Dogs pull on their leashes because we are slow. Dogs pull on their leashes because we move forward when they pull. Success! The goal of training WITH ME is to teach your dog to respond to a cue that means keep pay attention to me while we walk together.
You will need a 6-foot leash and somewhere to attach it on your dog. Some dogs will do fine with a flat buckle collar and others will need a little extra “power steering”. Large, powerful dogs that have practice with pulling people should wear a head harness (ex. Gentle Leader) or a front-attachment chest harness (ex. Easy Walk Harness).
Reward your dog for walking by your side. To practice this, put your dog on a leash and place a small delicious treat on the ground by your feet. Walk ahead. Once your dog has eaten the treat, he will follow you. When he catches up, say YES or GOOD (you may CLICK if your dog is clicker trained) and then put another treat on the ground. Try to put the treat at the back of your heel since you are trying to reward your dog for following you rather than running ahead. Walk forward while your dog eats the treat and repeat several more times in one session. Repeat short sessions after a break or in various outdoor environments.
Once your dog is walking consistently by your side for for several seconds without pulling, it is not necessary to place the treats on ground anymore. You may simply praise your dog while he is walking by your side and give a treat on the go. You may also just use verbal praise, since the real reward is moving forward. At times, it makes sense to reward your dog by stopping to let him sniff and enjoy the scenery. Do this as long as your dog doesn’t pull you over to the spot they want to sniff.
adding the cue "with me"
It’s helpful to have a verbal cue to let your dog know that he should be paying attention and walking by your side. Once you know your dog will walk by your side without pulling, say “WITH ME” before your start walking. It’s better to wait until your dog is behaving well on the leash before you start using the verbal cue. Say YES or GOOD then feed a treat as soon as your dog chooses to follow you. Likewise, if you want to give your dog the freedom following his nose, have a release word like “OK” that means you will let him calmly wander.
when your dog pulls
The first thing to do when your dog pulls is to stop. Try to stop AS SOON AS you recognize your dog is moving ahead. It’s best if your dog does not get too far in front of you before he is alerted to the fact that something is wrong. Once you have stopped, quickly move backward. You may pat your leg or call your dog’s name to get his attention. Move back until you feel the leash slacken and your dog is willing to follow you, then start walking forward again. Instead of moving backward when your dog pulls, you can also simply turn around and walk in the other direction until the leash loosens.
- Loose leash walking is a skill that must be practiced frequently starting in environments with minimal distractions. Practice indoors first. Then familiar outdoor areas, like your yard or the sidewalk in front of your home.
- Don’t walk your dog for his normal walk. Try walking back and forth in your driveway or in front of your house. By changing the direction frequently, back and forth, your dog is less likely to pull ahead because he isn’t sure which direction is forward. Once your dog is walking well, then try walking a little farther, but be ready to head the other direction if necessary.
- It is easier for your dog to pay attention to you when you walk at a moderately quick pace, but don’t rush to keep up with your dog. Your dog needs to learn to keep your pace. If you are loosing your dog’s attention, try doing a little jog for a second or two.
- Verbally praise your dog enthusiastically when he looks up at you. Make him feel good for paying attention to you instead of all the other possible distractions.
- Gradually increase the period of time that you expect your dog to follow to you. The length of time will depend on the age of your dog (puppies have very short attention spans) and his excitement level.
- Retractable leashes are dangerous and have no purpose for teaching leash manners. Use a standard leash instead.
- Remember to reward calm behavior the moment you pick up the leash. Only put on the leash if your dog is sitting, and do not let him to bolt out the door in front of you.