You just want to take your dog on a peaceful walk in the park without your arm being nearly dislocated – is that too much to ask?! Many dog parents struggle with pets that pull. And we GET IT - being yanked around can make walking your dog a frustrating chore rather than an activity to enjoy together! If you’ve ever felt like you’re at the end of your rope when walking with your pup (see what we did there?), we’ve compiled some tips to help turn that freight train into a slack-leash stroller.
Change your attitude.
Let’s reframe how you’re approaching this – instead of focusing on getting your dog to stop pulling, instead focus on getting your dog to walk beside you where you’re both safe and comfortable. Set yourself a goal that you and your dog will go on peaceful walks together where you can enjoy each other’s company!
Stop forward motion when your dog pulls.
Start this exercise in the house or backyard – wherever is comfortable for you and you feel in control. Whenever your dog begins to pull, stop and stand still. Be consistent in this, even though it might feel a little frustrating if you’re only getting a few steps at a time.
When your dog stops and looks at you, drop them a treat to enforce them taking pause and paying attention to you!
Take a few steps back.
Try this little game. When your dog begins to pull, stop then wait for them to look at you – when they do, take a few steps backward. When they follow you, give them a treat to reinforce! Do this approximately ten times, or until your dog is consistently following you when you back away.
Now, give it a go out on a walk!
Whenever you begin to walk forward, any time your dog looks up at you or walks calmly beside you, REWARD! Show ‘em some love with a treat and let them know you’re reinforcing this great behavior. And, if they do begin to pull, just stop and remind them to focus back on you. Continue to reward any good walking behavior again and again, even if it’s still every few steps in the beginning.
This won’t be perfected overnight. Give yourself and your dog lots of grace – you’re both learning and developing new habits!
Consider hiring an expert.
If you’ve been proactively working together with your dog to improve pulling and are still feeling frustrated, consider hiring a trainer who can get really specific and help you with your dog’s behavior! All dogs are different and having an expert help you keep you and your pet safe could be the ideal next step for you.
Once you’re feeling confident with you and your dog’s walking skills, try some new environments. Get playful and be adventurous – this should be fun! Always focus on positively reinforcing good behavior and being patient, and you two can take on anything together!