walk and don’t pull, and say that they get to have a longer walk. When dogs hear the word walk, it’s a buzz word for them, so find a way to creatively use it that gets your dog excited. This will only truly work if your dog has times where they pull and you keep the walk to ten or fifteen minutes, but make a sizable difference in reward-based walks. Maybe twenty-five minutes instead. Dogs can’t tell time, so it has to be long enough to feel different.
If you have a specific circuit you take on every dog walk, and it’s about ten minutes on average, maybe say that they were good and you get to go on another walk, and go through it a second time. This will build a pattern.
Does a Retractable or No Pull Leash Help?
If your dog pulls, then retractable harnesses are not exactly your friend.
It’s rare that I recommend a retractable leash to anyone unless your dog is naturally well behaved, and you want to make sure they can be as explorative and adventurous. Most dogs will take what they can get, and a retractable leash just tells them that there’s more of a reward if they pull.
While you are the one in control of the leash, they may get confused when you extend more slack for certain activities, and not for others.
If you reward your dog for being good by having a ten-foot leash that time, they’re going to get used to it fast. Next time, if they’re stuck on a six-foot leash because they’re pulling, they’re just going to try tugging on it to get that ten-foot leash back.
This isn’t even really your dog’s fault, most of the time. They’re just getting mixed signals from what a retractable leash is designed to do, which is why it doesn’t work with many dogs. A no-pull leash, also known as a dog harness, will stop dogs from pulling.
It doesn’t hurt them, but it also doesn’t reward them, because the harness encases their body and doesn’t reward pulling in the slightest. Even the most inexperienced dog walker can control a dog on a harness.
Pulling back on the leash makes your dog lift their feet off the ground, eliminating all that pent-up kinetic energy they were trying to expel. It’s much better for training a dog to stop pulling on their leash.
Teaching Your Dog Proper Behavior
Training your dog is one way to help them understand commands, expected behavior, and act the way they’re supposed to on walks.
When they understand the mindset that you are the alpha and you decide what goes, your dog will refrain from behaviors that they know displease you.
In essence, this is what all dog training is. Dogs are obedient when you give them a reason to be, so consider using these basic training commands to get them used to obeying your commands.
If they don’t already know this, it’s the most basic thing that a dog can begin to understand. Hold a treat close to your dog’s nose, and pull it up into the air.
Once they’re in a sitting position as they follow the treat, say sit, and position them the way you want them. Repeat the command, wait three seconds, and if they continue sitting, give them the treat.
This is the ultimate command because you actually compel a dog to move towards you no matter what their motive is. Put your dog on a leash, and tell them to sit.
Now that they know that command, it will be easier. Walk away from them so that the leash is just a foot away from being taut, and then tell them to come. When they come to you, reward them with a treat.
Another essential which will help you during walks with pulling. You ask your dog to sit, and then you mention that you want them to stay. Slowly step back, and if they remain, give them a treat.
This one takes a little while to drill into their heads because they will just associate it with sitting at first, but as they learn, you will be able to move further away from them while they stay in place to solidify this command.
Teaching commands will help your dog understand their role in this relationship, and when they command your verbal request, they will also follow your action-based commands.
Eliminate All the Pulling
When they pull, stop giving them what they want. Remain still and silent, and they’ll learn how to stop it themselves. If your dog is overly aggressive and that’s why they’re pulling, it might be worth it to invest in a dog trainer to help you out.
At the end of the day, your dog constantly pulling on the leash could be a serious health problem and lead to lifelong injuries. Do what you can now so that they don’t continue this pattern of behavior as they age and run into larger problems.