Today I have the pleasure of introducing Andrea Kuska from Rocco’s House, who is here today to give you her top trick for training a dog to stop pulling on a leash. As anyone who has eyeballs will attest from being out and about, there are lots and lots and lots of dogs who love to drag their owners down the sidewalk, up the hill, through muddy puddles and across fields in search of squirrels. Working on this will help you, your dog, and most importantly, your rotator cuff.
It’s time for your daily drag through the park, and your shoulders are dreading it. You used to love the idea of taking your dog for a walk. When did the dog start walking you?
The scenario above is all too common, and it’s easily fixed. All you need is a fitted collar and a six foot leash.
Before you take your dog out to the park to practice, choose a low distraction area first. The backyard is ideal, a very large room in your house, or the front yard. Put your dog on the leash, and make sure that it’s slack. As soon as the dog takes up the slack and pulls, turn and walk the other direction.
You may not even get six inches, and your neighbors will think you’re nuts, but if you make your movements unpredictable your dog is going to drop back so he can watch your crazy movements. Praise this. Also praise any slack in the leash.
Never move in the direction the dog wants to go when he’s pulling on the leash. Every time the dog gets to go where he wants to by pulling, he’s being reward for it. Always either move away, or stand still when the dog is pulling.
Keep Sessions Short
After a few minutes of working your dog, go home. Your dog needs time to mentally work on what you’re asking him, and it’s far better to get one step in the right direction and quit, then to give him a thousand different things you could want in one marathon session. There is nothing wrong with doing multiple short sessions in a day, however. Feel free to snap that leash back on in twenty minutes and practice some more.
Gradually Add Distractions
As your dog gets better at walking on a slack leash, you can make walks a little longer and venture out into more distracting areas. Keep practicing. Remember, every time you are with your dog you are training it.
Andrea Kuska is the author of Rocco’s House. She lives and works in Western Washington with her three dogs, husband and son.