Saturday, February 5, 2011

Do your dogs pull on the leash?

The age-old dilemma; pulling on the leash. To pull or not to pull, how to train, what tools to use; people have been discussing the "behavioural problem" of pulling on the leash for years.

I've been thinking about this quite a bit lately as we see other dogs on walks. It's interesting, and sometimes upsetting, to see how people attempt to train their dogs.

Some people's dogs don't pull (like Mika). Some people's dogs pull and their owners don't mind (like Wall-e). Some people's dogs pull and their owners yank them back. Some people's dogs don't pull and their owners still use collar corrections if the dog even steps slightly ahead of them. And some people's dogs don't want to walk and are dragged along by their owners (I don't see this often, but I do see it too much). I see dogs with buckle collars, dogs with martingale collars, dogs with harnesses, dogs with Gentle Leaders, dogs with chokes, dogs with prongs. There seems to be no end to how people train their dogs and what tools they use.

Let me talk about my own dogs and their leash "manners." Mika doesn't pull unless she sees another dog; in that case, I wouldn't give her time to pull because I'd already be asking her to "Gimme a check," which is her cue to focus on me and trust me to keep her safe. When Mika was a puppy, she did pull. I was taught at puppy kindergarten class to start walking in the opposite direction whenever she used the leash to go taut. It didn't work 100% at the time. I think she just doesn't pull anymore because she just doesn't find walks all that exciting, and she also doesn't like the feel of a tight leash; at the very rare times that she does cause the leash to go taut, she shakes herself (her key sign of stress) and stops for a couple of seconds. In addition, Mika just likes to stay close to me. She doesn't like being far away from me on walks.

Wall-e, on the other hand, looovess walks and just can't wait to see what's ahead. When I first got him, he didn't pull. Then again, when I got him he was nervous to walk down the street! (He had never seen the suburbs before.) I never had to train him to keep a loose leash because he already did. He probably started pulling at around the same time he started chasing cars (at about nine months). But then I was all about building drive and I didn't want to decrease any enthusiasm. I only started to seriously train him to walk on a loose leash at the end of December, after reading in one of Suzanne Clothier's book that the first step to overcoming any kind of problem with a dog is walking on a loose leash. So we started training loose leash walking, but even though I was using positive reinforcement, Wall-e just wasn't having as much fun as he did when he pulled. I missed seeing him racing at the end of the leash like a little furry sled dog (and yes, I missed desperately trying to keep up with him). So after about three weeks of training him to walk on a loose leash, we went back to our old ways.

I think that letting a dog pull on their leash is perfectly fine. (Well, maybe not for the St. Bernards and Mastiffs. :) As long as the dog still has focus on the handler and checks back often, without being asked, the handler and dog can enjoy their walk while still staying connected. My only worry about pulling on the leash is that it could cause injury to the trachea over time, which is why I'm looking into buying a sport harness. I have a no-pull harness that we got for Mika when she was about a year old, but I don't want Wall-e to stop pulling; I want a harness that will still allow Wall-e to pull without causing him injury. He enjoys pulling and I don't want to get rid of that for him.

So, what about you guys? Do your dogs pull on the leash? Are you okay with it?


  1. Sometimes my dogs pull on leash, like if they are excited. I dont worry about it to much. Its not like they are dragging me down the street. I have more problems walking if there is a car coming and then Miley goes crazy. It hard to walk a crazy dog. LOL

  2. Maisy pulls occasionally, but only when she's very excited. I usually allow it- she's small, and if I call her, she'll come right back, and for the most part, she walks in a loose heel position.

    Her "worst" habit is jumping up on people. I've never cared enough to "fix" it, and indeed, encourage it at times.

  3. Ricky pulls - of course! LOL! Goes wild at cars. But he will walk nicely at my side in our neighborhood starting out and pulls as we near home! Away from our neighborhood he always pulls!

  4. Mika always pulls once we leave our house as he is always over excited when he can go out to have a walk, he will calm down in next few minutes and walks nicely beside us, on the way, he likes to sniff at car wheels and does his markings which I won't allow him to do it. I definitely don't want to anger my neighbours as most of them are Muslims.
    Eva doesn't pull much and she always walks beside me. She did pull when she was a puppy but not that much. Eva still gets excited when there are bikes and cats passing by. She has improved a lot lately.

  5. Rosco pulls, I allow it on a harness that makes it comfortable for him to pull, he loves his walks and even when he is pulling, he checks back and I can call his name and he quickly turns and runs towards me, so I'm totally ok with it. When I walk him on anything that goes around his neck, he is not allowed to pull and we have worked loose leash walking so he understands.

  6. my dogs are all pullers, and they can be ahead of me but I really dont want them to pull, it just is not as much fun when we are out in public, and I worry about safety issues-them getting into another dogs face, hurting little old ladies jumping on them, my dogs can be pretty wild. When they are free to really go out and just check in I just give them a longer leash. I do use a soft fleece harness, or a sports flex harness, and I really do try to be consistent so it is fair for them to know and not sometimes let them pull and sometimes not. We have done tons and tons of rewarding in position, but mostly if they are rushing off I just stand still and I do try to get their attention when I see especially appealing things coming up. I used to not mind pulling but my dogs are bigger and really strong with a lot of energy and esp if I try to take more then is just not fun for me with them pulling and not fair to them if I am sometimes annoyed with it and sometimes let it go on. Then there are the people that Cricket has body slammed, it can really hurt when she jumps on you and there were too many close calls with people that could have really been hurt, so them jumping onto people figures into the equation, and as long as they can jump on people they get rewarded for it, so best to not put them in the position where things happen ;-). My sheltie Chloe, she naturally is not a puller, but it would not be a big deal I think if she was, because she would not hurt me or other people as much as the border collies can;-)

  7. Gracie and YoYo pull, but only when there's something super interesting to go after, like a squirrel or deer. YoYo pulls when at an agility trial, but I don't mind at all!!!

  8. I can't afford to let my mastiff pull at all and he is consigned to a tight heel for the duration of his walks. I use a very short 12" leash attached to his collar as well as a six footer on his chest harness. I can just drop the 12" when he wants to pause to do his business. I do carry lots of treats and do lots of focus work.

    With my mastiff, I need to make sure I see anything interesting first as he can be a bit barky and protective when we see other dogs or walkers.

    My little lab usually gets to walk on a flexi. This gives him freedom to forge ahead or lag behind. I'm working on him being momma aware enough never to go all the way to the end. He gets rewarded for checking in and for assuming a good heel to go past distractions.

    But with both dogs, my focus is on a loose leash at all times. I figure once the leash goes taught, they have taken charge of the walk and I don't like that.

    Mango Momma

  9. Abbey definitely pulls on leash, but I find that she does it at all the right times. When she goes out for a walk she does it because she's excited but eventually calms down. When we have just finished a run she pulls to go get her treats. When we see one of our doggie friends she pulls to go say 'Hello'. I don't think I really have a problem with it because when I don't want her to pull she doesn't. I just say 'hey' in a very soft voice and she turns around and goes into heel position. She's a good sport.

  10. my dachund doesnt like to walk, he put on his brakes and i have to pull him to start again, otherwise, he sets down,and wont move, how do you get a dog to walk, when he wont.

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