Pulling on Leash
This article was compiled by Patty Mead. Some of the information in this article has come from the Gazette, DogWorld, a pamphlet by Gwen Bohnenkamp (San Francisco), and from discussions with owners and trainers of Vizslas.
If your dog is pulling on its leash, then it has already learned a lesson. Namely, you are the follower and it is the leader. Generally, leash pulling is indicative of other disobedient activities as well. A leash pulling dog is not obedient on or off leash. Further, it implies that without the leash and owner as an anchor, the dog is likely to take off and disappear without heeding any command to "come" or return to you.
People who train dogs feel that leash pulling is most easily corrected prior to taking the dog out for a walk. During a walk there are so many distractions (cars, dogs, people, your kids, etc.) that your attention is too divided to adequately correct your dog -- especially if you are not used to any form of obedience training. The idea is that your dog should not be allowed to pull on the leash period. If you are distracted and not consistent each time the dog tries to pull on the leash, it will know that you do not really want to enforce the rule. Then it will pull all the time.
Just having a choke chain is not the answer. The answer is not a quick one. It is firm, consistent and constant corrections to bad behavior combined with support and praise for good behavior.
So where do you start? Start somewhere easy for both you and your dog to succeed. Try in the house at first. When you both are successful move to the back yard, then the front, then a walk around the block...get the idea? Start the exercise in places with minimal distractions and gradually increase the distractions.
But, meanwhile, you are in your living room with your dog. You have caught it, put on the leash and it is there tugging away -- generally trying to get to the door (incorrectly thinking it is time for a walk). Stand there holding the leash while letting your dog bounce, pull and do all the other things it does to show joy and excitement. After a while (5-10 minutes), the dog will generally start to calm down. Each time the dog stands still and does not strain on the leash give him praise and even offer an occasional treat. Stop praise as soon as the bouncing and pulling starts up again. You are trying to teach that not pulling is rewarded and pulling is not. Once this is successful and the dog has learned this crucial lesson, a good foundation is laid to continue the training. Another recommended method is to have the dog/puppy on a leash attached to your belt while you go about the house. The dog will learn to stay close and not pull on the leash.
The next lesson is that leash pulling is not acceptable behavior. When walking around the house or in your back yard, each time the dog pulls on the leash softly say "no pull". This initial phrase is both a request and a warning. After giving that warning, you pay strict attention to the tension on the leash. If the dog stops pulling provide praise and a treat. If the dog continues to pull shout "NO PULL" and give a strong yank on the leash. The yank should be a short sharp one (do not hang your dog) followed by an immediate slack in the leash. If the dog then stops pulling praise it. Eventually, the dog will learn to respond to the initial warning in order to prevent the correction as well as to get the praise you provide him.
The entire family (friends, too, if they walk the dog) must be trained to follow this routine. If you have an especially tough dog get a group of people together and practice. When the dog pulls have everyone yell "NO PULL" at the same time...it usually works.
Once the dog learns to not pull while on-leash with you standing still, it is time to introduce movement. While holding the leash take a few steps. Usually the dog will get excited all over again. If this happens, you just follow the routine outlined above. Once the dog is manageable and heeds the warning of "no pull" start doing little on-leash walking. While walking, if your house and backyard trained dog starts to pull, shout "NO PULL" and immediately do a rapid about turn and repeat the standing still exercise the dog and you have learned.
Practice several times a day for a couple of weeks. The length of time required for practice depends upon your dog, your diligence, and how long your dog has been unknowingly rewarded for the pulling behavior.