How Can We Stop Our Dogs Pulling When on the Lead
All dogs pull to a certain extent, but some pull to excess and this can be dangerous. If you dont have any control over your dog when it is out just with you and there are no other distractions around, then what hope will you have of your dog pulling you across a road to reach a cat on the other side, paying no attention to oncoming vehicles.
It's therefore really important you can teach your dog to walk politely beside you and know that pulling is bad and not allowed. This can be easier said than done, particularly if you have a large dog and even more so if you walk more than one dog as I do.
You may find that when your dog is out walking with you a simple lead and collar works well, you have two hands, one to hold the lead and the other as a backup or a distraction. But as soon as you put your nice well behaved dog in a pack of dogs, they become pulling machines, fighting for dominance over the rest of the pack, it becomes a competition to have their own nose out the furthest, as this makes them the boss and before you know it, you have a dog walker who is hanging on to dear life and not looking like she is in control of any of her dogs.
Even my dog Rowan, who is brilliant when we are out on our own, will walk to heel on and off the lead and is very gentle in the lead to the point, I'm hardly holding it, but as soon as I put her with another dog, her bossy controlling nature comes out and she has to be in front!
So what can we do? Well we can experiment with a number of different leads, harnesses, collars and halit's you can now buy.
Every dog is different, so what might work with one dog, might not with another and the key to testing which one works best, is trial and error, but make your trials worth it, your dog might not like wearing a halti for instance, but when its not trying to get it off, he might walk like an angel.
I dont proclaim myself to be any kind of expert on this, I haven't tried all of them, yet! But lets have a look at some of the different "tools" we can try.
Some dogs will walk nicely on a buckle collar and lead system and won't have the need for anything stronger, but others need a bit more. There was a time, when we were trained by the likes of Barbara Woodhouse, when we would put our dog into a choke chain, but this is often now frowned upon and some dog trainers will not allow them in their classes. So what else can we use?
A martingale collar is a limited slip collar that will tighten slightly under tension. It’s designed to prevent a dog from backing out of the collar and to allow you to give a slight correction to get your dog’s attention. Martingales are made of different materials such as nylon, chain or leather. A martingale collar is a training collar that will tighten slightly under tension but not enough where it could choke the dog. It’s also called a limited slip collar. If the dog pulls or if you prefer to lightly tug on the leash, the collar will tighten a bit. When the tension eases, the collar will loosen again. A martingale collar has two loops—one to go around the dog’s neck and the other is used to tighten the collar under tension. You would adjust the collar to properly fit your dog.
Reasons to consider a martingale collar for your dog 1. A martingale collar allows you to give your dog gentle corrections. It’s not really a “correction” but more of a way to re-direct his attention and then reward him. Some dog owners are not comfortable with choke chain collars or prong collars, so a martingale collar is a nice alternative because it only tightens so far. Martingale collars are not controversial. They’re used successfully by many different dog trainers and dog owners. They’re a good “middle ground” collar.
2. Safety. Since a martingale collar will gently tighten under tension, it’s difficult for a dog to slip out of the collar or back out of the collar. For this reason, martingale collars are preferred for foster dogs or any rescue dog being handled at adoption centres. It’s far too common for dogs to slip from their regular collars and bolt. A martingale collar is an easy way to decrease that risk. Specifically, martingale collars are a good safety collar for greyhounds or other breeds with narrow heads. These types of dogs can easily slip out of a regular collar. The same goes with dogs that have wide heads and wide necks, like pitbull-type dogs. Some of these dogs can also easily slip out of buckle collars so martingales are a safer option.
3. A martingale collar is a good training collar for a puppy. A martingale collar is much gentler for puppies than a choke or prong collar.
4. Works as an everyday collar + training collar. When you use a choke or prong collar for training, it’s best to use it only for training for safety reasons. This is because the chain collar could accidentally get caught on something and injure your dog (or worse). A martingale collar, on the other hand, can be worn all the time—for training and for lounging around the house, I have read however that not everyone agrees with this statement, so I would take it off when not out walking.
