The most common complaint I hear from my dog owner clients is that they can't get their dog to stop pulling or lunging or dragging them on walks. The natural response for most owners when their dog lunges forward is to pull back on the leash to try to communicate that they want them to slow down (or speed up) and match their pace. Ironically, their dog will interpret this as encouragement to keep doing what they're doing. Walking on a tight leash must be good; their human does it all the time!
But don't lose hope; there is a better way to train your pup to stop pulling in as little as one training walk, during which you'll be able to communicate your expectations, and your dog will actually listen. Read on for the three easy steps to begin transforming your wild squirrel chaser into a calm and happy canine companion.
1. Use the Right Training Tools
Get ready to obsess over your dog's new prong collar. When combined with the simple training techniques you'll give him, this collar makes it incredibly easy for your pup to understand exactly where and how you want him to walk. Read more about the benefits and proper fit of a prong collar here.
And for Dog's sake, NEVER use a flexi-leash. Not only are retractable leashes completely counterproductive for training a dog to follow your lead and walk politely beside you, they're also incredibly unsafe, especially around crowds, other dogs, traffic, or anything that may distract you for even a couple seconds (hello iPhones). Stick to a classic mid-length nylon leash, like the Vivaglory Training Leash, or an eco-friendly version like the Pawsitive Pet Leash.
2. Have Structured Walks
Your fur child will need to say goodbye to the days when mom or dad let him zigzag around, sniff the trees, pick up ground snacks, and mark every bush in his path. There's nothing inherently "wrong" with these habits, but cutting them from your walks serves to clearly communicate your expectations, which sets him up for success. And you can always reward him with a few minutes of sniff time in a designated area at the end of his walk.
From now on, your pup will heel at your left side (if you're right handed). You'll stand with arms relaxed by your side, left hand holding the leash above his collar, right hand holding the middle or end of the leash (see photo below). If he pulls ahead, darts to the left, or veers toward another dog, you give the slightest correction with an upward flick of your left wrist, and the quick tug and release will convey the information he needs to know: "Oops! That's not allowed."
3. Be Consistent
This is the step my clients have the hardest time with. They've got all the gear, and their dog has learned the structured walk, but they'll head out for a walk, distracted by their phones, and hold the end of the leash and let their pup sniff and dawdle or yank them around every which way. I can't stress enough how important it is to keep up the structured walk 100% of the time. This means showing your family members and your dog walker exactly how he should be walked and holding each other accountable.
The reason this training format works so well and so quickly is that the new leash walking rules are reinforced with the prong collar. However, the idea of training is not to rely on the prong collar to do the heavy lifting for you, but to have your dog eventually learn to walk loose leash at your side without any physical guidance. The dogs that have a harder time learning to leash train are struggling to understand what's expected of them because their human is giving them mixed signals. So do yourself and your dog a solid and be consistent.