Why Dogs Pull on the Leash

Dog pulls towards railing when woman tightens grips on leash

Why Dogs Pull on the Leash

Why Dogs Pull on the Leash (And How to Correct It)

Dogs pulling on the leash is easily on the top ten list of common issues we see here at Canine Tutors Dog Training. Chances are if your dog is a serious leash puller, that means you two go to fewer places and have less fun.

Dog owners throughout San Jose are always asking me how to get the pulling to stop. Let me turn the question around on you first. WHY does your dog pull? What is it that makes them want to lunge forward to the next tree, hydrant, or sidewalk crack? Later I will go over HOW to fix it.

Understanding the top two reasons why dogs pull on the leash

In the past decade of being the metro area’s dog trainer, I have found that there are two main reasons why your dog pulls. First, the outside world has so much to offer in the way of new and exciting distractions, and your dog wants to get to those as soon as possible. Second, dogs naturally go in the opposite direction of whichever way they are pulled. It’s called Opposition Reflex. If your dog is leaning into its collar, it’s just going to push harder (to us, it’s pulling) to get away from the discomfort.

Let’s talk about distractions for a moment. Normally, if your dog spends most of its time indoors, he or she does not get all excited when they look at the sofa or the chair. When you walk into the bedroom and your dog follows, they do not lose their mind when they see the dresser. Why? Because they have seen this stuff a million times already. When you take your dog outside, and they come absolutely unglued because they have not had enough exposure to their outdoor environments.

Let’s pretend for a moment that you LIVED outside, and that the outside was your living room. After a short amount of time, your dog would become immune to all the sights and smells. Most of the distractions would start to fade, and the pulling would diminish. You wouldn’t have a perfect “heel,” but both your arms would be the same length.

Now let’s tackle understanding and correcting “Opposition Reflex.” Dogs just go in the opposite direction of any physical direction you may provide. Most often, dog owners just wrap that leash in their hand and get more determined not to get pulled. Meanwhile, their dogs get more determined to move away from the uncomfortable feeling. It’s important for you to understand that they are not trying to assert their dominance over you. You are simply moving too slow for them. Here’s the kicker. You don’t have to speed up. You just need a better way to communicate to your canine friend to slow down just a bit.

Here is a tip. Since you can’t wrestle your dog back into position with the leash, let’s try something new. Don’t fight or argue with your dog. When your dog gets out in front of you, simply turn around 180 degrees. Now your dog is behind you. Keep walking, and when they catch up, pay them with a small piece of dog food (or treat – like cut up pieces of hot dogs). During the time that they keep pace with you, continue to pay them with praise and treats. Eventually, your dog will walk out a bit too far. When that happens, turn once again, and repeat the process. This does mean that you and your dog will be walking in circles for a while, but it’s for both of you to get to a comfortable pace for enjoyable walks in the future.

Canine Tutors Dog Training has many more tips and tricks to share with San Jose’s dog owners. If you’d like one-on-one dog obedience training, contact us today!