Dog Walking Leah Pulling

Dog Walking – Leash Pulling

Dog walking can be fun – and without leash pulling. Yes, both you and your dog can enjoy a fun and relaxing walk without all the hassles of pulling. Someone had asked – actually chatted with me on FaceBook, complaining about their dog pulling on leash. So, I thought I’d expand a little more about walking your dog and how to actually enjoy it at the same time. Can you imagine wanting to stay out to continue walking with your dog instead of thinking, “I can’t wait to get home because my arm is getting yanked out of its socket?”

Let’s face it – Houston is a great place to be with dogs. Subdivisions are being planned with greenbelts which include walking and running pathways. There are places to go even if you live in a high rise or apartment: Memorial Park, Herman Park, The Arboretum and I recently found a paperback book at Barnes and Noble Book Shop that lists all the hiking and biking trails and marks the ones best suited for you and your dog. There’s no better way to get out and enjoy the companionship of your best friend – with the emphasis on enjoy.
Dog Walking Leah Pulling

There are a lot of schools of thought out there about the “proper way” to walk your dog. Some would have you always walk you dog at heel by your side with no flex time for dog fun. I think even with that there can be some room for compromise so that your best friend gets to enjoy at least part of the walk.  After all, dogs love to sniff and explore with their noses and can’t do that if they are require to always walk by your side.  

Then there’s all the concern about – if your dog is out in front, you’re not the leader. Some even think that if your dog is out in front all the time, you have no relevance and your dog won’t listen to you.  How do you walk your dog? What should the rules be for your dog? Well, let’s take a look at it bit by bit:  Why dogs pull, humane equipment that makes walking your dog easier and styles of walking.

 Why dogs pull

Dogs naturally walk faster than we do and attaching them to a short leash (even 6 feet can be short for some dogs) can cause leash pulling problems almost immediately. Dogs naturally pull against any pressure they feel on the leash. This natural instinct is called “opposite reflex action” (there’s a fancier word for it but I forget) which simply means that if a dog feels leash pressure (pulling back on leash) he will pull in the opposite direction. Most have experienced this with their dogs. The same sensation may be experienced when you try to push a dog down into a sit and he locks his legs and doesn’t want to go down.

Leash pressure causes pulling. How can you relax the pressure on the leash and prevent pulling? You can train your dog to walk on a slack leash. This can take a while – to get your dog to pay attention to you and walk slower than he naturally walks to accommodate you. Let’s look at options that will help you to better control your dog on leash.

 Humane equipment that makes walking your dog easier

There are a few options out on the market that work great to prevent most pulling. Some of these are the Gentle Leader, Head Halti, Easy Walk Harness and Sensation Harness. The good thing about the harnesses is that the leash connection is on the breast plate of the dog – right in front – which really gives you much better control. The use of food treats “initially” to shape the behavior you want on a walk is also recommended. Most doggie owners don’t think about taking treats on walks but it really helps in maintaining attention at critical times.

Styles of walking

Here’s where many trainers take exception to how people walk their dogs. Aside from doing some kind of “leash pulling dog training,” here’s how I walk my dogs. My wife and I walk our dogs on Flexi-Leads – that’s the retractable leash. Now this is a personal decision that everyone gets to make. Why do we walk our dogs on Flexi-Leads? We do it because they are good dogs that obey our commands.  We don’t have behavior problems with our dogs. So they get to “have fun” on walks. To balance our walks we do frequent recalls (come command) get a sit and then release them to run  sniff and play.

I have a lady client that was having an extremely difficult time walking her 9 month old Labradoodle  that was not making her walks fun. She struggled with constant pulling on leash because she thought she had to keep her dog by her side. I introduced her and her puppy to the Flexi-Lead and the difference was night and day. Once her dog got out beyond the 6’ leash distance she didn’t continue to pull. We worked on doing frequent comes and sit to be released again.

