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Reasons why your dog may pull on the lead

Published on 27th December 2016

COMMON MYTH: My dog does pulls on it’s lead because he’s dominant

REALITY: The concept of “dominance” is still being used incorrectly to explain inappropriate behaviour in dogs. This is because dominance actually describes a social relationship between two or more individuals and It is not a character trait. Despite what many people believe, dogs do not spend their time seeking to establish control over humans.

So why is my dog pulling on the lead…

There are various reasons why a dog pulls on lead, the most common is that he has not been taught correctly, is over excited or may be fearful. If your dog is doing something you don’t like, forget about worrying about “dominance.” Instead decide what it is you want your dog to do instead, and then proceed to teach him that and reward him for doing it right.

How can you help…

So before you can proceed to teach your dog the correct behaviour you must understand what is causing the inappropriate behaviour. I will briefly go through some common reasons as previously mentioned above.

? Because your dog has not been taught correctly

I am strongly against any regimented ‘pack leader’ methods which often involve a lead yank to direct the dog back to the correct place. My methods are more ‘free flowing’ and 100% force free concentrating more on a nice slack lead and focus towards the handler. Like any training task I start at the bare basics – helping to set the dog up for success. I advice a quiet garden where you can incorporate the 3 D’s gradually – Distance, Duration and Distractions.

? Because your dog is fearful

When working with Fear based lead pullers the goal is to reduce the anxiety/fear so the pulling is also reduced. In the initial stages I would suggest managing the environment, so only walking your dog in areas where they will see no trigger or low levels of the trigger. So the basics would be practising loose lead walking in the garden.The next step would be gradually exposing to environments where they can view the trigger at a safe distance, below their threshold. Over time you can build up the tolerance, increasing confidence, by introducing food as you see the trigger. The dog will see a positive association between the trigger and the food:

Sees a dog (trigger) = good things happen, yummy food!

Dog (trigger) disappears = food stops

I always advise contacting an accredited behaviourist for any fear based behaviour and a vet check (to rule out any medical issues attributing to the behaviour).

? Because your dog is excited

A dog may pull on the lead due to excitement of seeing another dog, getting to the field or when seeing a person. I would recommend working on impulse control, gradually building up the distractions, distance or/and duration gradually. You can also incorporate some focus exercises and relaxation techniques. If your dog is already excited before it even walks across the door step, how is it ever going to remain calm and focused on the walk?

Thanks for reading
Helen Motteram, BSc (hons)

For more advice how to teach loose lead walking please get in touch: helen@socialpawscheltenham.co.uk