5. Good alternative to the Gentle Leader.
Good for: Dogs with narrow heads that could easily slip out of a normal collar (such as a greyhound or collie). Dogs with wide heads and necks that could easily slip out of a normal collar (such as bulldogs or pitbulls). Dogs that need a gentle correction to pay attention.
Pros: Easy to fit for dogs of all shapes and sizes Good for safety, prevents dogs from slipping out. A gentle correction from the collar gets your dog’s attention
Cons: Does not work well to control powerful dogs. Works best when worn high on the neck
Leads come in many shapes and sizes. The most common are the type that have a clip at the end to attach to a collar or harness. It can be made with leather, nylon web or nylon rope to name a few. They come in different thicknesses and lengths. For instance a 6 foot lead is often recommended by trainers as it often has rings down the length of the lead, to change the length, it can be used to teach puppies recall, with them still attached and give your dog a longer lead to explore if you are not confident to let them off.
I prefer to use a nylon web lead, which is 48” long and ¾” thick, with a handle on the end, when I am out with a number of dogs at once. It just means I haven’t got an excess of leads to get in a tangle.
A retractable lead usually extends anywhere from 15 feet to 25 feet and retracts into the handle of the lead. It’s designed to give the dog more freedom. I think a retractable lead is fine if you are out with one dog, that doesn’t pull, but the trouble with this type of lead is that it teaches your dog to pull, the more it pulls the more freedom your dog gets. I do find them very combersome if you have more than one to deal with and I also think they are dangerous. I was once out with a couple of dogs, we were having a pleasant walk until they saw some other dogs, they didn’t like the look of. They both went to the end of their leads and started fighting with the other dogs, because there was tension on the leads I could not retract them and if I took hold of the string, it cut into my hands, it was not until one of them turned round that I was able to gain control. For this reason I no longer use them.
Good for: Small dogs. Medium and large dogs that have good leash manners.
Pros: Gives your dog more freedom in open areas, especially where leashes are required. Good for transitioning a dog to eventual off-leash training. Helpful for allowing your dog more freedom in safe areas. An option for exercising dogs that can’t be trusted off lead.
Cons: Not safe for dogs with poor lead manners. Gives powerful dogs too much control. Causes a safety hazard for people and dogs around you.
A slip lead is a simple lead that loops through itself (like a choke collar or slip collar), usually made from nylon rope. It creates a 2-in-1 leash/collar system but you can also just leave your dog’s normal collar on. This type of leash is a good option for dogs that are trained but still need a few gentle reminders every now and then. It can also take the place of a choke collar or slip collar. There are two varieties, one with one loop and another with a second loop that goes over the nose to create a head collar.
You need to make sure there is a rubber or leather ring, a little way up the lead from the head, this stops the loop becoming so large they can step out of the lead when it is slack. I do find these leads slippery, especially when wet. The thicker version is hard to grip and the thinner version can cut into your hand. I find if your dog does pull, it pinches tighter and tighter, so they gag and cough. When I am out with a number of dogs I don’t have enough hands to keep it high up their neck as it needs to be moved constantly to be effective.
Good for: Small, medium and large dogs of all sizes. Dog walking and dog obedience training. Quickly slipping on or off at the park or during agility training, field training, etc.
Pros: One size fits most sizes and breeds. Prevents dogs from backing out of their collars. Good for mild pullers who need gentle reminders to pay attention.
Cons: Keeps tightening under pressure so not the best choice for extreme pullers. Does not give enough control over powerful dogs. Needs to be kept high on the neck to work properly.
The Gentle Leader is a type of collar that fits over a dog’s muzzle (similar to a horse halter). When the dog pulls, the collar is designed to gently pull the dog’s muzzle and head to the side. This limits the pulling for a lot of dogs and gives the owner more control. It is a nice alternative to a choke chain collar.
