Pulling on the Leash
All dogs are born with an instinct that tells them to give an opposite reaction to physical pressure. When a puppy is pushed away, it will return, as if on a rubber band. When a puppy is pulled by a leash, it will put on the brakes and resist moving forward. Try placing your fingers on your puppy's side and slowly increase the pressure. Your puppy will automatically counter that pressure by pushing back into your fingers. It is a natural instinctive behavior in all canines.
Now, take that knowledge of canine instinct and apply it to a flat collar or harness and leash. When your puppy moves to the end of the leash, it feels pressure either on the front of its throat or chest. The pressure pulls the puppy/dog backwards, so what is your puppy's natural instinctive response? You got it! To push against that pressure, the puppy must move forward. Again, all dogs do this naturally. This is why pulling on the leash is the #1 complaint from dog owners.
But, what do we, humans, want from the puppy/dog when we pull on the leash? We want our puppies/dogs to move with the pressure, not fight against it. In order for this to happen, we must specifically teach the puppy/dog to go against its natural instinct. When you specifically teach your puppy/dog how to do this, it will be very easy to direct your dog on the leash with even very subtle leash pressure.
Here are the steps to training your puppy/dog to go against its natural instinct and give in to the pressure on the leash:
- Teach your dog the "yes" marker.
- Understand that dogs learn from the release of physical or emotional pressure.
- Place gentle, but consistent pressure on the leash in one direction. Just enough pressure to feel your puppy/dog push back or use its natural instinct. Do not put so much pressure that you move the puppy/dog.
- Hold the pressure. You want your puppy/dog to release the pressure on its own.
- Do whatever it takes to call your dog to you while holding the pressure. Squat down. Call your puppy/dog in a high-pitched baby voice. Present a high-value food reward. Anything to get the puppy/dog to move even one small step in your direction.
- The exact moment your puppy/dog releases pressure on the leash in any way, even a small bit, mark with the "yes" and reward.
- Repeat steps 3 - 6 for one to two minutes in one training session. Create several small training sessions a day.
- Once your puppy/dog consistently releases pressure on its own when the leash is taunt as you pull it toward you, then repeat the same procedure putting gentle, but consistent, pressure downward on the collar. The puppy/dog should release the pressure by moving its head down (not up causing more pressure).
- Repeat this step until the puppy/dog lays its body down when you pull down on the collar.
- Repeat this with any pressure on your puppy/dog's body, such as pushing the puppy/dog with your fingers. Keep gentle, consistent pressure until your puppy moves away from you.
Here is a video to help you fully visualize this concept: