Trainer explains easy method to stop your dog pulling on leash

Trainer explains easy method to stop your dog pulling on leash

Posted by Pet Direct on 1st May 2021

It doesn’t matter if your dog is big or small, pulling on the leash can make the walk quite uncomfortable. Samantha Jackson from Howlistic Help shares an easy method on how to train your dog to not pull on leash by focusing on reinforcing the behaviours you want.

Here’s the formula:

    1. Prevent
    2. Replace
    3. Reinforce

Prevent the unwanted behaviour

Using management

Exert some of your dogs physical energy before going for a leash walk. Play fetch at home. Drive to somewhere you can let your dog off leash (or with long line attached) for a run and sniff before going for a leash walk. Go for sniff walks, use a long line and let your dog sniff to his hearts content. Sniff walks are very enriching and relaxing for dogs.

Mental and physical stimulation before leaving the house. Get your dog engaged and focused on you. Practise your training before going out the front door. Prevent revving your dog up with heaps of excitement before a walk if you would like him to walk nicely on leash. Help him relax and focus on you.

Replace - decide what behaviour to replace the undesired behaviour

Loose leash walking is actually multiple behaviours proofed with different distractions and in different environments. Some helpful behaviours to start loose leash walking:

    • Focus / look at me
    • Let’s go
    • Walking close to me (choose where you’d like your dog to walk - that's the reward zone)

Reinforce - practise reinforcing the replacement behaviour in specific, short training sessions

Choose one of the behaviours above to train and practise at home in less distracting environments.

Example: Walk close to me

    1. First you need to decide where you would like your dog to walk in relation to you. This is called the reward zone. For example, I would choose anywhere on my right hand side. The dog could be a bit behind or in front of me but anywhere close to me on my right is my reward zone.
    2. Find a quiet room or area with few distractions, decide if your dog is on or off leash, and have treats ready.
    3. Slowly walk around the area changing direction often.
    4. Mark any time your dog is in your chosen reward zone (e.g. my right hand side). You can do this with a clicker or saying “yes”.
    5. Immediately deliver a treat by popping it on the ground by your shoe. Pause for a moment while your dog eats the treat.
    6. Carry on walking around again slowly, changing direction often.
    7. Continue to reinforce your dog for any moments they walk in the reward zone by clicking or saying “yes” once, and feeding a treat by your shoe.

Practise in short and sweet sessions. 2 minutes is great to begin with!

When you are at home your dog might find his normal breakfast and dinner food reinforcing enough to use as treats but when you go out and about you will want to have high value treat rewards. Something your dog loves and will really work for. Use a variety of treats to keep them interesting and of high value to your dog.

One of my favourites is K9 Natural tripe booster and Ziwi Peak dog food or tiny pieces of cooked chicken!

Practise out and about too

Take treats on the walk and use a verbal marker like “yes” or your clicker as an audible event marker.

Mark desirable behaviour by using your marker “yes” or click once (as the behaviour is occurring) and immediately feed your dog a treat.

Use a high rate of reinforcement. Click and treat anytime your dog is walking on a loose leash / in the reward zone. Feed the treat on the ground and slowly keep walking. The more you positively reinforce the behaviour of walking in the reward zone the more your dog will choose to walk there.

To have successful and reliable loose leash walking with your dog it will take consistency, patience and positivity. Here are some foundation behaviours to train for lovely loose leash walking:

  • Focus / look at me
  • Lets go
  • Walking close to me / in the reward zone
  • Leave it
  • Auto sit
  • Calm focus around distractions and in different environments

This is the foundation. The next step is to help your dog be able to do these behaviours around distractions and in different environments.

Your dog being calm and confident out and about is a big part of successful loose leash walking as well. If your dog is nervous, fearful or perhaps lacking some self control. I suggest finding a professional dog trainer that uses positive reinforcement to help you and your dog achieve your goals together. The time you invest into training now will pay off throughout your entire life with your dog. Pulling on leash can be so unpleasant and teaching your dog to walk nicely on leash makes your walks so much easier and more enjoyable.

You can find a list of professional dog trainers around NZ here.

Have fun practising. Remember to break down your goal behaviour - loose leash walking - into small, easy to achieve steps for your dog.


Article written by Samantha Jackson from Howlistic Help.

If you need any advice on leash training your dog, feel free to contact Pet Direct's Customer Service Experts on 0800 200 240.

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