Walking and running with our four-legged best friends is great, that is until they start to pull us in any and all directions. Pretty much every dog owner has had this experience, and for those of us who have bigger dogs, it can be scary if not downright dangerous. Many dog owners have found themselves asking the question “how to stop a dog from pulling.” The short answer is it can take time, but there are some things that you can do to train your dog to stop pulling and some equipment that can also help this process.
Why Do Dogs Pull in the First Place?
Before we go into why dogs pull, we must first talk about safety and risk of injury. Traditional leads that hook to a collar around the neck are not the best option for any dog, but especially those that are known to get excited and pull while walking. When we pull on a traditional lead connected to a collar, we put a huge amount of pressure on the neck of the dog and this can hurt them and even lead to injury.
Dogs also learn associations pretty quickly and using a traditional lead to control your dog can lead to negative behaviours or bad habits. Say your dog gets excited when she sees another dog on the street. She pulls and tries to get to the animal, and you jerk her back, causing pain and discomfort. She will quickly learn to associate this pain and discomfort with other dogs and this can make it difficult to introduce another animal and can even lead to more aggressive behaviour when encountering a dog on the street.
Okay, with that out of the way, let’s take a look at what makes a dog pull and jerk in the first place.
A lot of dogs, especially those that spend a lot of time alone, have a large amount of pent up energy that they are excited to release when walking time comes around. They are so excited about some action and activity that they are pulling every which way and can’t decide what they want to sniff or explore.
If the dog is zoned in on something, say a squirrel, this can lead to intense pulling. For most dogs, if they see a squirrel or even another dog, it will trigger excitement in them that is difficult, if not impossible, to train out.
Dogs that haven’t been properly lead trained are also more prone to pulling for the simple reason that they were never taught otherwise. Many dogs learn to think that walking their owners and dragging them this way and that is just the way it is supposed to work. Though this is not pleasant at all for the owner.
Finally, a dog may jerk or pull when they are scared. They might see another dog that intimidates them or hear a scary noise, activating that innate flight response, causing them to pull.
Ways to Reduce Dog Pulling While Walking
Some of the reasons for pulling or jerking we described above are difficult, if not impossible, to correct. There is no way to train a dog not to be scared of something or to learn how to moderate how they expend their energy. As much as we may want to train these things out of our four-legged friends, it isn’t going to happen, and we have to learn how to better cope.
However, this doesn’t mean that we are stuck with a pulling and jerking dog that drags us around the block every time we take them out for a walk. Different types of leads and training can be effective at reducing how much your dog pulls and jerks. In the section below, we will talk about different leads and harnesses that can also help to reduce pulling.
Using a retractable lead that always applies a small amount of pressure to the dog can be a good way to reduce the amount of pulling. You want to use humane and safe techniques to discourage pulling, never rely on punishment, or something that hurts the dog. You should never use things like choke chains when trying to train your dog to do anything.
Making sure your pup has a good outlet for their energy and gets adequate exercise is a great way to reduce pulling while walking. If walking is the only exercise and activity your pup gets, it is likely to have a lot of pent up energy.
Make sure the dog has access to a safe, outdoor space to run and play. Engage with your dog daily in play to help her expend some of that energy. If the dog isn’t full of pent up energy in the first place, they are more likely to walk without pulling or dragging you around in the process. It is vital for the dog’s health and wellbeing that they get enough activity. Not only can a lack of activity make a dog more difficult to walk, but it can also lead to bad behaviour and even poor health. Dogs, like people, need exercise and activity to stay healthy.
Anti-Pull Harnesses and Running Leads
Thankfully, there are some products that make training your dog not to jerk and pull quite a bit easier. It isn’t easy walking a large dog, especially when excited and wanting to go this way and that. A lot of people use anti-pull harnesses as a way to keep their dog from pulling and jerking but without the risk of injury. These are well-designed with your dog’s safety in mind and are becoming increasingly popular with dog owners everywhere. Check out our top pick for anti-pull dog harnesses below:
These harnesses are made from high-quality nylon or other materials and often feature padding that allows for a more comfortable fit. Many have handles that are made from high-quality leather. Rather than fitting around the neck, the harness has straps that come around the shoulders and under the belly of the dog. This allows for pressure to be distributed more evenly on the dog which is not more comfortable but allows you to control their movement with less effort as well.
