How To Stop Your Dog From Pulling on the Leash

by Hannah Roundy

Dog pulling on leash walking on sidewalk while person in red coat is behind the dog

It’s great that our dogs are enthusiastic about walks, but it’s not enjoyable for either of you if they are constantly leash pulling, but with a little training, it’s easy to teach your dog to stop leash pulling.

Sometimes it’s difficult enough to get yourself off the couch and out the door for a walk. But it’s even less motivating to get a daily walk in when your pup is constantly pulling on their leash. Here's dog walking tips to help you both walk in harmony, but first let's get to the root of the cause: 

Why won’t my dog stop pulling on their leash?

The obvious answer is simply that your dog is excited. Dogs just love going on walks, runs, hikes, and exercise in general. Walks are mentally stimulating for our pups, as well. They learn about the world around them through the sights and smells they discover on walks. 

Humans can come and go as they please–so going for a walk isn’t quite as exciting to us as it is for our pups. Imagine stepping into a whole new environment once you open the front door. The temperature, sights, and sounds are different. Your dog is most likely leash pulling because they can’t wait to explore this new environment. 

It’s great that our dogs are enthusiastic about walks, but it’s not enjoyable for either of you if they are constantly leash pulling. With a little training, it’s easy to teach your dog to stop leash pulling. You may even start to look forward to your daily walks with your doggo. 

The Dangers of Leash Pulling

It’s crucial to correct leash pulling as soon as possible. Puppies and younger dogs take to loose leash walking very quickly. The older the dog, the longer they’ve been leash pulling–so it may take more time to correct the habit. 

When dogs pull too hard on the leash, you may have the instinct to tug them back. The pull from your dog’s collar can cause cuts or bruises with enough pressure. A strong tug back could even result in a collapsed trachea in dogs

Small-breed dog parents may not think it’s a big deal when their pups pull on the leash. But it’s important to be gentle with smaller dogs because their bodies are more delicate than larger pups. A collapsed trachea in dogs is more likely in small breeds like Chihuahuas, Pugs, and Pomeranians

To avoid collar-related injuries, some pet parents prefer to anchor the leash to their dog’s harness. Make sure that your dog’s harness fits well and is securely fastened. If your dog pulls too hard, the harness can restrict their breathing or cause chest injuries. 

Keep in mind that dog harnesses won’t stop leash pulling, but will move the tension from their neck to their chest. Instead of treating leash pulling injuries, you can prevent them altogether by training your pup with loose leash walking. 

Teach Your Dog Loose Leash Walking

Wondering how to stop your dog from pulling on the leash? We recommend training your pup with loose leash walking. In order to fully stop leash pulling with loose leash walking, you’ll need the following: 

  • A collar or harness
  • A 4-6 foot long leash
  • Treats or pieces of dog food
  • Treat pouch (optional) 
  • Patience! 

Step #1: Pack Your Treats

The key to any successful training is positive reinforcement. Giving your pup a treat when they respond to a command communicates that they are doing the right thing. That’s why you’ll want to carry a treat pouch or carry some dog food pieces in your pocket on walks. Sundays works as a great high-value reward training treat! 

Step #2: Ask Your Pup to “Sit”

Now’s the time to attach your dog’s leash to their collar or harness. Ask them to sit before you latch the leash on and reward them with a treat once they do. This isn’t essential to loose leash walking, but it’s always beneficial to practice basic obedience commands like “sit”. 

Step #3: Step, Stop, Reward

Take a few steps and your dog will most likely start to pull on the leash. As soon as they pull, stop walking. It may take a few seconds, but your dog will eventually look back or turn around to see why you’ve stopped. Immediately reward them with a treat when they do so and say “good” or “yes” in a cheery tone. 

Step #4: Repeat Step #3 During the Whole Walk 

Patience is the key to this step! Repeat the step, stop, reward method for the whole duration of your walk. It may seem repetitive, but repetition helps dogs understand what humans want them to do. Eventually, your dog will understand that pulling gets them where they want to go at a much slower pace. 

Step #5: Practice Loose Leash Walking Daily

Disappointingly, most pups won’t stop leash pulling on the first loose leash walk. But you will see the fastest results if you practice loose leash walking daily. Stop in your tracks even if your dog pulls just a little bit on their leash. Give them treats every time they stop leash pulling. Once they start to give some slack to the leash for longer periods of time, you can spread out the treats. Eventually, loose leash walking will become second nature to you and your pup. 

Other Tips for Easy Dog Walking

Even if leash pulling isn’t a problem for your pup, try out these tips to make your daily dog walks more enjoyable. 

Let Your Dog Stop & Sniff

Don’t be annoyed when your pup breaks their stride and starts sniffing. Dogs use their heightened sense of smell to discover the world around them and can smell 1,000 to 10,000 times better than humans. Let your dog take a few seconds to investigate a new scent–it’s mentally stimulating for them and won’t take too much time out of your walk. 

Set Your Dog Up for Success

Walks become are much more enjoyable when you don’t have to constantly correct your pup. If your dog only pulls on their leash when they see people or other dogs, try walking on a less-crowded route. You can also avoid leash reactivity by choosing to walk during certain times of the day. Since most pet parents walk their dogs in the morning or afternoons, squeeze in a mid-day or evening walk. 

Learn to Walk Multiple Dogs

Uneventful walks may be a foreign concept if you have multiple dogs–but it is possible! Practice loose leash walking with multiple dogs as much as you can. You may need to start walking each dog separately to really stop leash pulling in each pup. We suggest carrying small pieces of Sundays on walks with multiple dogs to motivate them to be on their best behavior.

Try Healthy, Easy Sundays