Lead pulling: Stopping my dog pulling on the lead

Is the daily chore of walking your pet gundog in Dorset something you dread because of lead pulling?  You are not alone with this very common behaviour issue of the dog lead pulling. We can change that behaviour so you have a dog who becomes good at loose lead walking. Your happy and the dog still gets to where they want to go. Does your dog pull on the lead and you live in Wimborne, Broadstone, Corfe Mullen, Merley, Poole and surrounding areas of Dorset? Muttley Solutions can help turn lead pulling into loose lead walking.

  • Does your dog pull you everywhere?
  • Is your dog always out in front?
  • Would you like to walk your dog on a loose lead
  • Would you like to have a dog who will walk at the side of you off lead?

On a daily basis on streets and parks, in fact anywhere where dogs are walked, you will see this.  The dog out front with a tight lead and the owner dutifully following behind. The dog has a purpose and that is to get somewhere, not sure where, but the owner will follow. Suddenly the dog stops to have the regular sniffing stop and the owner can catch breath. Off he goes again pulling the owner along who sometimes will shout ‘heel’ or ‘no’, but to no avail.

How to train your pet gundog not to pull on the lead

Ask yourself this question next time you are out walking your dog: ‘Are you walking with your dog or is your dog walking with you?’ There should only be one correct answer!! For you to arrive at the correct answer your dog has to be asking the following question: ‘ what are they doing now?’ My job as a trainer is to get your dog to start asking that question. That is the secret to stopping your dog from pulling on the lead. Yanking at leads and shouting at your dog will not work. We don’t teach the dog to stop pulling, we teach them to walk with us…..big difference!!

I will bullet point some of the key components which link together to get your dog asking that question.

  • Unpredictability
  • Walk with purpose
  • Engagement
  • Leadership
  • YOU STOP correcting the dog…..yes that is written right!!
  • STOP walking your dog….that is also written correct
  • Being proactive, not reactive.
  • The correct lead
  • Long Line
  • Pressure on Pressure off
  • Double loop technique
  • Reward not bribe
Lead pulling in Dorset: Loose lead walking

Dogs do not relate choking with pulling on the lead.

Dogs are not born with the understanding they have to have a lead on.  It is a skill which needs to be taught. Also dogs are not geared to walk in a straight line at a human walking pace. Again this is a skill which needs to be taught.

We expect the moment we put a lead on our pet gundog they will magically obey all commands and know what the word heel means. This behaviour issue of lead pulling ranks with a poor recall as the common complaints owners will say ruins their experience as a dog owner.

Imagine the scenario. The dog pulls you all the way to the park. Then you let it off the lead and it totally ignores you all the time you are there.  When its time to come home it takes you another 30 minutes to get the dog to come back to you. Then you have to play a catching game to get it on the lead. On the way back home the dog pulls you all the way. For the dog they have had a great time and self rewarded themselves so pulling and ignoring you becomes even more established.

Does this sound familiar to you because this is the reality for many dog owners? However, this does not need to be the case. With the right techniques, support and CPPR (Consistency, Persistence, Patience and Repetition) we can turn lead pulling into loose lead walking.

We can help stop your dog leash pulling

A big philosophy of Muttley Solutions is that you, the owner, holds the key to success. Most of my work involves getting you to re-think your approach to your dog. When you can show your dog you know what you are doing and what you want then the messages you give to your dog will be clearer and precise. I have one exercise where you use the lead with no dog attached to it so it becomes muscle memory for you. When you can get it right then the dog will. We teach dogs that pulling on the lead is rewarding. Therefore, you need to be able to confidently teach them it is not!! I will support you on this journey

Being realistic about training the dog not to pull

Okay we have to accept that we cannot be in training mode all the time…..we need to get somewhere!!  Therefore, I am happy to support you with the use of a head collar for those days you need to take your dog out, but cannot do the training. It is perhaps the biggest complaint by clients that they cannot get anywhere because the dog will pull. Slowly training goes out of the window.

Therefore I may discuss about using a head collar on the days you need to go out. This ensures the days you are training, your dog has not been learning bad habits on the non training sessions.  We can discuss this approach when we meet. Some trainers will disagree with this approach. My rationale is we need to make training realistic or I am setting you both up to fail!! A head collar is not a substitute for correct training so I will not advise the long term use of it.

What is a dog lead?

