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How to Stop a Dog from Pulling on Its Leash

When taking a dog for a walk, you should guide the path of the dog —not vice versa. Besides being a minor embarrassment for its human owner, a dog who incessantly pulls at its leash can represent a safety risk to itself and others. For example, such a dog may come free of its harness, at which point the owner may have no way to keep it from running into a dangerous area, like a street. Because of this, learning how to keep a dog under control while on a leash is a wise decision for nearly all dog owners.

Method One of Three:
Using the "Be a Tree" Method
Edit

  1. 1
    Use a proper collar. Be sure that your dog has a comfortable collar that fits it properly. The collar shouldn’t be so tight that it is choking the dog, but should be tight enough so that it does not slide up and down the dog’s neck.[1]
    • You should be able to slide your hand between the dog’s neck and collar when it is secured in place.
    • Many people choose to use a harness instead of a collar. The harness disperses the pressure to the dog's back rather than its neck. This will allow you to train your dog to walk on a leash without having to rely on the choking feeling the dog gets when pulling at its leash.
  2. 2
    Use the right leash. When using this method for training your dog not to pull, make sure you do not use a retractable leash. This will defeat the entire purpose of the exercise. Use a standard chain or cloth leash.[2]
  3. 3
    Stop and stand still. Whenever your dog pulls, stop and stand still (be a tree). No matter how hard your dog pulls, don't let it go in the direction it wants to go. The reason for this is that if the dog pulls, and you follow it, the dog is learning that pulling is a very effective way to get somewhere.[3]
    • It might help to attach the leash to your belt loop using a carabiner. This prevents the dog from getting ahead. It's also far easier to stand still with your hips getting pulled than your arm.
  4. 4
    Wait for the dog to respond. Wait until the dog does anything that loosens the leash. The dog might stop pulling by leaning back, sitting, or changing direction. As soon as the leash loosens, you can start walking again.[4]
    • You can encourage the dog to loosen the leash by calling it back to you.
  5. 5
    Repeat for the duration of the walk. This method requires a lot of patience! You're trying to teach the dog that pulling gets it nowhere. You have to be consistent and timely.[5]
    • A variation of this method is to walk in the opposite direction whenever your dog pulls.
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Method Two of Three:
Clicker Training Method
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  1. 1
    Do some basic clicker training. In order for this method to be effective, you need your dog to respond to the clicker. Every time the dog obeys a command, click the clicker and give your dog a treat.[6]
    • Be consistent with the clicker so that your dog associates the sound with treats.
  2. 2
    Lead the dog. On the walk, stay ahead of your dog at all times. This will ensure that the dog learns to follow you rather than the other way around.[7]
  3. 3
    Click and drop a treat. As the dog catches up to you, click the clicker and drop a treat on the ground before the dog passes you. If the dog does not immediately respond to the clicker, give it a verbal command to stop. If the dog responds, click and drop a treat.[8]
    • If the dog does not stop upon your command, do not give the dog a treat. This will ensure the dog does not associate negative behaviors with treats or the clicker.
  4. 4
    Repeat. Keep repeating this process on your walk. This exercise will train the dog to pay attention to you. Moreover, it will ensure that it learns to stay next to or behind you when walking on its leash.
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Method Three of Three:
Utilizing Alternative Methods
Edit

  1. 1
    Get a head halter for your dog. The lease attaches to straps around the dog's muzzle so that when the dog pulls, its head will be forced around, facing you. Attaching the leash to the dog's muzzle automatically redirects its focus toward you.[9]
  2. 2
    Use a choke collar. When training your dog, try using a slip or choke collar under the supervision of a trained expert. These collars will tighten around the dog’s neck if they pull on the leash, effectively choking them. Using these collars for training will help your dog associate pulling with being choked.[10]
    • While these collars can effective for training a dog, many experts argue that they are dangerous or unnecessary. It is recommended that you never use a choke collar unless under the direct supervision of animal behaviorist.[11]
    • These collars work by using negative reinforcement. Most dog training experts suggest that your dog will respond better to positive reinforcement that it will to negative reinforcement- so keep that in mind when considering using this training tool.
    • These collars are for training only. Never leave this collar on your dog or use it as a substitute for their regular collar.
    • These collars are controversial, so consider the arguments for or against choke collars before deciding to try this method.
  3. 3
    Try a halti dog harness. These harnesses attach to the dogs collar with a clip, and are fastened across the dogs underbelly.
    • It works through attaching your leash to the front chest strap, which means you will gain more control over your dog. When your dog pulls on its leash, it will be guided back towards you, naturally and gently discouraging him from pulling.
    • The leash attachment at the chest prevents putting any pressure on your dog’s throat and neck, which is especially important as this could cause tracheal damage.
  4. 4
    Wear the dog out. Run the dog to tire it out before attaching the leash and going for a walk. A tired dog is far more manageable and will be more responsive to your commands during the walk.[12]
    • Try playing fetch in the yard for 10 minutes before going on a walk.
  5. 5
    Use positive reinforcement. End training sessions on a happy success moment. Don't end it when he/she is messing up. Success is continuing to make progress. Never allow the dog to remain unhappy at the end of your training session. [13]
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Community Q&A

