Do you have a dog that loves to pull when you are out for a walk?
Does he have a mind of his own, and want to follow his nose wherever the smells bring him, dragging you along behind?
This post is how to manage these bad behaviors, not how to train better ones. Please go here for the training of loose leash walking.
The first suggestion I would have is to get your dog into a manners training class. These classes are awesome ways to get your dog to learn that is much more beneficial to pay attention to you than to his nose. A class like this would also improve your relationship with your dog.
But if you are looking for immediate ways to help you have a calm and relaxing walk with your dog, the leash/collar/harness you use can help you in this endeavor.
You didn’t think a harness made any difference? Oh, but it does! There are harnesses that ENCOURAGE your dog to pull you. I cringe when I see dog owners struggle to control their dogs when walking them, because it is such a frustrating experience for both the dog and the owner.
It doesn’t have to be that way!
Below I am going to give you the best tools you can use with a dog that loves to pull. You can have that walk that you always wanted with your dog, where it is a great experience for the both of you.
I suggest a dog head halter for several kinds of dogs. For dogs with aggression issues, or to try to control strong pulling, a head halter can be a very useful tool. Not every dog is a fit for a head halter, but they can have amazing almost immediate results. It also gives the handler a great deal of control over the dog’s head and mouth. Ask your vet if your dog would respond well to the halter, and if you get one, make sure it is fit to your dog correctly. Here is an example of a head halter.
Many dogs will try to get it off, but after a short time will adjust to it being on them. Use it only for a time, in conjunction with training, until you can get your dog trained to pay attention to you and not pull on the leash.
How does it work?
The halter has a strap that goes over the bridge of the nose and one that connects behind the ears. The nose strap connects to a ring on the neck and the leash connects to the end of that. When a dog reaches the end of the leash, the nose strap will pull the dog’s head to the side. Where the nose goes, so does the dog. The dog obviously does not want to go sideways, and so will stop pulling on the leash.
I have taken my year-old boxer out with just a leash and collar with a friend, and my boxer practically pulled me down the street. When I had enough of the pulling, I put the head halter on and my friend was amazed at the instant results. My dog figured out immediately that it didn’t pay to pull.
Remember though, this is a tool to use while training the dog for obedience. This is not a permanent solution.
Another alternative is a harness. Not just any harness though. I strongly suggest getting a front clip harness. What the front clip harness does when a dog pulls is to pull him sideways when he gets to the end of the leash. This isn’t comfortable for the dog, so he GENERALLY stops pulling when he feels that sensation. There are some dogs that will still pull, although awkwardly, regardless of the harness. Here is my suggestion of a dog harness.
The difference between a front clip harness and a back-clip harness is where the leash attaches. For the front clip harness, the leash attaches low on the dog’s chest. This means there is less likelihood of any choking or damage to the dog’s neck from pulling.
The back-clip harness actually uses the dog’s natural instinct to push against pressure, as soon as he reaches the end of the leash, and ENCOURAGES him to continue to pull. Think about how sled dogs are connected to the sled. They are connected through a harness that clips on the back, so the dog will use natural reflexes to pull against the pressure of the sled.
A typical collar will also achieve the same result, sometimes even though the collar causes so much pressure on the dog’s throat that he coughs, gags and struggles to breathe. It is tough to overcome instinct.
Pull control collars
There are a lot of products out there to help keep your dog from pulling on the leash. Let’s face it, it’s a VERY common problem. I have to say again, training your dog through professional classes is the best way to control your dog, through a better relationship with clearer communication between you and your dog. But not everyone has time RIGHT NOW to sign up and attend a class.
Some products can be helpful as discussed above. There are some that are definitely questionable if not outright inhumane. I don’t suggest any negative training with dogs, because it is much too easy to cause a dog to become aggressive or intensify other problems with negative training. I will discuss a few of these here.
Flat collars are the ones you typically buy first for your dog before you bring him home. It generally is made of a material to be comfortable and has a ring or two on it to hold the dog’s license, rabies tag and identification.
In general, these are great collars. When walking a dog that pulls however, these collars put pressure on the dog’s throat and trachea and can cause permanent damage.
Just as the name implies, these collars tighten on the dog’s neck as he pulls against the leash. This can cause damage to a dog, as it literally chokes the dog. It can cause psychological effects, and works using fear.
In my opinion choke collars do not belong in the homes of non-professionally trained dog owners.
Prong collars belong with the choke collars. They are collars that if fitted correctly, tighten on the dog’s neck when he pulls on the leash and cause a pinch to the dog’s neck to make him stop pulling. These collars cause pain, and can also, if not fitted properly, can cause permanent damage to the dog’s throat, neck, and head.
I would really like to know who thought that giving a dog a shock to correct him was a good idea. Dog’s trust us to make the right choices, to protect them, and to love them. I can’t imagine someone putting a shock collar on a two-year-old child to teach him right and wrong. Why would they think putting it on a dog was any different? Using this type of collar requires perfection in timing and even then, may teach your dog something completely different from what you intended.
Personally, I would stay away from any of these punishment-based collars. They undermine your relationship with your dog, and create distrust from the dog’s perspective. Good positive training works, and works better than negative training, hands down.
The Best Advice I can give
All of these are all tools to manage a problem with a dog. If you are using the head halter or the harness, your dog won’t learn to not pull, he will just be prevented from pulling. Training will be your best bet to stop pulling on the leash, among many other dog issues, for the long haul. Always make every experience with your dog a positive one, and you will both be happy ever after.
If you have any questions, or would like to suggest a topic for a future post, please leave your comments below.