How to Stop a Dog From Pulling – Complete Guide

how to stop a dog from pulling

Here is some advice on how to stop a dog from pulling so you both can enjoy your time outside without it being a constant struggle.

Dogs love to go for walks and explore their surroundings, especially in new places. There are plenty of sights, smells, and sounds to investigate, and that combination of stimuli can make them very excited to take it all in. That can make for a difficult time for pet owners to control their dogs and pull on their lead. 

In many cases, they’re so persistent they even choke themselves. If the dog feels they make any progress, they will be encouraged to keep up this behavior. This is not an ideal situation for either the dog or the pet owner. 

How to Stop a Dog from Pulling – The Reason for Pulling

Dogs have what’s referred to as opposition reflex, and when this happens at the start of the walk, it’s due to their goal of getting ahead to explore as much as possible. This behavior may also be because you might try to prevent them or slow them down, and this is their effort to evade those actions. 

Counterproductive Discipline and Corrections

Many dog owners will attempt to correct their dog’s pulling using physical discipline or a pinch collar. These tactics instill fear and anxiety into dogs and can cause various unpleasant behavior and attitudes that can even be dangerous. 

Dogs who encounter this type of action tend to be aggressive and fearful, proving to be dangerous and causing ongoing issues throughout their lifetime. 

Dogs trained using force or pain will become fearful of going for walks. If you use this method when encountering other people or animals, it may trigger fear and anxiety when they see them outside. This discipline style can trigger aggression or fear biting. This issue makes adequate socialization nearly impossible for the dog. 

How to Train Dogs Using Positive Reinforcement

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The best way to train a dog to walk without pulling is to use a rewards system or positive reinforcement. This concept is simple. If the dog does what you ask it to do, it should get an immediate reward or positive reinforcement each time. Don’t reward the dog when they don’t comply with instructions. Some rewards or reinforcements to try can include the following. 

  • Treats
  • Pets and attention
  • Their favorite toy or clicker
  • The walk itself/pausing and restarting

It’s important not to give the dog a treat or reward when they pull on the lead or lunge at people and animals. Only provide them with a reward when they act appropriately and keep a loose leash. The ultimate goal is to teach the dog to keep their leash loose at all times and avoid pulling, even when they greet others. 

Above all else, make sure to effectively train your dog to stop pulling on the leash by immediately halting the walk for a short time. Once the dog is calm and quits pulling, resume the walk. This is the best way for them to “get the point.”

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How to Stop a Dog from Pulling – Training Environment and Location is Important

Although you may not have given it much thought, the location and training environment are just as important as the methods used to reward appropriate behavior. Remember that there are distractions out in the world, and your dog won’t be able to focus its attention on you and the lessons if several other things are distracting it. 

Some great location ideas for training your dog include the following:

  • Your backyard
  • A quiet open lot
  • A long driveway
  • A quiet park

Those environments provide the ideal setting for getting and keeping your dog’s attention. Remember to focus your attention on the lessons and respond ideally to every correct action and undesirable behavior. 

How to Stop a Dog from Pulling – Getting Started

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The first step is to use the appropriate lead or leash. Select one that is sturdy and intended for walking and controlling dogs. Don’t use a rope or other type of make-shift lead because they could come loose, break, or harm you or your dog. Once you have the right equipment and location, you can begin the lessons.

Next, you want to start slowly with a few steps. The goal is to teach the dog to walk by your side without lunging ahead or trying to lead you. If the dog walks beside you, be sure to reward them. If the dog pulls, don’t pull them back because they will likely pull against you (remember opposition reflex?). You want to instead use loose leash training

Instead, stop immediately and wait for them to stop pulling and let the leash return to a loose position. Try again slowly, and when your dog successfully completes the task, offer them a reward. Use rewards the dog wants to get started on the right foot, so they know to pay attention to get the treat. 

Delicious dog treats that are healthy and safe would be a great place to start.

Moving on to The Next Phase

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Once your dog has successfully learned to walk a few steps by your side, you can move on to the next part of the process. Start walking several feet at one time. Dogs can get excited when you move on to longer sections and may want to start pulling. 

Keep providing corrections by stopping and only rewarding when the dog completes the section or length of space you chose, or when they return the leash to a slack position if you stop. Eventually, they will learn to stop pulling ahead. 

Continue these exercises in quiet spaces for a few weeks until you’re sure your dog is getting the idea. Use this time to discover what treats are particularly motivational and save them when they master new behavior or act appropriately when encountering new people or animals. 

Perhaps they’ve seen a squirrel, and rather than lunge after it, they remain in place or continue to walk without pulling or lunging. That is when they get their favorite treat as a reward. 

Introducing New Environments During Walks

You’re probably ready to begin exploring new areas once your dog is walking around large spaces without needing to stop several times. Start off small in areas like quiet streets or the dog park. 

When you meet new dogs, don’t approach them when your dog is pulling or lunging. Lunging at other dogs may be a fear response and require some additional training and work. 

Wait for your dog to comply and then approach the other dog, if the owner seems calm and receptive. You also want to pass other dogs and people without stopping on walks, so practice this scenario so your dog doesn’t expect to stop each time you have an encounter. 

Over a few months, if you are consistent and patient, your dog will walk with you without pulling or lunging. 

Using a Head Halter

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Using a head halter is a great tool to help you reinforce correct behavior while training. It isn’t ideal for long-term use, but it can be a true asset if used correctly. To use the head halter, pull up and forward. This is so the dog will back up towards you when they begin to pull ahead. In most cases, the dog will also sit. 

Don’t hold the leash in position, though – release the tension and provide a suitable reward to enforce this action. If you’re still having trouble getting the dog to comply, switch directions and go back the way you came. This is so they are behind you.

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