Behavior Tip of the Month
HELP--MY DOG IS WALKING ME!
(also see the article 'Pullin' Pup')
Pulling is one of the biggest problems when walking a dog. I have many clients emailing or calling me to get help teaching their dogs not to pull. The following suggestions may help those of you with the same problem.
There are many different methods to counteract pulling, but some of them are outdated, ineffective, or abusive. It is best to begin anti-pull training from day one, rather than waiting until the dog has an entrenched pulling habit. If your dog is a beginning puller or a puppy, a good method is called the "Red Light/Green Light" game. The rule of this game is that, while on a walk with the dog, you may only move forward if the leash is loose. As soon as the dog tightens the leash, you need to stop dead in your tracks. The loose leash is the "green light"--you move forward. The tight leash is the "red light"--you stop. Your dog will do a lot of lunging when you stop. Simply wait, and, eventually, the leash will be loose. Start walking again. If he pulls, you stop. Have patience. This takes a lot of time at first. But don't forget the main rule: DON'T TAKE A STEP IF HE PULLS.
If your dog is a confirmed puller, then you can improve your chances with this game by adding some rewards and some mild punishment. The dog wants to move forward, so the punishment is stopping or stepping backwards. Hold the leash in your hands, carry some hidden treats (small pieces of hot dog are best), hide the treats from your dog. Take one step toward the front door. If the dog pulls, say "steady". If the dog stops and looks at you, say his name and "good, good, good", lure him back to you, and feed him a treat when he is by your side. Pet him and say, "good dog". Take another step. If he lunges again, say "steady". If he continues to lunge, take one step backward and repeat, "steady, steady, steady" in a growly tone of voice. If he stops lunging, lure him back to you and give him a treat, saying "good dog". Reward him anytime he is at your side and looking at you. Keep doing this until you can take steps forward and he doesn't pull. Never walk forward if he's pulling. If he does pull, step backward, even if you have to take three steps backward and growl, "steady, steady, steady." Be liberal with your rewards when he is by your side. Remember, dogs learn best by positive rewards, especially food they love. Petting and praising is important, but delicious treats change behavior faster.
If your dog is an industrial strength puller, you may need new equipment. There are two non-pulling devices which are effective. A choke chain is not effective. Most dogs don't even feel it, but it can damage their larynx, and most dogs will pull anyway. The first of the two devices that are effective is a horse halter adapted for dogs, called "The Gentle Leader" or "The Halti". I have used the Gentle Leader since 1979, so I know how to make it palatable to dogs. Although it's totally painless, the dog has to get used to it like a puppy gets used to its first collar. It's not a muzzle; it's the same thing a horse wears that allows people to control the horse's half-ton weight. I can advise you on where to get it less expensively and how to use it. The other effective device is the anti-pull harness -- I like the "Lupi". It works on many dogs and, like the "Gentle Leader", is totally painless. Don't get it confused with a regular harness -- those encourage dogs to pull. These are special harnesses which discourage pulling. Some dogs respond to one of the above methods better than the others.
Good luck and have a pull-free Millennium!
Woofs and Wags,
Best Friend Behavior Counseling and Training
San Diego, Ca.
"Positively teaching pets and their people since 1977"
Do you have a question for Carole? You can reach her at this email address - firstname.lastname@example.org Perhaps she will use it in an upcoming article on this Web site.
The information contained on this site is in no way intended to replace that of proper veterinary advice, diagnosis or treatment.
It is meant to provide resource, so that we can better understand canine health related issues.