How to Walk Your Dog without Pulling

Our expert dog trainers have put together this guide to walking your dog without the stress of bad behaviour or anxious leash pulling.

Why Do Dogs Pull on Leashes?

Consider the differences between humans and canines. Humans walk mainly to reach a destination or for casual exercise, whereas healthy dogs are naturally inclined to trot or run out of enjoyment and curiosity. It is unnatural for dogs to walk at a set pace in parallel lines.

When walking on a leash, dogs will pay little attention to the restraint and will pull towards their desired destination anyway. When this behaviour works occasionally, it is called variable reinforcement – your dog remembers that you once gave in to them pulling on a leash and will, therefore, try over and over again. It is vital to use positive reinforcement and not to allow your dog a chance to cement this undesired behaviour.

How to Train Your Dog to Walk Beside You

Choose an appropriate, comfortable harness for your dog to maximise control and stability. Start with this simple game: Set up a goal for your dog (a treat or a toy) and place it on the ground. With your dog on a leash, take a step in the direction of the goal and when your dog draws forwards, say “no” and return to where you started. Repeat this as many times as you can – impose penalty distances whenever your dog tightens the leash.

Decide which side you’d prefer your dog to walk on. Attach a long leash/rope to your dog’s collar and take a handful of small treats into your yard or any familiar area. Keep the treats near your thigh in the hand of the side you’ve chosen to walk your dog on, then take a few steps and feed your dog a treat. They will quickly learn which side the food is kept on and will be more likely to stay there.

Walk swiftly and randomly around the backyard. Anytime your dog chooses to walk beside you, reward the behaviour with a treat. Reward them for every step they remain beside you and eventually you will not have to give rewards as often. If your dog is showing no interest in the exercise, try again at a different time when they are more alert or hungry.

Maintaining Good Behaviour

Take the previous exercise to the outside world, but this time, using a shorter leash. Give yourself plenty of time for the walk – between 30 minutes and an hour – and maintain leadership the entire time. Reward good behaviour and stop when your dog is being disobedient. Relieving themselves or sniffing foreign objects should be used as a reward experience as well. Every interaction with your dog can be used as a training exercise! To become a real pro, consider enrolling in an online dog training certificate and gaining a thorough knowledge of dog psychology.

Your dog will respond positively to being trained in an enjoyable, natural way and before you know it, you’ll be consistently walking side by side with your canine friend.

For any enquiries about becoming an expert at training your dog, contact the NDTF online or call 1300 66 44 66.