The Gentle Leader attaches to the lead, via a ring under the muzzle. I recently tried a gentle leader on a dog that is an extreme puller on a slip lead and harnesses. The change in him was remarkable. At first he didn’t like it and pawed at his mouth to get it off, but I kept walking, telling him to “leave it”. He did get himself into a bit of a tiz, getting the lead wrapped around his legs, but I sorted him out and kept going. As soon as he walked nicely I rewarded him and told him he was a “good boy” in a calm voice, I didn’t want to excite him and make him jump up, thinking it was a game, I wanted him to keep concentrating. I had him to heel at my side with his head in line with my legs within 5 minutes and I hardly had to hold the lead at all, it took the slightest of tugs to keep his attention when it wondered and it didn’t matter that the other dogs out with us were all off the lead, running about, he stayed by my side and walked nicely. I really liked this head collar, as it stopped him from walking out in front and I felt in complete control. However not everyone likes them, believing they put too much pressure on the dogs eyes, but this is only the case if they are still pulling in it.
Good for: Large and medium dogs that pull. Those who want an alternative to a choke chain collar or prong collar. Dogs with sensitive throats.
Pros: Limits pulling without putting pressure on the dog’s neck. Has a calming effect on some dogs. Gives you more control of your dog. Stop coughing and gagging and “strangling” when leads such as the slip lead tighten.
Cons: Puts pressure on a dog’s muzzle and under the eyes. It takes time and patience to desensitize some dogs to having something over their muzzle. Some dogs paw at it. Won’t fit most short-muzzled dogs like pugs, Boston terriers, French bulldogs and not designed for tiny dogs like Chihuahuas.
The Halti is very similar to a gentle leader, but it has an extra strap leading from the nose to the neck. This helps to keep the other strap from pulling to the side or up into the dog’s eyes, which often happens with the Gentle Leader.
Besides these slight differences, the Gentle Leader and the Halti are basically the same. They are tools to give the owner more control and to teach the dog not to pull. Many dog owners prefer using a head collar as opposed to a choke collar or prong collar because a head collar does not put pressure on a dog’s neck.
Occasionally, someone in passing might also mistake a head collar for a muzzle. However, a dog can still use his mouth and jaw normally while wearing a Gentle Leader or Halti. He can still bite, eat, drink, pant, you name it.
If you have a strong puller, a Gentle Leader or a Halti is a good option to try in my opinion.
There is a huge variety of different harnesses available, so I think it is a case of trial and error to find the right one for your dog, if its a harness you want to use. I have come across two types so far. The ones with thick padded straps that go around the front of the chest and around the body and some that go through the legs too, with a ring between the shoulder blades to attach the lead.
And a vest type, where you have to put it over their head and then thread each leg through a strap, the lead is attached to a loop between the shoulder blades as well.
The difference with this one is when you pull on the lead, it will tighten and release to correct your dog, creating a measure of discomfort, where as the strap version does not. I have found with strong pullers the chest strap version enables the dog to put all his weight on that strap and keep pulling and unless you are very strong it can be hard to keep your dog in check.
Good for: All types of dog. Dogs that pull.
Pros: Gives you more control over your dog, if they pull, gives you extra straps to grab, to keep your dog away from danger. Some can be used with a car seat belt.
Cons: Not all are suitable for extreme pullers. There are so many different varieties, you will have to try a few before you find the one that suits your dog the best. Can rub under their arms. Can be difficult to put on.
No Pull Harness
The Easy Walk no-pull harness is a nylon harness designed to limit a dog’s pulling. The leash clips to the front of the harness at the dog’s chest. If the dog pulls, the harness gently tightens around the dog’s chest and shoulders and pulls him to the side making it uncomfortable to keep pulling.
The no-pull harness is also called an anti-pull harness or a front-clip harness. There are several brands. The no-pull harness is a popular tool recommended by many dog trainers who focus on positive reinforcement. It’s also becoming more popular with dog owners in general and with shelter and rescue centres in replace of choke collars. One benefit for shelter dogs is that a soft, colorful harness looks more appealing to adopters than a chain collar or even a Gentle Leader, which some people mistake for a muzzle.
