how to stop
Easy walking; helping your dog not to pull, copyright (c) 2021
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 communication 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.
Remember, that pulling back on your dog's forward movement or in general is
one sure way to get your dog to pull back. They have to do just that to stay
upright. This is the concept of "oppositional reflex" at work. You can see it when
you see a dog straining to go forward and they are held back from a collar or a
back clip harness - the dog's front legs lift off the ground and they need to pull
forward to maintain equilibrium. We can see this with our own bodies, if we
are pushed against from the front of the back we move in opposition to stay
upright. More on why a front clip harness is best for this reason and others
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
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
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, comm-
unication, 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.
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|"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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