We have all seen dog owners getting dragged down the street by their large, and sometimes not so large dogs. While we can look at them and be amused, if you are a dog owner being taken for a walk, it is no laughing matter. Why do dogs do this? Quite simply because they can and because they have not been taught any better.
Buying your dog a fancy diamond studded dog collar and expensive leather leash is not going to teach your dog how to walk with the leash. He is still going to act the way that he would naturally if he were without a leash. The moment you open the door, your dog is going to attempt to dash out, leash or no leash. The dog has to be taught to respect the leash.
Get a regular nylon snap on collar and a six foot leash that has a good grip. Don’t get one of those retractable leashes until your dog has learned to walk on a leash. It will be much easier to control your dog with the standard leash.
Start off the training sessions at home, either in your backyard or in your garage. Instruct your dog to sit and put on the collar and leash.
Choose which side you would like your dog to walk on, either left or right, it doesn’t matter. Start walking with your dog next to you.
Have some treats on hand. When he is walking next to you, praise him and say “Good Boy” and give him a treat.
If he is walking ahead of you, that is OK for now as long as the leash does not tighten. The moment you feel the leash tighten, STOP.
Don’t move until you feel some slack in the leash. Start walking again. And as before, the moment the leash tightens, stop walking.
If there is some slack in the leash, you can use it to pull your dog back a bit so he is walking next to you and give him a treat.
One variation to this approach and one that can be used with a dog that doesn’t get it right away is to change direction the moment the leash tightens. If you are walking one way, the moment the leash goes taut, turn around and walk in the exact opposite direction.
You are conditioning your dog to understand that if he pulls at the leash, he is not going anywhere. Only by walking next to you will he be rewarded.
What about training collars?
There are numerous “training collars” on the market designed to control and train large, unmanageable dogs. We would not recommend the choke chain or the prong collar to any new dog owners. If used, they should be used by experienced trainers. They have to be fitted correctly and can cause pain, injury and death, specially if the dog is a real puller.
Other devices such as the Halti and Gentle Leader are also designed to prevent a dog from pulling. But, frankly we don’t think they are a substitute for actual training. If the above training approach does not work and you are at your wit’s end then we might suggest the Gentle Leader. But, attempt the training first.