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?