I promised you further suggestions on how to stop Fido pulling on the lead. But before we start, if you don’t believe in correcting your dog, then this advice will be of no help. We correct our dogs without causing pain, harm or distress, but sufficiently for the correction to act as a deterrent. A dog learns quickest if there are pleasant consequences for one behaviour and unpleasant for another. Read “My Approach to Training” if you want a more detailed explanation on our methods.
Equipment. We only use a slip lead:
This is because when the slip lead is tightened when delivering a correction, it automatically releases pressure when you slacken the lead – provided it’s put on correctly as per this picture. We never use a harness:
as these harness the dog’s power and encourage the dog to pull. Take it from most of the top dog trainers: there is not a single piece of equipment or lead on the market that stops a dog pulling, despite the multitude of claims on many products (if you can invent one, you’ll be a millionaire!). Yes, they can help, but without the necessary training in core skills, you are better off saving your money.
So here is a method we use to stop a dog pulling. We call it “Spin, ignore and reward”. The aim is to encourage Fido to start anticipating your movements so as to avoid discomfort. The description below assumes you handle your dog on the left.
With Fido on your left on a slip lead in your left hand, clamp your left hand to your hip, look up, turn away from him and march briskly off away from him (not forwards, but turn away). Fido will be taken by surprise and will eventually run to catch you up. As soon as Fido comes ahead of you, spin through 180 degrees to your right (away from Fido) and march off briskly in the opposite direction. As soon as the lead becomes loose (indicating Fido is now in the right position by your side), stop, praise and reward. Repeat.
- Pretend you don’t have a dog. Just turn away from Fido and set off marching at a fast pace without any warning.
- Don’t talk or interact with Fido until and unless you are rewarding correct positioning.
- Spins must be sharp, as if you’re a soldier marching. If you turn slowly, the deterrent effect of the lead going tight is lost and the learning value is diminished.
- Keep your head up and don’t look at Fido.
- Even if Fido becomes entangled, don’t stop, keep marching! He will sort himself out.
- When Fido conforms (which you’ll know as the lead becomes loose), walk in a straight line for a short distance before stopping: spin only when he goes wrong, go straight only when he conforms.
- Only stop when Fido is correctly positioned. Then reward and praise.
It takes me only about two minutes before a dog realises that there is only one comfortable place to be: by my side, looking at me and anticipating my next move. Anywhere else, and the lead goes tight and Mum/Dad marches off again. But when Fido starts to understand what the solution is and the lead goes loose, that’s the time to stop, reward and praise. If you are consistent with this technique, Fido will soon be at heel with his head by your leg, focusing on you rather than taking you water skiing down the High Street!
Try it. It works, I promise!