How to Stop a Dog from Pulling on Leash

22 Minute Read
Updated August 29, 2022

Your daily walk with your dog should be a relaxing and enjoyable experience, but if you have an overly excited dog, your walk could quickly turn into a frustrating and stressful activity that plays out like a tug of war. Learn how to stop dog from pulling on leash, and start enjoying your walks again with these dog training tips for good leash manners. How to train dog to stop pulling on leash?

Promoting Good Leash Manners in an Excitable Dog

Your dog is over the moon excited for every outdoor adventure, so it’s hard to blame them for wanting to follow their nose and run free. If they’ve never been taught a better way, most dogs will continue to pull to the end of their rope... and yours.

This poor behaviour is more than just irritating, it can be dangerous too. They cough, they wheeze, they pant like crazy, all because they are so excited to explore, but the reality is that they can be hurting themselves. Luckily, you do not need a professional dog trainer to promote good behaviour. Read on below to discover How to stop my dog pulling on leash?

Teaching your dog to walk appropriately takes time and perseverance, but trust us, it’s worth it. Your daily walks can be something that you look forward to once you get your dog to walk nicely. In the end, you will have a happier, healthier, better-behaved dog who stops pulling.

We connected with a local St. Albert-based dog training company, Nurtured K9, to get some helpful tips for getting started. They offered some excellent advice on walking aids, common mistakes, and how to deal with distractions. How to stop leash pulling?

In this article, you'll learn:

  • Choosing the Right Tools for Walking
  • Choosing the Right Environment for Training
  • How to Reward Every Success
  • Steps to Loose Leash Training


How to Train a Dog Not to Pull on Leash

When learning to train your dog not to pull on a leash, you’ll also need to teach yourself a few tricks. It takes mental prowess to remain calm during the training process.

When you have a young and rambunctious pup who you are just starting to train, you might find yourself growing frustrated. Discovering how to stop a puppy from pulling on leash is not always a straightforward process.

What works for one pup might not work for another if the young dog is headstrong. You’ll need to explore various training methods to find one that is successful for both you and your dog. 

A dog pulling on a leash is frustrating. You probably feel like you are being led instead of the other way around.  Just take a few deep breaths and focus on how to stop dog from pulling on leash without losing your cool.

Remember, your young dog just needs to learn the ropes, and then the pup will walk on the leash like a pro.


Choosing the Right Tools for Walking

Before you get started, you need to make sure that you have the best tools to help you achieve your goals. Every dog is sized and shaped differently, so the walking accessories that you choose may vary depending on how they fit your dog.

There are a few different types of walking aids that can help. What you choose depends on your dog's shape and behaviour.

Harnesses can reduce the pressure and stress placed on your dog’s neck, while a collar will prevent chaffing and pressure on their shoulders. A collar should still be worn to display their tags, but these walking aids can be effective if you choose the right style for your dog. A no-pull harness is designed specifically to train dogs to walk nicely on a leash.

There are a few different styles of walking accessories that you can choose from, each with its own pros and cons:

1. Back-Hook Harnesses

how to stop my dog from pulling on leash

This style is the most common harness on the market. They are simple to use and available in many different styles to accommodate different sizes of dog. Choose the style that fits most comfortably on your dog.

Pros Cons
Ideal for casual walking Doesn't deter pulling
Simple to use Can provide strong pullers with more leverage to pull
Easy to find and affordable Poor-fitting harnesses can still put pressure on neck

2. Front-Clip Harnesses

how to teach your dog to stop pulling

If your dog is strong and consistently pulls, then a front clip style harness will be more effective for you. The leash will attach at the center of the front of their chest and will hang to their side, forcing them to turn whenever they pull.  

Pros Cons
Guides direction of your dog by turning them Not suited to every style of dog
Sits low on their chest, away from their neck Causes chaffing in armpits if not sized properly
Most styles tighten slightly to further deter pulling Can be more expensive

3. Head Collar

how to stop my dog pulling on leash

Head Collars like Gentle Leaders are the third style. This option is appealing to some because it guides the direction of their face, allowing you to break their line of sight from whatever they are pulling towards.

Pros Cons
Guides head to redirect concentration Requires more training to allow your dog to adapt
Eliminates pressure on neck and chaffing from harness Can be harmful if used improperly
Limits dogs ability to pull from their center of gravity Can be uncomfortable on certain face shapes
Affordable Limited styles and availabilities

4. Two-Touch Harnesses

how to train your dog not to pull the leash

A two touch harness, like the Ruffwear Front Range Harness or the Walk Right harness, have both a front and a back clip. Using a coupler, or double-ended leash, you can attach your leash to both clips giving you the benefits and security of both styles of harnesses.

