Ask the AKC Animal Behaviorist - My Dog Pulls Too Hard on His Leash
I have a 2-year-old Lab mix named Carlos. He has a lot of energy and still acts like a puppy. That's OK with me for the most part, but I'm concerned about how hard he pulls on his leash. Sometimes it feels like he's going to yank my arm off or pull me down the stairs. I'm considering getting a no-pull leash, but I don't know if that will be enough. Do you think I can train Carlos myself?
With patience, you should be able to train Carlos to walk nicely on a leash. At 2 years old, he's an adult (even though he acts like a puppy), and this is the perfect time for him to learn good manners. Pulling isn't just annoying, it is also potentially dangerous as even small dogs can pull you off your feet or injure your joints and muscles with their tugging.
Here are several things you can do to break the leash pulling habit.
1. Don't Reward Pulling
Your dog tugs on the leash to get the forward motion he needs to reach another dog, a great new smell, or something else that he badly wants. Every time you allow Carlos to pull you along, you are rewarding him for dragging you down the street. The trick is to teach him that pulling actually keeps him from his goal (the dog run, park, etc.) whereas walking nicely gets him there much faster. In the book "Citizen Canine," we describe two techniques that are effective for training your dog.
Technique A: If the dog pulls, you stop.
1. When your dog starts to pull, stop.
2. Stand still. Don't move forward with the dog.
3. Wait. The dog will pull, but eventually he'll stop.
4. When he stops pulling, you can praise him and move forward.
5. Uh-oh. He is so excited that you're moving forward, he's pulling again. Now what? Repeat the procedure. It won't take long until he figures out you aren't going anywhere as long as he pulls.