You want to choose a harness that has wide strips of soft but durable material. Thin strips will dig into the dog’s skin, which is not only uncomfortable but can even cause sores. Many harnesses also feature a breathable mesh that provides your pup with a more comfortable fit that doesn’t get super hot while wearing it.
Many people swear by harnesses that have lead rings on both the chest and the back. The chest ring is useful for getting a dog used to walking beside her owner and can be useful for general lead training. The back ring gives the owner more control and allows them to control the animal’s movements with less effort. A lot of people also recommend harnesses that feature reflective stripping or stitching. This makes your dog highly visible, even in low lighting conditions, for enhanced safety.
If you are a runner, you might want a hands-free running lead. These typically fit around you like a belt and allow you to run with your dog without having to hold on to the lead or to risk getting tripped up in the lead. There are tons of options, but many swear by reinforced, wide belts that are easily adjustable to provide for a comfortable but snug fit. Check out our top pick for hands free running leads below:
Many of these hands-free leads allow you to run with your dog hands-free, but also have a strap allowing you to use the lead traditionally as well. These leads come in a range of styles and features, ranging from basic leads to those that even include back support and storage space so you can bring water, poop bags, or treats with you. There are a lot of options and different features, and these leads are a great way to let your dog come running with you safely.
It is highly frustrating to try to walk a dog that tries to walk you. You want to go for a nice, calm stroll and your pup is pulling and jerking you this way and that. There are many reasons why dogs pull when we try to walk them. First and foremost, many dogs have a ton of pent up energy because they don’t get enough exercise and stimulation. They get so excited when they are finally able to get outside that they can’t control it and they just run every which way.
Dogs will also pull when they see something they think is prey or if they are scared. In this case, there isn’t much you can do about the pulling as it is instinctual and cannot really be trained out. In other cases, dogs pull because they were never trained to walk on a lead and so don’t know what is and is not appropriate behaviour.
There are many ways you can address a dog that pulls while walking, though as we noted above if they see a squirrel or get sacred, there is a good chance they will pull, and there isn’t’ much you can do about it.
One of the easiest ways to get a dog to stop pulling and jerking when you take them on a walk is to ensure that they get enough activity and stimulation. If a daily walk is all the activity they get, they are likely to have a ton of energy pent up that they must expend when they can. Making sure that your dog has adequate space and opportunity to run and play will allow them to expend that excess energy in a more productive and acceptable way. A dog that gets plenty of activity is less likely to be so excited when you take them for a walk that they are unable to control themselves.
If you want to learn how to stop a dog pulling, proper lead training is also essential when trying to get a dog to stop pulling while you are walking them. They need to learn what behaviour is and is not acceptable and must be taught in a caring and consistent manner.
Particular types of leads can also reduce problems associated with pulling. Retractable leads always provide a bit of pressure to the dog so they know they are being led and more amenable to the direction. Other people swear by anti-pull harnesses.
Anti-pull harnesses can be especially helpful for people with large dogs. They provide a safe and secure way to control your pup without risk of injury. Rather than being attached to a collar around the neck which can cause injury if pulled too hard, the harness is fastened around their body. This distributes the pressure so the dog isn’t hurt in the process. High-quality harnesses will feature wide straps and often have padding and breathable mesh for increased comfort.
You want to look for a harness that has buckle fasteners as they are much easier to get on and off than other varieties. Many are adjustable, so you can get the harness nice and taught, but not digging into the skin of the dog. Many of these harnesses also feature reflective straps or stitching., making your dog visible in low lighting conditions.
Runners may want a running lead that allows them to let their dogs run with them hands-free. These tend to be belts with lead attachments that allow you to keep your dog by your side without having to hold a lead or worrying about getting tangled up in a lead while running. Many also have handles, which let you use this as a traditional lead as well.
Whatever you choose, be in one or a combination of the options above, walking with your dog will be far more enjoyable once you have broken the habit of pulling. It isn’t much fun to be walked by a dog or constantly worried about being jerked off your feet because the dog got excited about something. Finding ways to safely control your dog when walking will make for a much more enjoyable experience for both you and the dog.
You may want to read: Best Dog Walking Harness