Why dogs pull?
Dogs learn to pull on the lead through not being taught correct lead manners at a young age. It becomes a habit to reach the place they are going faster. They may be a breed that instinctually pulls or they may be walking with other dogs and the competition to be at the front is then heightened. General excitability plays a factor and also the relationship balance between them and their owner or the person at the other end of the lead.
The best time to teach dog good lead manners is at puppy stage as they will not have acquired any bad habits along the way, but the same methods applies when teaching adult dogs too.
Training a puppy/dog to walk on the lead
Obtaining good focus in general with your puppy to begin with means they will automatically follow your lead and want to stay close to you, to do this firstly you need to teach some fun basic obedience, sit, come, down. By playing interactive games, such as hide and seek, retrieve and scenting out treats all builds bonds with your new puppy. Make sure you puppy understands its name and will focus on your face waiting for your next instruction.
Small treats are used to reward your puppy for the correct behaviours, always mark the correct behaviour first with a cue word ‘Yes’ or ‘click’ if using a clicker, say ‘yes’ and reward. For extra WOW new behaviours learnt, do not be mean and give 2-3-4 treats in one hit. Maximise the occasion.
Always start in the home, then progress to fenced off garden before venturing outside. Without a lead, get your puppy to follow you, by dropping treats by you and then walking away and dropping another. Always praise and treat. This starts the puppy of in the follow me mode. You can then progress to the treat in your hand and use as a lure, keep your puppy on the left hand side and walk in a small square at each direction change, say ‘Yes’ Good’ and reward not with the lure hand but a different treat from the other hand. Go into the garden and make your square bigger and add more direction changes. This is all good fun for your puppy and it will love playing this game. If you puppy is not bothered by the food or wanders off, try using a toy or a ball. The training session may have been too long as puppies get tired very quickly when doing concentration work so keep your sessions to 10 mins a time, 2 or 3 times a day rather than one long session.
Bring in an instruction word, such as ‘side’ ‘close’ or ‘heel’ and when the puppy responds mark with your ‘yes’ and reward.
You can then introduce a light weight lead and repeat the above, in the home first and then the garden. If your puppy pulls in another direction then change your direction and happily call your puppy to you using your instruction word. Always be in the position to keep the lead slack by moving your positon and calling your puppy to follow.
When venturing out in to the big wide world your puppy will be intrigued, maybe a little fearful or excited. Allow your puppy times to take in its surroundings and to sniff around. Then start to bring your home training in by doing some lead work in a less fascinating area. Your puppy will not be able to concentrate in a park swarming with other dogs, or a wood with lots of noises and scents. Pick your area carefully and do some quiet one to one work with direction changes and follow me games.
Be engaging to your puppy with plenty of positive rewards. As your puppy gets to 6-10 months old the initial work may seem to go out the window but be consistent and continue with early training, it is only pushing the boundaries in the adolescent stage and this is quite normal.
Breed types vary but on a whole, a simply collar and lead is all that is required in early training. A light long line is great for recall work. I am not a fan of extender leads as they can confuse the pup/dog in lead training. There place comes in only when your dog has developed and has be taught the difference between an extender and standard lead by using words such as ‘free’ or ‘go’. I would only use these when your puppy is older and you have a good walk on a standard lead.
Harness’s and head collars may have their place but assessed on the individual dog and it’s breed type, some may hinder the training process others may help to regain some focus whilst training before working towards a standard flat collar and lead. There are many on the market which can change the body and head position of the dog. I would not advise a head collar that lifts the head on a dog that was overly confident already nor would I advise to use a head collar of the type that pulls the head down on a already fearful, submissive dog. Many of these pieces of equipment can change the natural body languages of your dog so care should be taken in assessing the individual dog personality prior to purchase. It should be kept in mind that these types of equipment should not be used long term but only for training the desired walking in combination with positive reward training.
Leadership (The Manager)
It is important with a puppy as in an adult dog that your dog needs to see you as the leader, its rock, it’s guidance and needs learn to focus on you. The walk when mastered has a huge positive effect on other challenging behaviours your dog may be displaying. Good door way manners is key too, by maintaining calmness before the walk with a nice sit before the lead is put on and the door not opened before calmness is evident is the best criteria for commencing your walk. If excitability re –starts as you exit your property say on the driveway then stand and wait until your dog is calm before commencing and keep doing this as you walk. You may not get very far but it is worth it to gain a better walk long term.