How to Stop a Dog From Pulling on the Leash

Aim to teach your dog appropriate leash walking during the puppy stage.
Aim to teach your dog appropriate leash walking during the puppy stage. (Image: Tiffany Schoepp/Blend Images/Getty Images)

If your dog has the frustrating habit of pulling on his leash during walks, you can discourage it by helping him release energy before going outside and through consistent training while he's on the leash. Leash pulling can be hazardous to dogs and owners alike, leading to coughing and wheezing in dogs and possible falls in people.

Burn Off Energy Before Walks

Many dogs pull on their leashes due to pent-up energy. If you take your dog for a walk and he pulls on his leash, it could be because he simply can't manage all the energy he has. Give your dog the chance to burn off some of his energy just prior to going outside for the walk. Engage him in a lively tug-of-war or fetch session in your living room or fenced yard. These interactive games can stimulate your pet's mind and give him the physical activity he craves. By the time your dog goes outside, he should be significantly calmer and less likely to pull on his leash.

Encourage Calm Behavior

Encouraging your dog to practice control can also be helpful for curbing his leash pulling. If your dog is unable to control his actions before going outside, then you can't be too surprised if he's unable to do so during his walk. When your dog first spots you getting his leash out, observe his behavior. If he whimpers, barks, zips around, jumps or goes around in circles, remain completely motionless. Stay that way until he relaxes. Don't attempt to put on his leash until all of his paws are planted firmly on the floor. Once they are, calmly fasten his leash. If he tries to jump or run over to you again, swiftly return the leash and your hands back to your body. Promoting calm behavior before going on walks can go a long way for promoting calm behavior during them.

Create Relevant Associations

You can also discourage leash pulling during actual walks. When your dog isn't tugging, continue walking as normal. Talk to him in an enthusiastic voice, too. When you feel your dog pulling, immediately quit walking and be totally quiet. This will make your curious dog walk back over to you, loosening the leash up again. At this point, continue walking and go back to talking to your dog in your enthusiastic voice. When you feel him tugging yet again, stop. Continue this pattern until your dog begins to link the pulling with stopping. If stopping doesn't work with your dog and only makes him pull more aggressively, respond by walking backwards.

You can use treats to reinforce his good, non-tugging behavior, too. When he's not tugging, reward him with yummy treats.

Invest in a Head Halter

If your dog has a neck collar, consider getting him a head halter to curb the pulling. Head halters give owners additional mechanical control over their dogs during walks. They also are in no way uncomfortable to canines. If you opt for a head halter over a neck collar, it will enable you to manage how fast your dog walks and where he's going, regardless of how strong you are. While head halters can indeed be helpful, quick options for stopping leash pulling, it's still important for owners to train their dogs to walk calmly without them.

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