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Puppy Pulling on Leash: An Easy Guide to a Better Walk

Picture this: you’re strolling through the park with your furry best friend, excited to show off your new puppy to the world. Suddenly, your little bundle of joy turns into a miniature sled dog, yanking you down the path with all its might. Sound familiar?

Don’t worry—you’re not alone.

Puppy pulling on leash is a common issue faced by many pet owners. But fear not! We’re here to help you navigate this bumpy road with a comprehensive, step-by-step guide to stop your puppy from pulling on the leash.

Understanding Why Puppies Pull on Leashes

Before we dive into the solution, let’s first understand why puppies pull on leashes. There are a few reasons why your furball might be doing this:

Excitement: Puppies are naturally curious and excitable creatures. They want to explore the world and may pull on the leash to get closer to all the fascinating sights, sounds, and smells.

Lack of Training: Puppies aren’t born knowing how to walk politely on a leash. It’s a skill they need to learn, and it takes time and patience. Leash training a puppy can be a long process without the proper education.

Instinct: Dogs are descendants of wolves, which are pack animals. When your puppy pulls on the leash, they may be trying to assert its dominance or take the lead.

Now that we know the common reasons, let’s learn how to tackle the issue head-on.

Establishing Good Habits Early On

Prevention is better than a cure, so it’s essential to establish good walking habits from the very beginning. Here’s how you can do that:

Step 1: Choose the Right Equipment

Selecting the appropriate gear can significantly impact your puppy’s leash-walking experience. Consider the following factors when investing in the right equipment:

Collar or Harness: Choose a sturdy, comfortable collar or harness that fits your puppy well. Make sure it doesn’t cause any discomfort or restrict their movement. Harnesses are generally recommended, as they distribute pressure more evenly across the puppy’s body and reduce the risk of choking.

Front-clip vs. Back-clip Harness: A front-clip harness can be particularly effective in controlling pulling, as it redirects your puppy’s movement back towards you when they pull. A back-clip harness can be more comfortable for your puppy and is suitable for dogs that don’t pull excessively.

Leash: Invest in a reliable leash made from durable materials like nylon or leather. Select a length that provides adequate freedom for your puppy to explore while maintaining control. A six-foot leash is a standard choice for most dog owners.

Optional Training Tools: You may also consider additional tools such as a head collar or a slip lead, which can help with training and control. Always research the proper usage and fit of these tools to ensure your puppy’s safety and comfort.

Step 2: Get Your Puppy Acclimated to the Leash

Gradually introducing your puppy to the leash can help prevent anxiety and resistance. Follow these steps to acclimate your puppy to the leash:

Familiarization: Allow your puppy to sniff and explore the leash and collar or harness without attaching it to them. This helps create a positive association with the equipment.

Indoor Practice: Attach the leash to their collar or harness and practice walking around the house. Reward your puppy with treats and praise for staying close to you and not pulling.

Short Outdoor Walks: Begin with brief outdoor walks to help your puppy adjust to the leash in a new environment. Gradually increase the duration and distance of your walks as your puppy becomes more comfortable and confident.

Step 3: Make Walking a Positive Experience

To establish a strong foundation for good walking behavior, ensure that your puppy associates walks with positive experiences:

Reward System: Use treats, praise, and playtime to reward your puppy for walking politely on the leash. This reinforces the desired behavior and encourages them to continue walking without pulling.

Consistency: Maintain consistent expectations and training methods during every walk. This helps your puppy understand what is expected of them and makes the learning process more efficient.

Patience: Be patient with your puppy, as it may take time to fully grasp the concept of walking on a leash. Remember that every puppy is unique, and some may require more time and effort than others to develop proper leash manners.

Training Techniques to Stop Puppy Pulling on Leash

If your puppy is already pulling on the leash, don’t worry. It’s never too late to teach an old dog (or a young pup) new tricks. Here are some tried-and-tested techniques to help you regain control:

The “Stop-and-Go” Method

When your puppy starts pulling on the leash, simply stop walking. Wait for them to turn their attention back to you, and when they do, reward them with a treat and praise. Then, continue walking. This teaches your pup that pulling won’t get them where they want to go.

