If your dog is pulling like a steam train it can make your morning walk stressful for you both. It certainly used to cross my mind that this wasn’t how I imagined it would be when I first brought my beautiful puppy home! Often you may find you pull them back to you and that helps for a bit, but before you know it they are back at the end of the lead and there seems nothing you can do but be towed along.
Which of these seem right to you? My dog pulls on the lead because…
- My dog naturally walks faster than I do.
- He/she forgets that I’m on the other end of the lead.
- My dog gets too excited about all the things in front of him/her on the walk.
- It’s how its always been so it’s just a habit now.
- My dog seems to really enjoy pulling.
There are lots of reasons that a dog may start pulling on the lead and it could be all of the above! Most mid-sized and larger dogs will naturally walk faster than most humans, so our poor dogs have to learn to walk more slowly! This may be a new and frustrating concept for some of them!
This is coupled with the practical issue that once your dog is ahead of you and the lead is loose they may forget where you are anyway.
Unfortunately, rushing ahead of the owner is often a “self-rewarding behaviour”. Pulling towards another dog/lamp post/bit of litter means that they get there sooner. They pull and the owner steps forward. Any behaviour that is rewarding is likely to keep happening and this is where the problem really begins. Your dog starts to remember that this is a good strategy to use next time they are frustrated by your slower pace of walking and your dog is eager to get to a good smell ahead of them.
Isn’t it uncomfortable for them? Yes it is! And it can cause permanent damage if they are pulling hard on a traditional collar. The problem is that they become habituated to any discomfort over time. Some breeds have a genetic predisposition to pulling and may actually enjoy it for its own sake, whilst others who are a little anxious may get comfort from knowing exactly where their owner is from the feeling of tension on the lead.
Luckily you can rest assured that you are not alone. I’ve certainly been there at various times with all three of my dogs!!! There are luckily lots and lots of ways we can change this behaviour which I will cover in my next post.