Is your dog making walks miserable by pulling on leash like a mad man? This is one of the most common struggles owners have with their dogs. No matter the size or breed, many dogs tend to pull badly on leash!

In my career as a dog trainer, I have even encountered owners who had to have rotator cuff surgery because their dog was pulling so badly!

Luckily, there are ways to teach your dog (positively!) to walk nicely besides you. Today I will share the top 7 ideas I give to my clients to help with leash pulling.


#1 Don’t let your dog pull you

The #1 reason that dogs pull on leash is because it works for them. They get to go on a walk while pulling – they are not sad that they pull or even know they are doing anything wrong! Instead, pulling works great for them. If you truly want to change your dog’s leash pulling habits, don’t let your dog pull you around. In the beginning this will mean that you cannot continue your walks as you have been doing them. Your dog has an ingrained behavioral history of dragging you around – unless we change how we train him, his behavior will not change. While you retrain leash walking, you need to be extremely consistent and not let your dog pull you around.


#2 Turn around as soon as your dog pulls

Many dog owners have a general idea of how they can stop leash pulling by turning around as soon as their dog pulls. However, they are not very consistent in applying it. If you own a dog that pulls badly, you will have to turn around every couple feet in the beginning! Your whole walk may only be in front of your driveway, going up and down without ever actually making it around the block at first. That is completely normal. You need to be consistent and turn around as soon as your dog reaches the end of the leash. This is the most effective way to show him that pulling is not going to work anymore in getting to go for a walk!


#3 Don’t confuse pulling with reactivity

Dogs that are reactive and dogs that have poor leash manners can look similar. You should not confuse leash pulling with reactivity – these two behavioral issues require very different solutions. If your dog is constantly pulling on the leash regardless of whether dogs and people are around, he most likely has a leash walking problem. If he only pulls on leash when he sees people or dogs (combined with barking and lunging), then he might need to have behavioral training for leash-reactivity.


#4 Separate training and exercise

If you follow the recommendation to truly turn around as soon as your dog pulls, you will not make it very far. Perhaps you are concerned about your dog getting enough exercise when you are just walking up and down in front of your house – and you yourself want to get your 3,000 steps in as well!

It is crucial to separate training and exercise when working on leash pulling. It will be impossible to have your dog at the same time learn to not pull and walk ½ mile every day. You need to separate the two – training will be turning around as soon as your dog pulls. Exercise can be playing fetch in the yard, running in an enclosed area with other dogs, going to doggy daycare etc.

Do not attempt to mix training and exercise, because it will not work.


#5 Go for walks – many, many walks

The dogs that pull the worst are usually the ones that do not go for walks very often. They may only hit the road 2 or 3 times a week, making each outing a really special occasion! You should strive to “normalize” walks for your dog. The more often you take him on your training walks, the less of a big deal they will become. If you have 30 minutes every day to walk your dog, you will make the best progress if you walk him 4 times for 7 minutes each! As with everything in your dog’s life – rarity makes the walks a huge deal. If your dog gets to go on short walks all the time, they will quickly become “just another walk” and his overall excitement will be much lower.


#6 Use treats smartly

You can definitely use treats in your leash training process, but make sure you do it smartly. A big mistake I see is that owners stop when their dog pulls, then the dog walks back to them to take a treat and heads right back to pulling. This is not a behavior chain you want to encourage your dog to form!

Instead, use treats when your dog is already walking nicely by your side. He should only be rewarded for staying in the position, not for dashing back, getting a treat and pulling again.

You should also watch out to always deliver the treats by your side and not in front of you. Otherwise you can end up with an overly motivated dog who always tries to get in front of you and get a treat – this will make walking very tedious.


#7 Don’t walk with a super-charged dog

Every dog has times of the day when they are “super-charged”. These are the periods when they have the most energy, usually right after waking up and before going to sleep at night. Walking a wound up dog is going to set you and the dog up for failure. Instead, try to tire out your dog in some other way – by playing with toys or hiding treats around the yard for him to find. Take him for his walks when he has already taken the edge off his energy, this will make it much more enjoyable and successful for the two of you!