The “Change Direction” Technique

Another effective strategy is to change direction whenever your puppy pulls on the leash. This will help them understand that you’re in control and that they need to follow your lead.

Teach the “Heel” Command

Teaching your puppy to “heel” can be incredibly useful in preventing pulling. Start by holding a treat in your hand and guiding your puppy to your side. Use the command “heel” and reward them when they’re in the correct position. Practice this command regularly during walks, rewarding your puppy for maintaining the “heel” position.

Use Positive Reinforcement

Consistently reward your puppy for good behavior on walks. Treats, praise, and affection go a long way in reinforcing polite walking habits. Remember to be patient and consistent in your training—puppies can be easily distracted, and it may take time for them to fully grasp the concept.

Addressing Setbacks and Challenges

During your training journey, you may encounter some setbacks and challenges. Don’t be discouraged! Here’s how you can address them:

Your Puppy is Easily Distracted

Puppies have short attention spans, and it’s not uncommon for them to get distracted by other dogs, people, or anything new and exciting. To combat this, practice walking in a quiet, familiar area before gradually introducing more distractions.

Your Puppy is Scared or Nervous

Fear or puppy anxiety can sometimes cause a puppy to pull on the leash. In these cases, it’s crucial to address the root cause of their fear. Slowly desensitize them to the source of their anxiety and create positive associations with the object or situation.

A scared and nervous puppy
A scared and nervous puppy in a big world.

You’re Inconsistent with Training

Inconsistency can hinder your puppy’s progress. Ensure you’re practicing these techniques regularly and maintaining the same expectations during every walk.

Understanding your puppy’s needs and desires

There’s lots of great advice in this guide, but it’s also important to consider what your dog wants and needs during a walk. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Is your puppy eager to sniff? Have they had enough “sniff time” today?
  • Is your puppy curious about something in the environment and wants to inspect it? If it’s not dangerous, consider letting them explore.
  • Has your puppy had enough exercise (running, fetching, playing, etc.) today? If not, engaging them in some physical activity before the walk might help.

Meeting your puppy’s physical and mental stimulation needs can significantly improve their leash walking behavior. For example, if your puppy tends to pull when they haven’t had enough exercise or mental stimulation, try working their nose and muscles before taking them on a walk. This can help them become more relaxed and cooperative during the walk.

Allowing your puppy to explore and sniff on a six-foot lead can be a great way to satisfy their natural curiosity. If they don’t follow you when it’s time to move on, use a verbal cue (like “let’s go”) to signal that it’s time to continue walking.

Keep in mind that if your puppy is pulling to see another dog or a person, the situation might require different strategies. However, understanding and addressing your puppy’s needs and desires can significantly improve your communication with them and make walks more enjoyable for both of you.

Maintaining Control and Preventing Injuries During Walks

Effectively controlling your puppy during walks is essential to ensure your safety and your pet’s. Follow these tips to maintain control and prevent injuries when walking your dog:

Optimal Hand Position: Keep your hand close to your body, preferably just above the waist, while holding the leash. This position provides more control and stability, minimizing the risk of injury if your puppy suddenly pulls.

Use Both Hands When Needed: If necessary, use both hands to hold the leash, especially during the initial training phase. This gives you extra control and security. However, remember to keep your hands close to your body.

Shorten the Leash: If your puppy tends to pull, temporarily shorten the leash to keep them closer to you. This can help you maintain control and encourage your puppy to walk politely by your side.

Use Your Body: Use your body language and posture to communicate with your puppy. Stand tall and confident, signaling to your dog that you’re in charge. This can help establish authority and make it easier to control your puppy on walks.

Stay Alert: Always be aware of your surroundings and anticipate potential distractions or triggers that could cause your puppy to pull. By staying alert, you can react promptly and maintain control in challenging situations.