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  • In practice, standing still is impossible with an 85-pound dog pulling me. What can I do?
    Answered by Pippa Elliott, MRCVS
    • In a straight battle of power, you're not going to win, so concentrate on training. Get your dog listening to you with several short training sessions a day. Work on "Heel" off the lead in your home. Find a super tasty treat and show it to the dog. Only give it when the dog sits (don't tell the dog what you want, have him work it out, however long that takes). Once he regularly sits without being asked, take a couple of steps and then stop. Most dogs tag along and then sit. Keep adding in more steps and stop before he jumps ahead. Now add the cue word "Heel".
    Thanks! 31 13
  • Why can't I just use an extendible lead?
    Answered by wikiHow Contributor
    • Because an extendible lead will make the dog feel a lot more free. If the dog feels free to go wherever he wants, he will try to pull the leash even more when he's already pulled the maximum he could.
    Thanks! 36 17
  • I have a small dog. I've never been able to find a good collar, and she always finds a way to get out of the one I use. What do I do?
    Answered by wikiHow Contributor
    • Go to a pet store (with your dog, if they allow dogs) and ask an employee for help with finding a collar for your dog. Having your dog with you is best because they can see the exact size she needs.
    Thanks! 22 12
  • One website said not to use a choke collar and this one says it's okay. What should I do?
    Answered by Medha Deb
    • It's better not to use a choke collar. Try using edible treats or love treats to train your dog. Positive enforcement always works better than any negative enforcement. But this depends on the dog - if your dog responds better to the choke collar, you should use that instead.
    Thanks! 18 10
  • I have been to training with my dog and eventually got him to walk really well with a dog vest, now for some unknown reason he's started to pull all over again. What should I do now?
    Answered by wikiHow Contributor
    • Go back to the collar and keep trying until he remembers. Also remember to use the clicker and treat method. If it still doesn't work, go to a training class for assistance.
    Thanks! 6 2
  • At four years old, my dog recently gets scared on walks and begins to pull while on lead. How can I stop this?
    Answered by wikiHow Contributor
    • The key thing is to find out why he is getting scared. Once you know what the fear is, either try to keep him away from the cause or make it so that he stops fearing it. Positive reinforcement is normally the best way so as a temporary solution, try to encourage him back to you by following the above steps.
    Thanks! 6 3
  • My dog pulls so hard that she ends up choking herself. Training with commands doesn't work. What should I do?
    Answered by wikiHow Contributor
    • You should try using the clicker method. Drop a treat beside you and then call her repeatedly. Make sure you use a treat that she likes, or it will be ineffective.
    Thanks! 7 4
  • What should I do if my dog is deaf?
    Answered by wikiHow Contributor
    • If your dog is deaf and cannot hear the command, simply stand still, and hold your hand up in a STOP hand signal. Do this several times until they get the point
    Thanks! 18 16
  • I have an 8 month old dog. Taking her out is a nightmare because she pulls like a train. What should I do?
    Answered by wikiHow Contributor
    • You should try to get her outside on a walk every day and she/he will stop pulling because she/he will get used to walking instead of running. Also, she/he should walk behind you or beside you and she/he will not pull, once they get used to walking behind or beside you.
    Thanks! 23 22
  • I take my dog to training classes but she is more interested in the other dogs, and I can't hold her attention. She is seven months old and very rambunctious. What can I do?
    Answered by wikiHow Contributor
    • Just continue her training classes. Playing only means she is active. Stick with the classes, implement the training at home and reward her when she does good.
    Thanks! 12 13
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TipsEdit

  • Praise is important at all stages of the training.
    3 Helpful?  0
  • At home, walk your dog around the garden/house for practice, and if it pulls, tell it "No". When you think it is ready, take them out to the big world.
    2 Helpful?  1
  • If you have not done so already, teach your dog the "heel" command (to follow at ones heels on that command). This will make it easier for the dog to understand that pulling causes choking, but following does not.
    2 Helpful?  0
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WarningsEdit

  • Don't overdo training. Keep early training sessions to 30 minutes or less. Don't "punish" your dog with yelling, hitting or excessive tugging or pulling. This out-of-control behavior shows him you don't value being in control and it can make him pull even more.
    31 Helpful?  6
  • Do not leave a choke collar on your pet unsupervised. It's easy for a dog to become entangled and even strangled with a loose collar on.
    24 Helpful?  4
  • It better to not use choke collars or pinch collars without first being properly instructed (by a dog trainer, behaviorist or vet) about how to use these training tools properly.
    27 Helpful?  7

Things You'll NeedEdit

  • A halter
  • Treats

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Expert Review By:

PE
Veterinarian, Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons

This version of How to Stop a Dog from Pulling on Its Leash was reviewed by Pippa Elliott, MRCVS on March 16, 2017.

134 votes - 89%
Co-authors: 50
Updated:
Views: 494,250

Reader Success Stories

  • DD

    Dane Daggers

    Mar 12, 2017

    "It helped me a lot. I have dogs, and they are always pulling on the leash. I used different methods on each one, and it worked! There are a few I haven't tried, but I'm sure they would work."..." more
  • MC

    Michelle Cain

    Mar 20, 2017

    "I have a pit bull who will chase anything that moves, and he's very hard to walk on a leash, but I'm using the " be a tree" method, and it seems to be helping."..." more
    Rated this article:
  • A

    Anonymous

    Sep 1, 2017

    "I have 2, 90 lb lab mixes and they both drag me down the street but then I am 5ft tall and 130 lbs. I will try training the bigger one in the back yard first."..." more
  • CC

    Colin Craggs

    Nov 6, 2016

    "Good, clear and most pleasing to read. I like the many ways discussed and pictures were a great help, clear and informative."..." more
  • HS

    Hailey Smith

    Mar 5, 2017

    "My dog has been pulling on the leash the 6 years we've had him. Thanks to this article, I now know exactly what to do."..." more
  • SV

    Steve Van Wagner

    Mar 29, 2017

    "It provided me with a starting point for training a rescue dog in order to place it in a forever home."
    Rated this article:
  • RA

    Rony Antony

    Nov 6, 2016

    "Nice suggestions. Am going to try some of these."
  • TM

    Tommy Morris

    Dec 22, 2016

    "Great information on how to train a dog."
  • A

    Anonymous

    Mar 10, 2017

    "Wow! Thanks for the information."
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