One of the most common problems dog owners experience is their dog pulls on the leash.
While the key to loose-leash walking is training, using the right equipment is important too.
Harnesses are generally comfortable for dogs, but the harnesses where the leash attaches to the ring on the back of the dog make it easy and comfortable for the dog to lean forward and pull. Harnesses originally were designed to harness and direct the power of horses, and we also use them today to harness the power in dogs who participate in sports like cani-cross, skijoring and bike-joring. In these activities, we encourage the dogs to pull.
For everyday walking, this can be uncomfortable or even dangerous (if the dog suddenly pulls). For dogs who have learned that pulling gets them where they want to go (to meet another dog, a friendly stranger, a friend, etc.), there are harnesses (available locally) that have a second ring on the chest of the dog, which is designed to discourage the pulling without pain or discomfort to the dog. Training leads (leashes with a clip on each end of the leash to attach to each ring on the harness) are used with these harnesses.
Head collars are also effective. Many dogs need to get used to wearing head collars and pairing the head collar with something the dog likes helps accomplish this. I prefer the harnesses to a head collar because, if the dog launches, the pressure and weight are not on the neck but rather on the chest, so safer for the dog. A head collar with the leash attachment at the back of the head is designed to be a safer option for the dog and effective at controlling the
The first step to actually training a dog to walk on leash without pulling is to reward the dog every time he turns his attention to and comes near the owner. I like to start this in an area with few distractions (a backyard is often a good choice). Turn away from the dog often and reward the dog for following you. With the leash attached, play with the dog using toys he loves.
Once the dog is staying close to you on and off-leash in the yard, try it on-leash on a quiet street. Reward the dog for paying attention to you (with good treats or by playing with the dog with a toy) while he is walking with you. Turn often to keep the dog focussed on you and stop walking if he starts to pull. Move forward when the leash is slack. Once the dog has mastered this, you are ready for the next step (for more information and further steps on training dogs to walk on leash without pulling, please visit www.dogsofdistinction.com).