Practice Consistency: Consistently practicing good leash walking habits and using the same commands during every walk helps your puppy understand your expectations and develop proper walking behavior.

Strengthen Your Bond: Spend quality time bonding with your puppy through play, training, and other shared activities. A strong bond with your dog can improve their responsiveness and make them more eager to please, which can lead to better walking behavior.

By following these tips, you’ll be better equipped to maintain control during walks and prevent injuries caused by sudden pulls or unruly behavior.

Enjoying Your Well-Behaved Puppy

With patience, consistency, and the right training techniques, you’ll soon enjoy leisurely strolls with your well-behaved puppy. Remember that every puppy is unique, and some may require more time and effort than others to learn proper leash manners.

In the end, the time and energy you invest in training your puppy will result in a stronger bond and a more enjoyable walking experience for both of you. So, embrace the journey, and look forward to the days when leash pulling is a distant memory.

Woman with well behaved puppy
A reader sent in a photo of her in the park with her well-behaved puppy.

A Quick Recap of Our Step-by-Step Guide

  • Understand why puppies pull on leashes.
  • Choose the right equipment.
  • Get your puppy acclimated to the leash.
  • Make walking a positive experience.
  • Employ the “Stop-and-Go” method.
  • Utilize the “Change Direction” technique.
  • Teach the “Heel” command.
  • Use positive reinforcement.
  • Address setbacks and challenges.
  • Understand your puppy’s needs and desires.
  • Maintain control and prevent injuries during walks.
  • Enjoy your well-behaved puppy!

Now that you’re equipped with the knowledge and tools to stop your puppy from pulling on the leash, go out and conquer those walks together!

Frequently Asked Questions About Puppy Pulling On Leash

Do puppies grow out of pulling on the lead?

Some puppies may naturally grow out of pulling on the lead as they mature and become more familiar with their surroundings.

To help your puppy develop good leash manners throughout the puppy development timeline, it’s essential to proactively train them using the techniques mentioned in the step-by-step guide.

While some puppies may naturally grow out of pulling on the lead as they mature, it’s not a guarantee. Many dogs will continue to pull without proper training. Don’t rely on the possibility of your puppy growing out of it; instead, take a proactive approach and train them to develop good leash manners.

Is it normal for puppies to pull on the leash?

Yes, it is normal for puppies to pull on the leash. This behavior is often due to excitement, lack of training, or instinct. While it is a common issue, it is important to address leash pulling early on to prevent it from becoming a long-term habit.

How long does it take to train a dog not to pull?

The amount of time it takes to train a dog not to pull on the leash varies depending on the individual dog, their age, and the consistency of the training. Some dogs may learn proper leash manners in a few weeks, while others may require months of consistent training. Patience and persistence are key to success.

What is the best anti-pull dog harness?

There are several types of anti-pull dog harnesses available, but a popular and effective option is the front-clip harness. By attaching the leash to a clip on the front of the harness (on the dog’s chest), it redirects the dog’s movement back towards the owner, which discourages pulling. Some well-known brands that offer front-clip harnesses include PetSafe Easy Walk, Ruffwear Front Range, and the Blue-9 Balance Harness.

Can my dog choke when pulling on the leash?

Yes, a dog can choke or experience discomfort when pulling on the leash, particularly if they are wearing a standard collar. This is because the pressure from the collar is applied directly to the dog’s neck, potentially causing injury to the trachea, especially if they pull hard. To prevent this, consider using a front-clip harness or a head collar that distributes pressure more evenly and reduces the risk of choking.

Filip Blomqvist

Filip Blomqvist

Introducing Filip, our founder and a seasoned dog aficionado. With years of hands-on experience in dog training, behavior, and wellness, Filip brings a wealth of knowledge to our blog. Passionate about sharing his expertise and love for dogs, Filip strives to enrich the lives of canine companions and their human families alike.View Author posts