The two main contributors to pulling on walks by dogs are conditioning and stress.

Conditioning

I’ll address the conditioning first as it is less involved. Basically, you have a dog who has been so conditioned to the pressure of the lead pulling on the collar or harness that your dog thinks it is a normal part of the walk. Simple techniques and possible equipment changes are required. We need to teach your dog that when pressure is applied the best place to be is by your side. It is generally a very simple process, and the results are dramatic.

Stress

Stress is the most significant cause of lead pulling on walks. Environmental stresses and the lack of engagement with the owner go hand-in-hand. You may have the most obedient dog at home, super calm and completely engaging. However, once you walk through the front gate, you have a completely different dog.

Some of the behaviours your dog may demonstrate are listed below.

• Hypervigilant, constantly scanning and alert.
• Increase breathing and heart rate.
• Moving from side to side on the walk or “snaking”.
• Does not respond to commands.
• Increased anxiety upon passing certain locations.
• Licking of lips.
• Turns head and avoidance.
• Yawning.
• Stops walking and just sits.
• Barking.
• Lays on the ground belly down.
• High pitch whining/crying.
• Shaking out of the stress

There are many more, but you get the picture. Your dog can no longer problem-solve, and dogs can’t apply reason like humans. Lack of socialisation and environment exposure, negative experiences and medical are contributing factors. One of the major causes and is generally least considered, is the lack of control and structure provided by the owner. Most dogs need to know you have control on the walk as the pack leader. The dog will start pulling in front, does not feel in control, and starts demonstrating these signs of stress. Your dog does not want to be out in front and in charge. This will become worse when your dog enters the pubescent stage, all that estrogen and testosterone pumping through their bodies. No wonder they start misbehaving.

Tips to Loose Lead Walking

• Dogs are the master of reading your body cues. Be confident, take control.
• Your dog is conditioned that pressure on the lead is normal.
• Pressure is only applied when your dog needs a correction.
• Once conditioned your dog will feel the slightest application of pressure and drop back to your side.
• When starting your walk, stop, allow the dog to reach the end of the lead, apply pressure, then recall your dog. As soon as your dog turns back to you, release pressure, mark it with a “Yes” and praise. After 4/5 reinforcements, your dog will automatically return to your side when you stop.
• Immediately after, walk with your dog by your side and do an about turn, apply a gentle correction, then release pressure when your dog turns. After a few repetitions your dog will automatically follow your leg and turn.
• Start to walk in a straight line with your dog on a loose lead by your side. As soon as your dog starts to pull, apply a gentle upwards or backwards correction with the lead. When your dog drops back and you have a loose lead, mark with a “Yes” and reward.
• You may have to experiment with your collar. I prefer a check chain, halti, gentle leaders and a no pressure lead. They only require minimal pressure when applying a correction.
• Once you have your dog walking with a loose lead, start engaging with your dog with a “look” command. Reward when your dog looks up at you. Once conditioned your dog will actively engage with you and be less stressed with environmental factors.
• Start learning how to read your dog’s body cues. Upon the first sign of stress, act immediately by re-engaging your dog. Apply a gentle correction if required to break your dog’s focus on the distraction.
• If you allow your dog to slowly build up the stress levels without intervention it will be too late.
• When approaching other dogs don’t walk straight on towards the other dog, walked in a curved line. Dogs approach each other on an angle, not head on.
• Expose your dog from the earliest possible age to environmental stimulus. Slowly build up the level of stimulus as the dog gets more comfortable.
• Start obedience as soon as you get your puppy. 8-16 weeks is the biggest brain development period. Use it.
• Practice makes perfect. Continuation training and consistency is the key.

Regain your walks again. Loose lead walking is the key.