The Bottom Line

Retraining leash walking comes down to consistency. The most effective way is to turn around every single time that your dog pulls. While this is not fun at all and also won’t allow you to walk your dog on his usual path, it is the best way to show him that pulling won’t let him go where he wants to go. You need to stick to the plan and carry it out several times a day if you want to fix your dog’s leash pulling quickly and with lasting results.

While the retraining process can seem tedious, don’t give up – it will all be worth it when you can walk your dog without having your arm pulled!

There’s no denying that teaching your puppy how to walk with a leash is essential. As experts from My Sweet Puppy say, “It’s important for your pup to be obedient while leash walking, especially when you’re taking them around the neighborhood. An unruly dog lunging or pulling can cause a lot of problems with other dogs in the area. Not to mention, some dogs like to run and can get lost in their surroundings.”

After your puppy has mastered leash walking, it’s time for the next step – letting it off the lead. That way, your pup will, for example, be able to burn out the excess energy without you slowing it down. To help you and other dog owners who want to let their puppy off the lead, we created this 5-step guide. Follow it, and you’ll be able to go on lead-free walks with your furry friend in no time.

So, without any further ado, let’s just jump right into it.


Step 1: Start the Process In a Quiet, Enclosed Area

The first thing you want to do is getting your puppy used to not being on a leash. To do that, you should let it off the leash in a small, enclosed area – preferably your backyard, as it is already used to it. However, if you do not have a back garden, you can ask one of your friends or relatives to use theirs or go to a small, enclosed area in the park that is usually not visited.

When you are there, practice calling your dog’s name and getting it to come back to you. You have to keep in mind that it may be difficult at first, as many things, such as noises and smells, will probably distract it. Apart from getting your dog back to you, you can also practice getting it to sit once it returns to you so it will be attentive and still when with you. You can try using treats to get it to come to you.


Step 2: Take It on Walks with Loud Noises and Other Dogs

As we already mentioned – before your puppy gets used to coming to you after you call it, it will get distracted by many things. That’s why you should be taking it on plenty of walks so that it can get used to people, other dogs, and loud noises.

Once you are on the walk, call its name constantly, and try getting it to pay attention to you by using treats and commands (e.g., sit).


Step 3: Let It Off in an Enclosed Area with Other Dogs

Once your puppy is used to not being on a leash and being let off on its own, you can, again, let it off in a small, enclosed area, but this time with other dogs around. Many training facilities have secure areas where dogs can play with each other. However, if you’re not sure that it’s a good idea, you can always let your puppy run around your backyard with your friends’ dogs.

It doesn’t really matter which option you’ll choose – what matters is that your puppy gets used to socializing with other dogs while being let off the lead.


Step 4: Practice Recalling Your Puppy in an Enclosed Area with Other Dogs Around

While this might be the most challenging step, it needs to be taken. This way, you’ll teach your dog that it’s okay to play with other dogs, but as soon as you call it, it has to come back to you. Use treats whenever possible. After a while, your puppy will start listening to you.

If your puppy will be too busy playing with other dogs and won’t listen to your command, let it tire itself out first and then try again.


Step 5: Let It off on a Walk

Once your puppy has learned to react to your voice and listens to you when you give it simple commands, you can let it off the lead. If you’re still a bit skeptical, you can try letting it off on a quiet enclosed walk, such as a fenced-off pathway.

Remember that if you feel that you should put its lead back on, do it immediately – don’t wait until the last moment. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.


Final Thoughts

Now you know all about letting your puppy off the lead – remember, practice is the key – practice with your puppy as much as you can, and soon you’ll be able to go on a walk with it without a lead on all the time.

With that being said, we have reached the end of our short guide. The only thing that we can say to you at this point is good luck!