Mary Y. wrote about her German Shepherd Dog, Tank, that pulls her along when she tries to take him for a walk. “I have tried several different tactics, but he trots along, pulling me with him. I’m at a loss.”
Walking at your side is a difficult thing for a dog to do. It takes a great deal of focus, because most dogs would rather be checking out interesting smells or getting where they want to be a little faster than their people want to walk. Dogs don’t tug to flout your authority; they are just excited and have a faster walking pace than most humans do.
So, you need to make being next to you very interesting and rewarding. Cut up high-value treats into very small pieces, take them with you, and reward Tank when he is at your side. Don’t forget to talk to him sometimes during your walk to keep his attention focused on you. Surprise him with quick direction changes by cheerfully saying “Tank, this way!” and switching directions several times in a row. And, if he is tugging, do not move forward. Stop moving the moment there is no slack in the leash. Since Tank wants to move forward, being allowed to do so can be a reward for not tugging.
If you want to just take Tank on a walk for exercise, we recommend a front-hook “no pull” harness or a head halter as a helpful training tool. Both will better enable you to control Tank and prevent pulling, so you can have a nice relaxing walk.
Before even setting out for your walk, try burning some of your dog’s energy by playing fetch or tug. You can also practice some basic obedience skills, like sits, downs, or tricks, beforehand. Mental stimulation can dispel a good amount of your dog’s energy before you go on the walk.
For more loose-leash walking tips, check out our article here.
Our dogs are cherished members of our families, sharing our lives and providing unconditional love. But all dog owners know that our canine partners have different perspectives on life than our human family members.
If you have ever asked, “Why does my dog do that?” then this feature is for you. The AKC GoodDog! Helpline training team will answer your questions on dogs’ behavior and offer training advice to help you and your dog have the best relationship possible. The AKC GoodDog! Helpline is a seven-day-a-week telephone support service staffed by professional dog trainers. For more information on the service and how to enroll go to www.akcgooddoghelpline.org.