Want to Stop Leash Pulling? Equipment and Instructions

IMPORTANT NOTE - Fear and Reactivity

Some dogs pull like crazy on leash or react aggressively due to fear. Those issues need to be addressed by a professional trainer before any of the following applies. This blog is intended for dogs who pull too much but don't have other emotional/behavioral issues.


Item 1 - Hiking Boots

For most people, the first step to leash training is increasing off leash exercise and enrichment. Leash pulling leads people to training literally by the millions. And trainers are quick to offer their protocols, and equally if not quicker, to condemn approaches of others. But the truth is in the overwhelming majority of cases the reason the dog is bonkers on leash is because they are not getting enough exercise and enrichment off leash. The only humane answer, is to get them more off leash exercise and enrichment.

I hate to be direct but it is what it is.

1. Leashed walks, let alone on neighborhood streets are not sufficient EXERCISE for most dogs.

2. Running loose in your yard is not sufficient ENRICHMENT for most dogs.

And trying to manipulate a dogs behavior or expect them to be honored to plod along at your side when you are not meeting their neurobiological needs is not only a hard slog, it is not, in my opinion, humane. No matter what harness, how incremental, and how many hot dogs you use.

The amount of cardio exercise and novel enrichment your dog needs varies greatly by breed, age, and individual dog. But young large breed dogs need at least a couple hours of cardio a day and novel environments daily. So most dogs, especially if they are pulling on leash need around 4-6 hours a week of CARDIO exercise and a lot of novel environments to investigate. So, the first equipment investment you will need to make, is a good pair of hiking boots.

Your dog is a predator. Their brain is made to problem solve as they are moving fast in the woods or other natural and NOVEL environment. That is why they love to dart and dodge and pivot as they play. They need a lot of varied tactile sensations under their feet. They need to navigate jumping over, under or through logs and cover. (Cover also provides a magical expansive world of smells we can't even imagine. It also makes some reactive dogs feel safer.) Dogs brains and bodies are meant to work together, outside, and moving fast. Their primary sensory input is through their nose, and (a long second) through tactile sensations and hearing.

In the beginning, your yard may be novel enough. But long term you need to be finding new and varied places for your dog to run and explore. If your dog is getting 4-6 hours (varies by breed and age) of cardio exercise and quality enrichment it is fair to expect them to walk nicely by your side on leash. Otherwise, it isn't.

If this comes as bad or hard news to you, you aren't alone. Lack of time, energy, and safe off leash places are a constraint for many people. Unfortunately, your dogs needs are not dictated by your capacity.

And the good news is, if you got a dog because you thought it would get you up and out more, well here you go!!!!!

If you and your dog are good candidates for a dog park and there is one near by, this makes it a lot easier. Off leash play with other dogs is great exercise. But if not, then we are going to have to find other ways. So lace up your hiking boots and learn how to go exploring with your dog.

A medium sized black dog pounces on snow and prairie grass. A picturesque foot bridge is in the background.
Mason of The Laughing Dog, Fargo pouncing and drinking in the smell and tactile wonder around him.

Item 2 - A long line and/or remote collar

If you are near a lot of natural settings where your dog can safely run around that is good luck. If not, you are going to have to have a way to keep your dog from running too far off and getting lost, injured, or into trouble.

One way to do this, and what I usually recommend first is called a long line. This is just like a regular 6 foot leash but you can buy them in lengths of 15, 20, or 30 feet. (I like 20 feet either neoprene or Mendota brand). Even if you are holding the end of the line, while not off leash running, walking through a nature preserve with a 20 foot circumference is still A LOT better enrichment than walking on a city street on a short leash. If the situation makes sense you can even just let your dog drag the line so they can do some bursts of romping and have a bit more freedom to explore. It works great for many dogs. The downsides are the line can get caught and tangled and it is a tripping hazard.

Another option is a remote collar. This is a collar the dog wears and the handler carries a remote that can talk to the collar. It can send a tone, a vibration, or an uncomfortable stimulus to the dog. YOU AND YOUR DOG WILL NEED TRAINING UNDER THE GUIDANCE OF AN EXPERIENCED TRAINER.

Remote collars can have a reputation as a harsh training tool. And when they were first invented they sure were! Now the technology has come a long way, as has trainers abilities to u