For the longest I would walk my dogs on 20-25’ long lines and do frequent recalls. The long lines were not retractable but the dogs did well, always came when called – distracted at first but then would finally ignore distractions and always come. They thoroughly enjoyed their free walks with the come command sprinkled in here and there – always a surprise. They learned to turn on a dime and come immediately.

This style of walking may not suit everyone but I recommend you give it a try. Balance free time away from you (on the end of the Flexi-Lead or long line) with frequent recalls back to you, get a sit then release your dog again for more fun.

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Jim Burwell is a “thanks for making the impossible, possible” professional dog trainer having trained 20,000+ dogs and counting and serving more than 7,000 clients.  Jim’s easy to follow, common sense, and positive methods have made him the “dog trainer of choice” for 30 years.  One of his clients says it best:

There are people who are so good at, and passionate about, what they do, that in their presence, one can’t help thinking that they have found their true calling and are doing exactly what
they should be doing on this earth. Jim is one of these rare people. His quiet and understated manner, his effective technique for training dogs (and their families) is something which I feel fortunate to have witnessed and in which to have been an active participant.  Jane Wagner

(c)Jim Burwell Inc.

18 replies
  1. Jim
    Jim says:

    I am not familiar with some of your terms. “All he does is leg” – have no idea what that means. “He’s a brill dog” -have no idea what that means. My first recommendation is always a Gentle Leader. The caveat that goes with that is YOU must buy the Gentle Leader that comes with the DVD so you know how to fit it properly AND desensitize your dog to the Gentle Leader

  2. jo
    jo says:

    Hi my dog circles me when I’m walking him he lunges on lead and pulls he has no steady pace when he is off lead all he does is leg it I’ve spent money on loads of leads and harness still nothing changes he also has this nervous crying and sometimes trembles when he goes for a work he’s a brill dog but he has a couple of issues with I think anxiety

  3. Kim
    Kim says:

    Thank you for the article. I enjoyed reading it. I have 2 lab mixes: 1 border collie 1 beagle. The border collie we got as a puppy and trained him to walk beside us and he does very well. The Beagle mix we got when she was 1 year old and we have had a little bit of trouble getting her to walk beside us. She is much more stubborn. She doesn’t pull a lot, but she likes to be in front and tends to pull more than I would like. I got her an Easy Walk Harness but she hates it even after months of using it and just refuses to walk with it on so I stopped using it. Will give the flexi leash a try and see how it works.

  4. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:

    Dawn. Thanks for stopping by ad I glad you liked the article. First thing I would do is have your vet check your dog for any medical conditions like arthritis. Her
    refusing to move could be her way of telling you she’s in pain or she’s just tired.

  5. Dawn
    Dawn says:

    What do you recommend for a senior dog who constantly stops and lags behind? I hate to drag her, but sometimes she just won’t move!

  6. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:

    Lynn: I’m glad you liked this article. I think folks enjoy walking their dogs much more when the ‘walking protocol” is not so rigid. Now, granted, some folks have issues
    on walks and the free walking doesn’t work for them. But, if you don’t have any issue by all means, take that pressure off and go have a great, fun walk with your dog.

    Hope you visit often


  7. Lynn
    Lynn says:

    Thanks so much for the article. I’m having quite the time walking our two Goldendoodles. They are so curious. I’m going to try the longer leashes you recommend. They both are fitted with the Easy Walk Harnesses which really help too. It’s like someone took the pressure off me to “make” them stay by my side. I would love if we could all enjoy our walk.

  8. leila_admin
    leila_admin says:

    Sapphire: Good for you! It’s fun isn’t it? Thanks for commenting and we’re delighted you liked the article

  9. Sapphire
    Sapphire says:

    This was a really nice article to read. I completely agree with letting the dog have some freedom on a walk- there’s a whole world out there that I want my dog to see and sniff, I don’t need her right up to my leg the whole time!

    She used to pull quite a lot and my first instinct was to try and hold her back, but obviously this just gave her more resistance to pull against. Eventually I decided to try her on a loose lead using some treats to encourage walking by me. After a lot of practice, we can now both really enjoy the walks- she trots along beside me but is allowed to stop and sniff, and I get to dictate the pace we go at.

