Dog trainers are often asked this question: “Can you stop my dog pulling so hard on the leash?”
It’s funny, dogs can hire human trainers. They might say, “Can you stop him pulling on the leash so often?”
It is often more efficient to use your strength or training tools to increase your dog’s ability to control you than to use your intelligence to get your dog doing what you want. Do you ever tug, pull, push or lift your dog? Perhaps using his leash or collar as a steering wheel, or as a handle to get them to do something they weren’t able to do on their own?
Do not feel bad. Even people who are committed to using force-free training methods do sometimes find it difficult to pick up a small, sluggish dog. It is very common to be impatient!
If your dog uses his body to get what it wants, such as knocking on you, pawing at or jumping on you, I urge you to spend just one day to see that this dynamic works both way. Your dogs are learning the rules of the world from you, my friends.
There is a better way. Instead of relying solely on physical force, use your big brain. You can resist the easy and quick way to get your dog to where you want it. Instead, create a partnership that benefits you both. You can use your body language, your treats and your voice to communicate with your dog your expectations regarding his behavior.
GIVE A HEADS UP: HOW TO CONNECT WITH YOUR DOG
Pro tip: Use your words to start!
Let’s suppose that you are walking your dog and have stopped to talk to a friend, or wait for the signal to cross. You wait patiently for your dog to cross the street. Your dog may be sitting or standing still, watching children down the street. Then suddenly, the signal turns green and you stop talking. Rude!
This is what tug-out-of nowhere teaches your dog. First, it teaches him that sudden and strange leash pressures are a part of everyday life. He won’t be surprised if he creates the pressure by pulling or pushing. It teaches your dog to be alert for yanks and to not relax while on walks with you. This makes it easy for anxiety and pull-and-yank on your walks. That’s not an insignificant thing, I’ll bet.
It’s easy to do better. Just give your dog a heads up – it’s an invitation. That’s all! Just cue your dog before you take a step. It’s as simple as saying “Okay Spot, let’s go!” You can also make a clicking noise or kiss your dog. Any communication will help your dog understand the plan.
Although it may seem small, this change can be seen in action. It’s huge.
(I am focusing on a single minute of the walk. For a complete article on loose-leash walking, please see “Polite leash walking,” September 2021.
MOVING YOUR DOG WITH YOUR BRAIN IS EASY!
This is an example of how to do it. You can walk your dog around the house with a loose leash. What distance can you go before the know gets tighter? Imagine that you are facing the challenge in your own real life.
One of my clients shared with me today that her dog is very testy when her collar gets grabbed. My question is: Why do you grab her collar so often?
It may seem simple to grab our dogs with that all-pervasive handle, but it can cause behavior problems and interfere with our relationships. Use your brain, not your muscles to move your dog.
Do you want your dog to get up from the couch? Do not grab your dog’s collar. Instead, reach out and touch him with your hand. For more information, see “On Target Training,” September 2021. Do you want your dog to stay still so that you can attach the leash? Do not grab his collar. Just ask for a sit. Do not grab his collar. Instead, scoot in opposite direction with a toy. Then call him crazy-happy! You can reward him if he comes to your aid!
The collar grab, like the leash yank, is an instinctive, lowest-common-denominator way we humans get control. It is easy to fall into the trap of using low-level, physical force every day. It’s easy to forget about it and it becomes normal.
It is something I urge you to consider. It seems stranger to be so casually and often use our superior physical power to force our best friends, these intelligent, sentient souls capable of learning complex behaviors, to place their bodies exactly where they want them to.
While some dogs can accept constant physical contact with resignation, others tune out when they cannot escape the unpleasant physical intrusions. Some even rely on the constant barrage of pushes and pulls for guidance. Some dogs, such as my client’s, may growl or display other signs of aggression to stop the attacks.
Every interaction with our dogs is an opportunity to teach them who we really are. Think about the vibe you want to instill. My personal desire is to have a fun, friendly, trusting, respectful, and happy relationship with my dogs. There are plenty of evidence to support that.
COMPLETELY DISCOVER YOURSELF WHILE COMMUNICATING w/ YOUR DOG
In one of the most enjoyable dog-training classes I have ever attended, the instructor instructed us to tie a loose knot in the middle of our leashes. It was about four inches wide. After that, we spent a ten-minute walk around the facility, passing each other. After all that, the winner was the one with the loosest knot.
We used happy voices, dancing steps, and kissy noises to accomplish this. Cues such as “touch”, “look”, and “heel” were used to make the most of this situation. There was also cheese and chicken. It was great fun. Why? It was because it demonstrated how far we have come since the days when pulling our dogs around was acceptable. It was a sign of how cooperative and rewarding our relationship with our dogs has become.
Give it a shot. You’ll be amazed at what happens when your dog starts communicating with you, instead of relying on your superior physical abilities to get places and/or do other things. You’ll soon find your time with your dog less stressful and more enjoyable when you are able to communicate with him.
How loose can you make your knot?
You don’t need to use force: How to stop your dog pulling on the leash