Good for: Small, medium and large dogs that pull. Those who want an alternative to a choke chain collar or a Gentle Leader. Dogs with short muzzles that can’t wear a Gentle Leader.
Pros: Limits pulling without putting pressure on the dog’s neck or face. Growing in popularity with dog trainers. Less chance of injury to your dog.
Cons: Some dogs can shrug their shoulders, twist and slip out of it. Generally gives the owner less control compared to a prong collar or Gentle Leader. Sometimes rubs under the dog’s arms
No-pull harnesses vs. a standard harnesses
No-pull harnesses are very different than standard harnesses. A no-pull harness is designed to limit a dog’s pulling and generally has a clip for the lead at the front, on the dog’s chest. A standard harness is designed to encourage a dog’s pulling and you generally clip the lead to the top of the harness, on the dog’s back. It’s not recommended to use a standard harness for dog walking or training because this type of harness gives the dog too much control. A standard harness is best for very small dogs, well-trained dogs or dogs given the job to pull.
How does a no-pull, front-clip harness work?
Since you clip the lead to the front of the dog, on his chest, the harness creates an uncomfortable sensation for him if he pulls. Ideally, you would use this as a tool, in addition to training techniques to teach the dog to heel or walk on a loose lead.
What kind of dog should wear a no-pull harness?
Any dog can wear one, really. A no-pull harness can be good for solid, muscular dogs with strong necks and dogs with shorter muzzles like English bulldog-types or pugs. A no-pull harnesses is generally not the best tool for a dog that is 100+ pounds, but it also depends on your own strength and size. The type of collar that is best for you and the individual dog you are walking depends a lot on just that—you and the individual dog. But, for extra-large dogs, I personally believe a head collar such as a Gentle Leader or Halti gives you more control than a harness.
A no-pull harness also works well for medium and small dogs, and even toy breeds, especially if you’re concerned about a smaller dog slipping out of a regular collar or being injured by a choke collar or slip collar.
What dogs shouldn’t wear an anti-pull harness?
No-pull harnesses are helpful tools overall, but don’t suit all dogs. Some dogs will still pull and those dogs may be better off on a Gentle Leader. As with any tool, you need to learn how to use the no-pull harness properly and determine if it’s really the best choice for your unique dog. A no-pull harness can be the right tool for any breed, but sometimes it’s just a matter of trying out a few tools with your own dog and choosing whatever seems to work best for you. However, if you have an especially strong dog, especially if she is reactive to other dogs or strangers and you have trouble controlling her, I suggest you meet with a trainer to learn some tips or possibly discuss other tools like a Gentle Leader. The no-pull harness is not ideal for every dog.
As I said at the beginning of this blog, it really is a case of trial and error and dont think that something that works will work for ever, it may change and you may have to try something else, be flexible.
I am in the process of purchasing a number of different head collars, to try on the dogs that I walk, I already have some vest style harnesses. As mentioned above, your dog might not pull when they are alone with you, but quite often they do with me when they are in a group and its important for your peace of mind that I have your dog under complete control at all times. However if you do have any objections to me using anything on your dog, please let me know so that we can discuss altermatives. Similarly, if I find something that works really well for your dog (I can video the difference) I will recommend it to you, if you find your dog pulls with you when you are on your own. I am also purchasing a number of leads that are the same. Now I am taking out up to 6 dogs at a time, it can be difficult to handle 6 different types of leads with different thicknesses and lengths, so I am going to try all the leads the same, which I can then hold like double reins (horses) with different dogs between different fingers, this will enable me to give a little corrections to one of the dogs when needed and hopefully not get in a mess, that's the theory anyway!
And on a final note, if your dog is still a puller, why not give them an extra job, give them a back pack to wear! It is said that it makes the dog focus and it also helps them to loose a bit more energy. Plus its great for hot days - they can carry the water! Click here to find out more about backpacks.
Some of this information has been derived by my own experiences so far and some of it came from an American dog walkers blog with many more years of experience than I have so far. Which I thank her for the information. ThatMutt.com