Dog leads are attached to a dog’s collar or harness to control the animal. The purpose of a lead may vary, however it is usually to keep control of the dog. In general, a lead will be used for a dog that is not trained to stay calm in public areas. This allows the dog to still enjoy these areas while still being under control of the owner. Loose lead walking allows the dog to roam partially, while the owner can call the dog back at any time. Generally, a bigger dog will require a stronger lead depending on how well trained the dog is.

Different types of dog leads

There are many different types of leads available, each one offering something different. For example, a short tab lead keeps the dog under tight control and is useful for training. Furthermore, an extendable lead allows the trainer to train the dog at distance and is useful for gun dog training. Alternatively, a retractable lead is one that recoils into a large plastic handle. This allows the dog to roam while still being always under the control of the owner. When necessary, the owner can simply recoil the dog to a distance in which it can be controlled more closely.

What are dog leads made of?

The material used in a dog lead can also vary depending on the dog species as well as the purpose of the lead. For example, a metal chain lead can be used to simply keep a dog in one place. In contrast, a nylon webbing lead is often used for casually walking dogs. This is because this material is generally most comfortable for the dogs being walked. Alternatively, a short, braided leather lead can be used. This has a looped handle and is popular for obedience training. This material gives a firmer grip on the dog than other leads, making the training process easier.

Does my dog have to wear a lead by law?

The legal position of leads in the United Kingdom is that a dog is not required to always wear one. Dogs are only required to wear leads in areas where livestock is present as well as pedestrian zones. In open spaces a dog is not legally required to be on a leash. However, it is required that when in a public space, the owner must always have the dog under control. If the owner is unable to restrain the dog without a lead, then a lead should be used. Additionally, a dog is not considered under control if it is a large dog, and its lead is being held by a small child who would be unable to restrain the animal.

The slip lead and pet gundog training?

Different leads are appropriate for different dog species. For example, slip leads are suitable for gun dogs. They are used because when training or working the gundog does not wear a collar. The slip lead,as in its name, slips over the dog’s head. Unless the dog is trained well not to pull then the slip lead should not be used. Here at Muttley Solutions pet gundog training we don’t allow clients to use a slip lead whilst training

Dog pulling on the lead training

Loose lead walking and your puppy

So you have just got the cute ball of fur home and you put the lead on for the first time. Guess what happens?  The puppy runs ahead and suddenly the lead goes tight. You don’t want to hurt the dog so you follow.  This is your puppy’s first lesson in ‘how to pull on a lead and get the owner to follow’. Does this sound familiar?

As with all training quicker results will be achieved the sooner you start with your dog. The first time a lead is put on a puppy training should begin. If not the puppy will soon reward itself by pulling and you follow. This only needs to happen a couple of times and the puppy will learn to pull as it gets to where it wants to go.

It may appear cute this bounding small bundle of fur pulling on the lead. It wont be so funny when a rather large dog is now at the end of the lead and has learnt that when it pulls you follow. A better plan is to never put your puppy in a position where we teach it to pull.

Muttley Solutions offers one to one sessions with your puppy which will set in place the correct way to start to show the dog that pulling is not rewarding.It is possible to have a puppy which walks on a loose lead, pays attention to its owner and does not walk off in front to do its own thing. Remember the puppy is the sum of what we teach or don’t teach them!!

Here is a clip of a 12 week old puppy starting to learn being next to her owners leg is very rewarding. A behaviour which soon becomes their default.


YouTube Video: Rusty loose lead walking

Lead walking with your older dog

Okay so things have just got a little more challenging. This is not now about teaching the dog something new, but undoing bad habits and teaching something new. We have to show your dog that what was once rewarding is no longer.

However, the reality is that when help is sought with Lead Pulling the dog is already very established at this skill. It will take a lot of patience and hard work on the part of the owner to turn this around. We need to establish good leadership skills with the owner.

Lead pulling can be a symptom of other training issues

Often lead pulling is a symptom of other issues and most likely the dog won’t have a recall and there maybe other issues present. The truth is I get called to stop a dog pulling and we have to take several steps away from that to sort out the relationship between the owner and the dog.  I need to be sure the dog understands what the owner is trying to teach them. Likewise I need the owner to understand where the dog is at.

It is when we have a level playing field of understanding between the dog and owner can I start to address the reason you called me for…..the dog pulling on the lead.

Does my pet gun dog have to wear a dog collar?

Could I use a Harness instead?

