Leash Pulling Blues: Proven Strategies to Walk Your Dog Like a Pro

Posted by Jackie Ly on

woman walking her dog

If we can ask dogs about things they love, walks would rank high! Walking gets them all excited, as it’s the time they can go outside and sniff everything and interact with fellow dogs and other people. Seeing your dog happy and excited makes you happy too, but before this piece of heaven, they need to have manners for walkies, of course. Teaching your dog how to walk properly is a must, to ensure that both of you have a fun time and not a stressful one.

In this article, we’ll cover:

Table of Contents

Essential items to bring when dog walking

Here are some essentials you need to prepare before walking your pooch.

Proper identification

Make sure your dog has a microchip or at least wears an ID tag each time you leave the house with them. Unfortunately, there's always a possibility that your dog can be separated from you and get lost, so make sure their tags display up-to-date information.

Bring poop bags

Cleaning up after your dog is part of being a responsible pet owner. Leaving your dog's poop lying around is not only rude, but also harmful to people’s and other dogs’ health. Pet waste may contain harmful microorganisms including giardia, E. salmonella, roundworms, and coli that can infect people and other animals. Make sure you bring poop bags – they’re easy to carry and a convenient way to clean up after your dog’s mess.

Bring water

If you plan on walking your dog for more than thirty minutes, or if it will be hot outside, make sure they have enough to drink to stay hydrated. You can buy a collapsible water bottle with a ready bowl for dogs’ use. 

Bring high-value treats!

Always bring treats. Treats are a great way to incorporate some training into your walks, and you can also use them to help your dogs stay focused in the midst of distractions.

Make sure they are high-value treats–not necessarily expensive, but treats that you know your dog loves.

Before Walking

1. Consider your dog’s breed and life stage

Different breeds have different physical capabilities, behaviours, and exercise needs. Some breeds don’t need long walks, some do. Older dogs need walking all the more for their joint health, even if the exercise is short. 

But regardless of their breed, all dogs should learn how to walk on a leash. And if they have other behavioural problems, like chihuahuas being highly reactive for example, work on that behaviour first before you do leash training and take them out for walks.

2. Do leash training. 

You can begin leash training at home and work your way outside into the yard and across the street. Check how they react to people and other dogs. Teach them to stop when you stop, to look at you, and to heel. Take them for practice walks and socialisation training at a dog park. Don’t take them out until you’re confident about their obedience and calm.  

For proper tools, don’t use retractable leashes and front clip harnesses that can hinder shoulder movement. There are many good harnesses available that help with no-pull training. Start training your dog on the collar and leash/harness you mean to use from now on.

3. Assess the place where you will take your dog

Planning where you’re going helps you know what behaviour you can expect with your dog. If you’re going to an area that’s familiar to them, they may be more at ease and calm. You also need to scout every street or park before you take your dog there to make sure you’re not surprised by wildlife or certain terrain, like sharp rocks and mud. Keep in mind that even neighbourhood streets can be dangerous if there are dogs that can suddenly attack off-leash, so get to know the routes you plan to take with your dog. If you're going to a new place, you also need delicious goodies to gradually introduce your dog to new situations and help them find positive experiences.

4. Consider the weather

Consider the surroundings and any potential weather hazards. Your dog might be negatively impacted by both extremes of the weather. Certain breeds are more vulnerable to variations in temperature than others. Check your dog's paws on a hot pavement under the sun, and bring a jacket for them in the winter months.

5. Do your walks at regular times.

Dogs that go on regular walks are less likely to pull because they are more self-regulated. Regular walks provide them with opportunities for mental stimulation and training, as well as a way to let off steam and receive positive reinforcement for walking on a loose leash. The more you walk, the better they walk. Both walking and its consistency lessen hyperactivity and promote improved leash manners.