Shop All Harnesses

Pros Cons
Provides the most control and security Multiple accessories make is more expensive
Most effective style for discouraging pulling Few options and limited availability
Multi-purpose harness for different situations More work to put on/ take off

5. Slip-Lead

best way to stop dog from pulling on leash

A slip lead is a collar and leash as a single unit. According to the team at Nurtured K9, slip leads are a good way to teach the dog the concept of pressure on, and pressure off.

When they pull, they will feel pressure. When they relax or slow down, the pressure will be alleviated. This technique gives you the opportunity to reward or give praise as your dog puts the pieces together. How to stop my dog from pulling on leash?

Harnesses can cause damage to their shoulders, especially with strong pullers. The constant turning and jerking can do damage over time and can chafe the skin around their front legs and chest. 

Pros Cons
Easy to use and put on Puts pressure on the neck
Reduces chaffing from harness rubbing Few options and limited availability
Inescapable Handle grip can be uncomfortable

5. Leashes

how to stop your puppy from pulling on leash

The type of leash you choose will depend on where and how you are training. A common mistake when teaching proper walking etiquette is using a retractable leash. This style is not ideal for teaching boundaries. The goal is to teach your dog to give you a loose leash, which is not an option with retractable leashes, as the cord will always be taught.

It's best to invest in a standard 4-6 ft lead, according to the Nurtured K9 team. This will allow you to set a firm boundary for your dog. You want them to know how far ahead of you they are allowed to walk, and this gives you more control when you do come across a fun distraction.

Another option that is effective for this type of training is a hands free leash. This style may come with a belt or may convert to allow you to wear the leash as a belt or sash. Having the leash as your center of gravity will give you more leverage if you need to stop or change directions, so it’s great for owners of large breeds or very strong dogs.

Shop All Leashes


Choosing the Right Environment for Training

Dogs are easily distracted, excited and spooked, so choosing a suitable environment to train in can make or break your training experience. Your dog's ability to focus on instructions can be the difference between a productive and positive experience and a frustrating or stressful one.

All training needs to be done in manageable steps, so pick an environment that suits your dog’s level of attention and experience.

In the beginning, limit training to quiet, contained areas that you have control over. The backyard is a great place to start. This will minimize distractions and allow you to repeat commands and routines.

Tips From an Expert:

Nurtured K9 recommends working on obedience in a low distraction setting. You want to be the most important thing to your dog, and everything on the walks should be neutral to them unless a cue is given to interact.

Once the obedience is perfect in low distraction settings, you can start to add small distractions at a distance. Treat while you approach these distractions to associate them with a reward. 

Choose times and places that won’t overwhelm your dog. Jumping right into a busy walking path will be very hard for your dog to stay focused and listen to your commands.


How to Reward Every Success

Make sure that you are focusing on positive behaviours. The goal is not to deter poor habits by reprimanding but instead to reward appropriate walking behaviour. Over time your dog will understand that good walking behaviour is rewarded and will actively wait for your cues. 

Treat Training

how to stop leash pulling

To do this, you’ll need to reward each success, each correct response, and even uninterrupted focus and eye contact. The reward can vary depending on your chosen training style, but treat training is the most popular method. 

If you use treats to reward your dog, then be prepared to carry plenty of small treats on you at every training session. You will need treats that are high value, meaning that are very flavourful, have a stronger aroma, or are your dog’s favourite.

Avoid larger treats like biscuits, natural chews, and dental treats. Repeat treating with these treats will turn into a lot of extra calories. Look for small, soft, or chewy treats that can be cut or broken into even smaller pieces. Aim for treats that are smaller than a piece of kibble.

This allows you to treat heavily without overfeeding or causing digestive upsets. Try to rotate different treats and flavours into your training sessions to prevent your dog from getting bored or losing interest in the reward.

Check out some of The Best Training Treats for Dogs to get some great treat ideas, or find something high enough value that your dog will be intrigued.

Tip From an Expert:

The reward has to be good enough to make them want the treat over the distraction. Nurtured K9 suggests using cut-up hot dogs if your dog needs something mouth-wateringly tasty to keep his attention. 

Audible Praise

Another way to reward is with an audible cue. For dogs that are not food driven, are overweight, or have a health issue that may limit treating practices, then verbal praise can be a good alternative.

This can be effective with vocal responses or through the use of training aids like a clicker. You can train your dog to understand that the sound of the clicker is praise for good behaviour.

Try using the vocal command "YES!!." This will let your dog know that they followed directions properly. Whether you are using treats or audible praise, the reward should be proceeded by this verbal cue. 

