how to stop
Easy walking; helping your dog not to pull, (c) 2012-2018 Frania Shelley-
Grielen all rights reserved
Nobody wants a dog to pull and there are a lot of suggestions out there on how to stop
a dog from pulling but which ways are the most effective? And what would your dog like
you to know about pulling? Videos I posted on how to walk a dog and helping your dog
not to pull on leash received a lot of attention, comments and questions—we all want to do
this the right way for our dogs. Good for them (and for us). Here’s more on the theory and
technique as an answer to one of the questions received:
Frania, I watched the video and only wish that my 4 year old, black, solidly built 37 pound
Cocker Spaniel was as docile on leash. I think he has some field spaniel in his bloodline as he's
bigger than any other Cocker's I've seen. He's stubborn, meanders, pulls, doubles back and
will spend 15 minutes smelling a blade of grass. If I'm not paying attention, he'll pull my arm
out of the socket if a squirrel runs by !! :-) Other than that, he's affectionate, playful and a
good dog without a mean bone in his body. Any ideas? -Barry
Hi Barry, Ahh, do not be deceived, Daisy is very much the "ever-eager-to-experience-the-
world-now" spaniel dog as well. We have just been working on how to train dog manners
to human liking longer. Your spaniel is interested in spaniel dog preoccupations, how very
dog like. Dogs pull mostly because they've got four legs and can get to where they want to
go way before we do. And taking a sniff around and chasing squirrels are where they want
to go. I remember something Ian Dunbar once said about pulling that I think works here.
Dunbar talks about making an agreement with his dogs that they could sniff as long as they
like as long as they did not pull him to do it --fabulous, allowing for a companion dog's
natural behaviors and desires and ours in the same sentence.
That sniffing is so very important to your dog --just think of how much they have traded
off in their co-evolutionary processes with us including all that eye-to-eye visual comm-
unication which is how we mainly process information as opposed to how they mainly
process information, through smell. That blade of grass means the world in those 15
minutes to your spaniel and the squirrel? Divine fun to run after a prey animal; not
The Wall Street Journal or the Internet but then again those appeal mostly to humans.
On to my ideas; work on being more in tune with what you want from each other and
when you want it. This is training, communicating to your dog what you expect from
them in a way they can understand, tempered with humane consideration which allows
for their wants and needs.
Please avoid equipment that controls through pain to communicate a need to a dog.
Shock collars (or "training" or "e" collars), choke collars, prong collars and head halters all
fit here. They will control a dog from pulling by electric shock, constricting the neck,
applying direct pressure with small painful points or apply uncomfortable pressure to the
highly sensitive eye and muzzle area and severely inhibit natural behaviors. Prove this to
yourself; watch the next dog you see walking on a head halter and notice the subdued,
cowed demeanor (for more on head halters please see Suzanne Clothier’s excellent piece)
or the dog pulling on a prong because the pain and inevitable physical damage being
done to the neck and back is now the price of being able to go forward. So much more
sense to stop the pulling as a handler from your technique on the other end of the leash.
Do put your dog in a halter with a front clip attachment, a good "no pull" kind of harness
is a wonderful thing as they guide your dog's movements without putting pressure on
and causing damage to neck, trachea and back -small dogs, in particular should never
be walked without a harness.
To develop and work on an easy-walking-no-pulling technique start walking your dog
on a 6 foot leash (no extend a leashes please, they are dangerous and encourage pulling)
in the house. Remember to consider the dog in this; talk to your dog to engage their
attention and show your interest in them. Ask for them to stay with you, use a verbal cue,
like "with me". And, please, do use treats (the small easy to eat on the go kind) to engage
your dog and keep it meaningful and rewarding for them. With a mid size dog keeping a
treat at your outside thigh and level with your dog's head will keep them positively glued
to you, remember to give the treat every few steps). For smaller dogs, bend down to offer
that treat every few steps. Remember to mark "good with me!" or other cue every time
you treat. After some calm and easy walking sessions you can also try attaching a lead to
your belt at home so the dog is attached to you and you can both get used to moving well
together. The lead should be long enough to allow the dog to lie down comfortably next to
you and short enough so that you are aware of the dog‘s movements.
Keep your training fun and to five minutes. You are more likely to do it if you break it
down into easier to accomplish segments time wise. Practice the red light green light
technique make sure add plenty of verbal praise at a green light your dog will be better
able to key in on the verbal at home without outside distractions. And always end on a
good note, even if it is a "thank you!" and a treat.
Remember to always set your dog up for success by asking for what you want first and
allowing for a response. For instance, if you want to get up from your desk let your dog
know where you are both going. Say “Rover, let’s go get a drink of water” and wait for
Rover to respond. Rover may not know what each word means but he probably knows
“let’s go” and he definitely knows what your body language is for “let’s go”.
OK, so now that you have worked on paying better attention to each other and walking at
home try it outside. Start practicing your red light green light technique at the beginning
of your walk before you get too close to the highlights of the walk. (No fair to practice this if
your dog needs to relieve himself first so do let your dog pee or poo first, pay attention to
body posture and let that happen without correction.) Allow for easy walking where your
dog gets to sniff along the way. When you approach what is uber attractive and prompts
more than sniffing, try and see it before your dog does, keeping proactive and setting him
up for success, by either releasing him from the training session, if it is to say hi to a friend
or passing the pet store with a phrase that redirects the movement "let's say hi to Rover",
"let's go pet store" or whatever other word you use to say "all done with training for now"
before the pulling temptation to get there right now presents itself.
Do let him sniff that grass forever; it’s so much what the walk is for. When the squirrel
runs by, give him the way not to run after it by seeing it before he does and call his name
to get his attention and move off in the opposite direction (you can also try circling him to
get him going in a different direction but make sure this a smooth and fluid movement
without jerking or pulling on him). Try also offering an alternative behavior like taking a
special squeaky toy with you, that your dog likes (offered specially for these occasions).
Keep making sure you are talking to him at all times, again, this will ensure that you are
engaged in what he is doing and will keep him aware of you.
All this is to say that this is about training; which takes much time, communication,
consideration, practice and effort on our part to get those four footed dog bodies which go
much faster than our own to move with us.
"Dogs pull mostly because
they've got four legs and can get
to where they want to go way
before we do. And taking a sniff
around and chasing squirrels
are where they want to go."
copyright Frania Shelley-Grielen
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