  • Martingale Collar - Martingale collars are regular collars with a small amount of tension that tightens as your dog pulls. The slight and controlled tightening provides control without inflicting pain or choking, and the slight tightening also serves as a reminder to your dog not to pull. This is good for big and powerful breeds. 
  • Head Halter - Contrary to popular belief, they are not muzzles. They control the front of your dog's muzzle, much like a horse's halter (without the bit and bridle). To put it briefly, when they pull, your dog's head is pulled sideways. This is a really useful tool for reducing pulling.
  • Standard Flat Collar - Flat collars are not suggested by many people for pulling issues, but that is only because they lack patience. Standard collars have no acclimatisation time and offer excellent control. They can provide a permanent solution to pulling when proper training methods are used.

During Walks

1. Walk in front or beside your dog

Walking in front of your dog establishes that you are the leader of the pack. When you let your dog walk ahead of you, then they see themselves as the leader, not you. You should be the first one to go out the door and go in. Always walk in front or beside your dog. 

2. Let them sniff around

Walking your dog and letting them sniff will stimulate their minds and satisfy their natural curiosity. Exploring helps them get rid of extra energy, which reduces their tendency to pull. Sniffing can also be considered as a reward, so it is a positive reinforcement that encourages good behaviour.

3. Reinforce leash training. 

Now that you’re actually walking your pooch outside, reinforce the things you have taught them during their leash training. Use the collar/harness you have trained them with. Keep your composure and walk ahead of them with confidence. Reinforce commands you’ve taught them, such as sit and heel. Let them apply what they’ve learned in real-world scenarios, reinforcing positive behaviours.

4. Reward your dog

Reward desired behaviours and redirect undesired ones to reinforce leash manners. Reward your dog with goodies, compliments, or quick play times when they walk nicely without pulling. 

If they begin to tug, halt where you are and wait for them to let go of the leash's tension. Continue walking after they've done so, and give them praise for the loose leash. Leash manners are best reinforced through consistency, which will make walks fun for both you and your pet.

5. Train your dog

Consider training your dog and strengthening your relationship during your walks together. Your mutual understanding with your dog can be reinforced when you incorporate socialisation and training exercises into your walks. Do not forget to use your treats as a positive reinforcement for your dog's good behaviour!

6. Give them enough time

Your dog pulling the leash may be a sign that they don't want to go home yet and want to extend their outdoor adventure.To address this, add engaging activities to your walks like games of fetch or sniffing to make it more interesting. If you give your dog enough time and enjoyment outside, eventually they will come to enjoy the entire walk, which will remove any resistance to going home.

Bonus: Wear reflective gear if you walk at night

If you walk your dog at night, wear something reflective for both of your safety. And if nighttime is oftentimes the only free time where you can walk your dog, get a reflective collar/leash combo for them too. These reflective collars and leashes are designed to catch and reflect ambient light, making you both more visible to passing vehicles and pedestrians. 

After Walks

1. Keep leading even after the walk

To keep your leader-of-the-pack energy, maintain walking in front of your dog even after the walk. Keep leading and be the first one to go in at your house. Don't stop leading when you reach home. While you remove your shoes or put your dog's leash away, have your dog wait patiently.

2. Reward your dog after walking!

After a walk, give your dog a treat to help them associate walking with joy and fulfilment. Rewarding good behaviour with food or treats after a walk establishes a positive association. This routine not only provides a fun end to the walk, but it also encourages them to go on walks in the future.

3. Stick to a routine

Maintaining a schedule will help your dog get used to walking with you. This involves taking them to the same locations and at the same time every day. This will teach them appropriate behaviour, which will make them behave better in new walking locations. When dogs know where they are headed, it also helps them remain calm.

Walking your dog is a fun and enjoyable activity, especially if you have trained them with proper leash manners. This leads to a peaceful and positive experience for you, your dog, and those who are around. This also ensures that the purpose of walks are reinforced: to give your pooch time to socialise and exercise without the restraints of problematic behaviours. 

So now, apply the things you’ve learned, be patient and consistent, and enjoy fun, peaceful walks with your fur baby! 

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