To understand why a dog pulls on a leash and how to stop it, think about the age old game of “tug of war.” In order to play this game you must have a rope (leash) and someone pulling on both sides in opposite directions. If you were engaged in a game of “tug of war” and the person you were tugging against suddenly let go of the rope, you could no longer pull against it. We use this same principle when teaching dogs not to pull on a leash. In order for a dog to pull you on a leash, you must be pulling back!
When a dog pulls, avoid pulling back on the leash by moving your end of the leash suddenly towards the dog. This immediately releases the pressure on the leash in the same way that a person letting go in a game of “tug of war” does. As soon as the leash is momentarily loose, move in the opposite direction. This makes it virtually impossible for the dog to continue to pull you.
Having changed direction, praise the dog that is now walking calmly at your side. Dogs pull because they want to get some place faster or to get away from the person at the end of the leash. It should only require a few repetitions in different places before your dog decides that there is no advantage to pulling on his leash. In fact, traveling in a new direction, he is not getting the desired response he was looking for. Regardless of the dog’s motivation to haul you around, avoid tug of war and you end pulling.
Be aware that harnesses (other than specific no-pull harnesses) encourage a dog to pull. This is why dogs trained to track, pull sleds, and guide blind people wear a harness. For their particular jobs, pulling is a good thing.
Many people attempt to stop a dog from pulling by using a choke collar. Used improperly, this collar can damage a dog’s trachea and does not teach a dog to stop pulling. What you end up with is a dog pulling on a choke collar and having difficulty breathing. When you learn how to stop the game of “tug of war”, no choking device is necessary.