Leash Training

Dog Pulls on Leash? Try These 5 Tips!

March 3, 2024

Are you trying to teach your dog to loose leash walk, but you’re finding that they immediately pull again after they get a treat? I want to share 5 tips to help you out!

If you prefer video tutorials, check out this video on my Youtube channel:

5 Tips If Your Dog Pulls on Leash:

1. Start the walk with an easy “recall” game

This tip will help you prevent leash pulling from happening in the first place. How? By burning off a little of your dogs excess energy at the start of the walk & reinforcing them for re-orienting to you by default.

This game is REALLY simple!

  1. Have a small handful of treats and your dog on the longest leash you feel comfortable using for walks.
  2. Place 2-3 treats on the ground next to your dog, then run to the end of the leash as your dog finds them.
  3. Once they’re finished the treats, call their name. When your dog starts running to you, say your marker word to let them know that following you was what you wanted. Reward with a treat from your hand when they arrive.
  4. Drop 2-3 more treats on the ground as you again run away. Repeat the whole process.
  5. After a few rounds of calling your dog to you, instead stay quiet and see if they’ll chase after you without cueing. You’re now reinforcing checking in & following you as your dogs default behaviour!

If you want to watch a quick video tutorial of this game, click here

This simple game is a fantastic way to build more engagement from your dog on walks and have them pay attention to where you are. This helps a lot with leash pulling!

2. Reinforce an incompatible behaviour

My second suggestion for preventing leash pulling is to cue your dog to return to you if you think that they’re going to pull.

If we want to change a behavior, one of the best ways of doing that is to reinforce an incompatible behavior.

For example, in my Youtube tutorial for solving jumping, I suggest cueing and reinforcing a sit during moments your dog is likely to jump on you. Why? Because sitting is incompatible with your dog being able to jump on you at the same time.

Likewise, when leash training, we can cue the dog to return to us before they pull if we notice that something has caught their interest.

We don’t need to wait for our dogs to “fail” before we intervene!

3. Reassess whether the “be a tree” method works for your dog

One of the more common suggestions that I see for teaching a dog to walk nicely on leash force free is the popular “be a tree” method.

Essentially the advice is that if your dog pulls, you stop moving and wait for them to release the tension before you start walking again. This technique uses negative punishment to fix pulling because you’re removing something desirable (forward motion).

This does work for some dogs, but I find with younger or more active dogs they often get frustrated with the constant stopping (as do I!).

My preference with dog training is always to reward the behaviors that I want to see, which in this case means rewarding longer and longer durations of maintaining a loose leash while still continuing to move. I’m now going to share two of my favorite techniques for achieving that if you have a dog that pulls soon after getting a treat!

4. Completely switch directions

My preferred method for addressing pulling on leash is to completely switch directions.

When the dog pulls, call their name and start walking in the opposite direction. Mark and reward when they’re at your side. As long as the dog continues to walk with a loose leash, continue on in that new direction. If they pull, turn again and repeat this whole process.

I like this method because it keeps training in motion and it lets you reward for the behaviour you want, which is walking with a loose leash.

For the first while you likely won’t get very far since you’ll be turning frequently, but this is very effective over time!

However, I do understand that not everyone wants to switch directions constantly, especially if you’re already on your way home. In that case I recommend trying tip #5.

5. Toss a treat behind you so that your dog needs to catch up to to you for a secondary reward.

When your dog pulls, call them back to you and then toss a treat reward on the ground behind you.

Start walking again in the original direction as soon as your dog has eaten it, and then reward them again when they reach your side. This technique again puts your dog behind you so that they have to catch up to YOU. This gives you an opportunity to reward them in motion.

If you want to see video examples of these tips, watch THIS.

Want more tips for leash training? I suggest reading “10 Tips to IMMEDIATELY Improve Pulling on Leash” next.

Happy training 🙂

Disclosure: Happy Hounds uses affiliate links. Purchasing with these links will not cost you any extra, but I get commissions for purchases made through these links. Affiliate links help me to continue to offer free resources & blog posts. I would love if you used them!

Dog Pulls on Leash? Try These 5 Tips!

About the author:

Stephanie Rombough, DBTMc, is a force-free dog trainer in Edmonton, Alberta. She owns Happy Hounds Dog Training, offering private in-person or virtual dog training services. 

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