Dog Pulling On Leash Training

Three Leash Training Techniques to Help a Pulling Dog

In theory, walking your dog is a great way to unwind and get some exercise. Imagine a beautiful autumn day with changing leaves all around you, a light breeze, and a slight chill in the air. Your sweet dog trots alongside you as you stroll through the red-falling leaves. Perfection. When most people think of adopting a new four-legged family member, I believe this is what comes to mind.


Reality, on the other hand, usually looks like this:

You have 20 minutes before you have to leave for an appointment, and you know the dog needs to get some exercise (he’s been chewing on your pillows and stealing your socks for the past half hour). So you get dressed and grab the leash. When Fido notices this, he dashes towards you, leaping and biting at the leash until it’s nearly impossible to get it on. When you finally do, you open the door and Fido is at the end of the leash, almost pulling your arm out of its socket. He pulls you down the sidewalk for half of the walk, and you yank him along for the other half because he has to stop at every bush to smell and pee for some reason. You’re exhausted, sore, and frustrated with your dog by the time you get home (not to mention embarrassed that your neighbors watched you struggle along.)
And now you’re running late for your appointment.

Unfortunately, when walks become frustrating, we tend to walk our dogs less frequently, resulting in more pent-up energy and boredom. It’s a vicious cycle that can lead to an uneasy, chaotic home life as well as a sad, anxious dog.

Let’s talk about the different types of leash walks we use to train pulling dogs and how they can help you!

1. How to take your dog for a walk with a loose leash

Walking on a loose leash is exactly what it sounds like. It entails walking with your dog close by and a “smile” in the leash, which hangs from your dog’s harness or collar and swoops down before rising to meet the other end in your hand. Because there is no tension in the leash, there is no pulling, which means your wrists and arms aren’t sore!

If you aren’t concerned with professional heel behavior, the loose leash style of walking is great. It’s as simple as teaching your dog to walk within four to five feet of you. (Obviously, this assumes you’re using a six-foot leash.)


You’ll need the following items:

  • A leash that is four to six feet long
  • A suitable harness (ideal) or collar (NO correction collars!).
  • Treats that your dog absolutely adores
  • A positive and upbeat attitude
  • Patience

The first step is to start practicing at home! Every behavior should begin inside your home because dogs (and any other thinking, breathing animal) cannot learn something new in a chaotic and distracting environment—for that’s later.

  1. Without the leash, call out your dog’s name and give her a treat while she stands by your side.2. Take a few energetic steps forward, talking to her to keep her engaged, and then treat her again when she comes to your side.

    3. Take your dog for a fun and engaging walk around the house until he is eagerly following you, anticipating his next treat!

    4. Add your equipment (collar, harness, and leash) and repeat the steps above until she is happily walking loosely by your side.

    5. Get away from the house!Start with a non-distracting area close to your house until she’s a pro at it.


2. Teach your dog to walk on a leash.

Heeling is a more structured form of dog walking. When your dog “heels,” she walks alongside you on your left (or right, if that’s more convenient!) side, matching your pace and stopping when you do. This type of walking isn’t necessary for the average non-working dog because it limits exercise and free time for your dog to explore and engage her sense of smell. The heel technique is especially useful in crowded, congested areas such as airports.

What you’ll need is the following:

  • A leash that is four to six feet long
  • A suitable harness (ideal) or collar (NO correction collars!).
  • Treats that your dog absolutely adores
  • A positive and upbeat attitude
  • Patience


You should start teaching this behavior in an area with few distractions, such as your home, as you did with loose leash walking. You can do this on or off-leash, but keeping your dog on a leash will prevent her from wandering off.

  1. Use a tasty treat or lick stick to entice your dog to your left side, rewarding immediately when your dog is directly next to you.2. Continue to reward him frequently in order to keep him on your side.This high rate of rewards is important because this behavior necessitates so much concentration!

    3. Take a step forward, attracting his attention with a tasty lure and rewarding him right at your side.

    4. Get out and about, frequently rewarding yourself only by your side.There are no rewards if she goes a little too fast or stops. Start over. Simply return her to your side.

    5. Now it’s time to add things up a side and throw in some random stops while continuing to reward her frequently when she’s directly next to you.

    6. Add the heel cue: When your dog stays by your side consistently, it’s time to add the heel cue! You don’t need to say the cue more than once; just say it once and reward when your dog is in position.

    7. Give your dog a release word like “okay!” or “all done!” and toss a treat away from you when you’re done heeling.

    8. Then, outside or with more distractions, repeat the steps above!

3. Reactive dogs’ proactive leash training (BAT)

Grisha Stewart, a dog trainer who specializes in dog reactivity, created Behavior Adjustment Training (BAT) as a way to rehabilitate reactive dogs and prevent future reactivity. As a dog trainer, BAT leash work appeals to me because it allows your dog to learn and use their natural body language to work through potentially frightening situations. From what I’ve seen, proactive leash training helped both my dog and the dogs I worked with gain confidence and strength.

Overall, the behavior adjustment training method is a great way to encourage your dog to use his or her natural abilities to safely work through stressful situations. I think this is the best way for your dog to get exercise out of the three we talked about because it lets it sniff and explore on its own.

If you live in a congested area, such as downtown, look for nearby parks and walk your dogs there if you can! Parks usually have more room and places to sniff, and they also give you a break from the traffic.

These three methods for walking your dog will make walks with your dog much more enjoyable and will improve your relationship with your dog! Exercising a dog makes her calmer, happier, less anxious, and less destructive.

Walking with your dog is a great way to bond and celebrate your relationship, so start practicing and have fun!