Behavioural Referrals Logo

British Veterinary Behaviour Association
Blue Dog Interactive CD
APBC
Link to Gallery

Pulling on the lead


Pulling on the lead

Dogs may pull on the lead due to excitement, unintentional learning or anxiety. Exciting places can be made more boring by carrying out basic training at the “fun” destination and not always allowing your dog off lead to play. You can also change the route that you take to the favourite place to try and avoid the route becoming a predictor. Many dogs learn to pull when they are puppies and at that point the owners often don’t see it as a problem. As the dog increases in size and continues to pull on the lead, the owner attempts to control the walk by pulling the dog back to heel and this just instigates the dog to pull even more (try asking someone to hold onto the end of a lead and then pull the other end and ask them to prevent themselves from falling over – 9 times out of 10 the person immediately pulls back!). Of course, underlying anxiety must be addressed prior to any lead walking exercises.

In order to prevent pulling on the lead from being a reinforcer (i.e. if I pull I get to where I want to go), the walker should stop following the pull every time the lead goes tense and walk immediately when the tension is released, by either the dog or the handler. Pressure can be removed altogether from the dog’s collar (and neck) by using a Halti harness or balance leash. However dogs can learn to pull on any equipment and so it is important when introducing a new training aid that the handler is consistent and never follows the pull.

Pulling on the lead is not only frustrating and painful for the owner but also very damaging to the dog’s neck, throat and spine. If your dog needs an operation such as cruciate repair you may be told that your dog needs a lengthy period of restricted exercise, and if your dog pulls this could increase the recovery time.

The benefits of teaching your dog to walk properly are therefore endless!