Ending the Tug of War

Ending the Tug of War

You’ve probably seen them – those poor creatures trying to keep up as they get dragged around by the leash when they are out on their walks. They get yanked along willy-nilly at their companion’s whim. The harder they try to keep up, the more they are pulled. Yup, we’re talking about those poor humans who get taken for walks by their dogs. It’s not pretty and it’s not fun. If you recognize yourself in this scenario, you may want to train your dog not to pull on his leash. You will be rewarded with much more enjoyable walks and, if your dog is large, no more dislocated shoulders!

Dogs aren’t born knowing that when on a leash they should walk nicely beside their human companion. More often, experience has taught them that if they pull and strain against the leash, they will get where they want to go. The number one trick to training a dog not to pull on leash is to teach them that pulling does not get them anywhere. There are various good methods to train your dog not to pull on the leash. This following is a positive reinforcement method the ASPCA calls “Red Light, Green Light”.

As usual when training a new skill, start in a place with few distractions so you have your dog’s full attention. It is also a good idea to have already given your dog a potty break and a fun exercise session, just to get the calls of nature and over-excitement out of his system before training. You will also need a baggie full of small (peanut-sized is good) treats, such as wiener pieces. The traditional side for a dog to walk is on the left side, but you can choose to train your dog to walk on the right if you wish; however, be consistent once you have chosen a side to avoid confusing your dog.

Begin with your dog on leash. Have him sit calmly by your sit before setting out. Treat him for this good behaviour. Then say “Let’s go”, or whatever phrase you wish to use to signal to your dog that it is time to walk nicely at your side, and begin walking. When your dog reaches the limit of the leash and begins pulling, immediately stop walking and stand still. This is the red light. Call him back to you if he doesn’t immediately return on his own. Have him sit at your side. Say “Yes!” in an upbeat tone and give him a treat for sitting. Resume walking in your original direction. Green light! As you are walking along, continue giving a treat every few steps if your dog is continuing to walk with you leaving slack in the leash. If he goes begins pulling again, stop and repeat the red light scenario. This method teaches the dog that he doesn’t get anywhere when he is pulling on his leash; however, if he returns to your side, he gets a reward. As with other skills, you can slowly wean your dog off treats and reward him with praise instead.

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