  10. Tary
    Tary says:

    Jim, I liked the article. My dogs pull because they walk so much faster then me. I liked that you believe that your dog doesn’t have to walk right beside you, however in our case that’s not the case. I own 2 fairly well trained full blood (1 – 65 lbs and 1 – 115 lbs) Dobermans (meaning they don’t jump on people, etc), they are very friendly to people and most other dogs. The problem is people are very afraid of them and even when their tried and walking close to me people often times cross the trail to avoid them. I do feel that’s their problem not mine, but at the same time I understand and try to respect of others pre-conceived ideas of Dobermans and try to keep the close to my side to avoid scaring others when they are trying to enjoy their outside time also.

    Bottom line is I need my dogs to heel and due to their high energy level and fast pace we start our walks with me trying to keep up with them. Any suggestions?

    Thanks in advance. Tary (Sammy & Abby)

  11. Bruce
    Bruce says:

    I’ve been using some idle time to read through some info lately. we have a Wolfpack of 3 German Shepherds and 2 Belgian Malinois, ranging from nearly 4 yrs (the only male) down to 5 months. being a firm believer in exercise, i give them about 2 hrs of moderate to fast walking every day. only recently did i try taking all five out at once, but it hasn’t been a problem. i use choker chains and always have, since it’s the only way to guarantee control when the occasional cat crosses our path or a stray dog comes into view nearby. however, i never have to really yank or pull hard on the chain-leash, just a gruff “stop” does the trick. i have read a few sites where the choker chain is described as almost a torture, and i don’t agree. having trained all of ours with lots of affection and some basic discipline, they are really well behaved almost all the time. we have the usual pecking order spats mostly originating with playing around until someone takes exception to another one and things escalate. the “Big Dog” male will often intervene and get in between two of the others to prevent a serious fight. i would say that the Malinois is just as high strung and “wired” as you read about, incredibly smart, fast and agil, and can run circles around the German Shepherds, which sometimes leads to some envy related spats but nothing serious. the Malinois are also extremely affectionate and require lots of personal attention, as any dogs do i suppose. getting back to walking and leashes, i think it’s important to start young as we have with all of ours. from about 4 months we start short walks with the chain, and quickly they realize they should keep close and keep the chain loose, so we’ve never had any of the strong pulling and choking i read about sometimes. thanks for a great website!

  12. leila_admin
    leila_admin says:

    Ginger: glad you found a solution for you that works. Another great tool is the Premier Easy Walk Harnass where the leash attaches to the front of the chest instead of on the back.

  13. Ginger Howell
    Ginger Howell says:

    We had a terrible time teaching our German Shepherd not to pull. We would stop everytime she pulled and stand there, but then when we would resume walking, 50% of the time she would start to pull again. We tried treats, we did the 180 degree turn and pull technique, an e collar, everything!
    My neighbor has a golden retriever that pulled until they got a Sporn non pull harness. It tightens around the armpits/chest when our dog Shadow pulls. The difference has been a miracle – NO more pulling! Now when she pulls, it tightens, she slows down, and looks at me, and walks with loose leash after that!

  14. June
    June says:

    This is great. I’ve always had trouble walking my dog because she pulls and it’s no fun for either of us

    I will switch to doing it this way as I get to practice getting her to come to me also


  15. Shelley
    Shelley says:

    Finally, a trainer with some common sense! That’s how I walk my very active and curious 12 month old goldendoodle, and we both enjoy ourselves! Thank you for validating my instinct!

  16. Jean
    Jean says:

    Love the diversity you bring to light about different ways to train a dog. I always used to try to conform the dog to “MY” way instead of finding out what my friend needed so we could both enjoy our time together. Thanks for that!

  17. Brent
    Brent says:

    Thanks for the article. It’s almost like you gave us permission not to be so strict when walking our dog. I can see how using this method would let our dog Kikke and us enjoy the walks.

    I really like your site, I think I’ve read over 200+ things you’ve written – lots of great info.

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