At Muttley Solutions dog training in Dorset, we often get asked ‘does my pet gun dog have to wear a collar? The answer is both yes and no! We also get asked can my gun dog wear a harness. The simple answer to this is if you want to train with us then No your dog cannot wear a harness. The exception to this is if you have written evidence from your vet that your dog would benefit from a harness due to a neck/ throat issue.

We need a quality well fitting collar so that we can be successful in training your dog to walk on a loose lead without pulling. I like to use a Martingale Collar for big dogs who could pull out of their collar by pulling backwards. These should only be used for training.

pet gun dogs wear a collar

What is a dog collar?

Dog collars are simply pieces of material worn around the neck of a dog. While the main purpose of a dog collar is to restrain the dog and prevent them from running off, dog collars can also be used for identification, protection, fashion, as well as to hold medical tags and information. Many people prefer to use a harness as opposed to a dog collar in order to prevent their dog feeling any discomfort or pain, however in general a dog will be perfectly comfortable in a dog collar. Collars are extremely beneficial when used in the training of a dog and can greatly contribute to the dog’s learning or certain skills.

Which collar should I get for my dog?

There are many varieties of dog collars, with the most common choices being made of leather or nylon, as well as polyester, hemp, or oilcloth. A buckle collar is similar to a belt buckle and fits loosely around the dog’s neck. Another option is a breakaway collar. These collars have a safety mechanism that allows the dog to break free when too much strain is put on the collar. Alternatively, safety stretch collars contain elastic within the collar. Both breakaway and safety stretch collars prevent strangulation of a dog in scenarios involving fences, gates, branches, other dogs, and any other dangerous items.

Does my dog have to wear a collar by law?

Legally, a pet dog must wear a collar at all times. If your dog is found not wearing a collar detailing the name and address of its owner, you are liable to an on the spot fine from a dog warden. A dog warden also has the power to seize and detain a dog if they fell this is necessary. Additionally, a dog collar should contain the owners phone number as well as the name given to the dog by its owner. Furthermore, although it is recommended that your dog is on a lead when in public, this is not a legal requirement. However, it is illegal to have a dog that you are unable to control out in public.

Does my pet gun dog have to wear a collar?

Gun dogs are not legally required to wear a collar when in gun dog training or working and this is mainly due to the fact that a collar may restrict them from doing their job. For example, a gun dog retrieving a game bird for a hunter may have to go through bushes or shrubbery, which a collar may get caught in, to retrieve the bird. While completing gun dog training a dog does not have to wear a collar, however when in public places apart from training or hunting environments it is illegal for a gun dog to be seen not wearing a collar. This is where the slip lead comes into play, but this will be discussed in another post.

Ultimately a dog collar serves many purposes for both the dog and owner and is very important in the general cooperation between dogs, dog owners and other people in public places. A dog collar can help train a dog, keep them from running away, and in the occasion that a dog is separated from its owner and becomes lost, a coller can help reunite the owner and their lost pet d

My own dog was a prolific lead puller. How did I train him to loose lead walk?

To make you feel better my own dog was a prolific puller!! What do I mean by this? He pulled so hard he choked and made himself sick.  Dogs who pull like this will damage their throats. I was his 4th owner by the time he was 1 year old. Lots of bad habits taught and pulling was a key one. It was embarrassing to have a dog like this and be a dog trainer.  I stopped wearing my uniform when I took him out so I have been in your shoes.

So being a professional dog trainer it must have been easy to turn my lead pulling dog into a loose lead walking dog? Sadly no it wasn’t. There are no quick fixes. However, when I started to look at the problem as my problem not Henry’s then I started to understand what the issues were.

Communication between dog and owner key to stopping lead pulling

I realised we had a communication issue because to get him to do what I needed him to do I needed to open a line of communication we could both understand. Thankfully one concept I do understand and that will be key to getting you started.

I put a plan in place and started the road of turning a dog who had been highly rewarded to pull on a lead to a dog who is about 95% there on a loose lead. it is about understanding what makes a particular dog tick and play to that. Henry is very ball driven so that soon became the driver and a key tool in changing is behaviour.

When I got Henry he was a lead puller, no recall, jumping up, demanding, suffers separation distress, doesn’t like travelling in a car. Basically one well messed up dog by the age of 1. We have worked hard on developing our relationship so that I control everything which is rewarding. This means I become an important person in his life and worth listening too. He is work in progress. Here is a recent video of him working in my training field doing some whistle and hand signal work.


Youtube Video: Henry showing what’s possible when you put the work in


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