Let me start off this post by saying that I love all of the dogs I walk, no matter how much they pull! Moving on now that I have clarified that.
So, a few of the dogs that I walk are pretty big pullers. Really, I can’t blame them. They have so much energy, and are ready to go! I’ve tried the whole give the dog a wedgie (put the leash under his front leg) method before. I have a few issues with this though. First, I feel like it kind of chaffs under their leg. Also, if they get behind you and refuse to move what ends up happening is you are tugging on the leash, but their heads are still getting pulled backwards. It is confusing for them. So, I got to thinking about how to train a dog not to pull. I have heard that you can’t teach old dogs new tricks, but I don’t believe it. Lucky for me, I walk one of my friend’s dog, Bazi. He is a big love bug, but pulls. I thought I would test out some techniques on him.
The first thing I did was go to the ASPCA website in order to research training dogs not to pull. They offered 4 methods. Two of the methods involved negative reinforcement, which I am not a fan of, so I skipped those.
Option One: Red Light, Green Light
“(This method requires that your dog already have a reliable Sit and Come in distracting places.) Walk in your intended direction. The instant your dog reaches the end of his leash and pulls, red light! — stop dead in your tracks and wait. When he stops pulling and puts slack in the leash (maybe he turns to see what you’re doing and this makes the leash a little slack), call him back to you. When he comes to you, ask him to sit. When he does, say “Yes,” give him a treat and resume walking (green light). If your dog looks up at you in anticipation of more tasty treats, quickly say “Yes,” and give him one while you keep walking. If he pulls again, repeat the red-light step above. As you’re walking, reward your dog frequently for staying next to you or slightly ahead and for looking up at you. If you do this consistently, he’ll learn that 1) if he stays near you or looks at you, he gets treats and gets to keep moving, and 2) if he pulls on the leash, the fun stops because he doesn’t get to keep walking and he has to come back to you and sit. If your dog pulls toward an object to sniff or eliminate, carry out the red light, but when he comes back and sits by you, don’t reward him with a treat. Instead, make the object he wanted to sniff the reward. Say “Yes,” and release him to go to the object. (Make sure you go with him toward the object so that he doesn’t have to pull again to reach it.) After a few days or weeks, you’ll find yourself stopping less frequently. Make sure you continue to reward your dog for walking with slack in the leash or he’ll start pulling again.”
Option Two: Lure and Reward
“Start with your dog standing at your left side. With several treats enclosed in your left hand, hold your left hand right in front of your dog’s nose (within 1 inch of it). Say “Let’s walk,” and walk in your intended direction. Every few seconds, pop a small treat into your dog’s mouth and praise her for walking along at your pace. You’ll need to frequently reload your hand with treats from your left pocket or from a treat pouch attached to your waist. If she pulls ahead or to the side, immediately stop. Get your dog’s attention by calling her name again. Ask her to sit, and praise her when she does. Then put the treat-loaded hand back in front of her nose and start walking again. Go a little bit farther every day that you practice. After at least a week of daily practice with lured walking, stop luring her along with your treat-loaded hand, and instead just carry your empty left hand in a natural position at your waist with elbow bent. Say “Let’s walk,” and reward her, about every other step you take, with a treat that you get from your left pocket or waist treat pouch. When she can walk along without pulling for several minutes, begin gradually increasing—over many daily training sessions—the number of steps you go in between treats so that your dog is walking longer distances between rewards. Reward her every other step at first, then every 5 steps, then every 10, and so on. Eventually, you should be able to walk with your hand comfortably at your side, periodically (every minute or so) reaching into your pocket to grab a treat to reward your dog.”
Personally, I liked the Lure and Reward method the best out of the two. Mainly because Bazi lives in an area that is highly populated with college students. This means that while doing the Red Light, Green Light method Bazi would be sitting in front of a fence that had a hole in it that a dog could pop out of. While it was entertaining to watch the dog climb through the fence, it was a bit distracting for Bazi. It is best that we keep moving!
Over all, after trying both methods on separate days, I did notice an improvement in Bazi’s ability to walk with me instead of dragging me along. Since it is my job to walk Bosi, I wasn’t really able to keep the walks short. So, I would run out of treats and the training would be over. But, I did find a good way to tire him out before I tried the training methods. I walked him up a big hill! I think I improvised pretty well!
If you have a dog that pulls, try these methods! Then let me know what you think!
All training info came from ASPCA.