Take a Break

Lastly, it’s important to let your dog enjoy his walking experience, so another form of reward is to teach a command like “go ahead” or “OK” that tells your dog that it’s OK to take a break and explore.

Be sure not to encourage them to pull during this process. Make sure that you are walking towards the area that you are allowing them to explore and giving them enough room to sniff around or mark a tree or two. This should be done frequently throughout your walk.

When you are ready to keep going, give a verbal command to let your dog know that it’s time to go, like "walk."


Steps to Loose Leash Training

how to stop my dog from pulling on leash

Loose leash training takes time and repetition, so don’t try to rush the process. The more time you spend on each step, the easier it will be for those lessons to sink in. In time, you can bring back the joy of walking with your dog. Dog pulling on leash.

To get the best results, try to exercise your dog before your training session. A quick game of fetch, tug or even some mental exercise with puzzle toys can work out some of their excess energy to help your dog stay focused on the training.

Step 1: Gear Up

Putting on your dog’s walking gear can send them into a fit of excitement. Before you leave the house, gear up your dog and start asking for simple commands, like sit, shake, or lay down. Set the precedent that this is a training session by asking a few simple commands and rewarding. This way, your dog will be actively engaged as you begin to train new command

Step 2: Go to Training Space

Move to your backyard, driveway, or another familiar but secluded area. While holding the leash, continue to ask simple commands that your dog already knows, and reward for each correct response. Remember, you are trying to get them in the mindset that you are here to train.

Step 3: The Training Process

Now that you have your dog's attention use the verbal command “walk” or a similar short command that you can use consistently. Start doing small laps. If at anytime your dog veers away or pulls too far ahead of you, immediately stop walking.

Don’t jerk on the leash or pull your dog back; just stop and prevent your dog from walking forward any further. Call your dog back to your side and ask for a sit. Once your dog has calmed, start your lap again using the same verbal command that you started with.

When your dog starts to walk closer to you, and gives you a loose leash, say "YES" and reward them. This step will take lots of practice. Doing it once or twice and getting positive results is great, but it doesn’t mean that your dog has learned to connect the vocal command with the desired behaviour.

The “follow me” game is another method of getting your dog's attention when they stop listening. This is a great way to reconnect with your dog when they are refusing to respond to your vocal commands. When they pull, say “follow me,” turn and start walking in the other direction. You don’t have to go too far, just far enough to get your dog to follow you.

Now that your dog will be behind you, you are in control of the direction of your walk. When your dog catches up to you, stop, ask for a sit and reward. Don't forget to say "Yes" to each correct response!

Now you can turn back to your original direction and give the command to continue walking.

Do this each time your dog pulls. This will teach him that pulling will not get him what he wants. It will also teach him that you are in control of the walk, where you go, and how fast.

Step 4: Repeat, Repeat, Repeat

Don’t dismiss the value of repetition. The more you do it, the better your dog will listen to your commands. This may be all you do for the first several training sessions, but in the long run, it will pay off.

You can switch up your pattern too. Do circles, change directions, do figure eights, or any other pattern you wish, as long as you are asking your dog to walk or follow and rewarding when they keep an appropriate pace.

Step 5: Advance Slowly

As your dog’s training progresses, you can start bringing your dog to larger, more open, and busier areas. Try to find a quiet walking path or a small park that will provide a few minor distractions to test out your dog’s focus. Things may quickly deteriorate as you add distractions, so stick to your guns, and stay consistent and positive.

Step 6: Maintain Consistency

Once your dog can demonstrate that they can keep focused and wait for your direction, then you are ready to try a more heavily populated walking area, like a pet store 😉. There may be missteps after each transition or new situations, so make sure that you continue to use the same language and praises to direct and reward your pup.

Step 7: Big Distractions

Some things will trigger a nervous or skittish dog more than others. Cars, machinery, bicycles, and skateboard could easily break your dog's attention. Nurtured K9 recommends feeding constantly while passing these things. If you see a car or bicyclist, continue to feed small treats until it passes. This will start rewiring their brain to have a positive association with that trigger. 

Step 8: Ask for Help

Sometimes even the best laid plans fall apart. If you find that you are getting too frustrated with slow results or that your dog is just not interested in the process, then it's time to bring in a pro to help you.

Certified dog trainers, like the ones at Nurtured K9, will train both you and your dog to master the art of loose leash walking. They can assess your dog and determine which methods are going to be the most beneficial and will give you all the tools and confidence that you need to teach your dog. 

Connect with Nurtured K9 on Instagram to learn more!


Troubleshooting Tips: Leash Walking

Below are a few troubleshooting tips that teach how to successfully stop dog from pulling on leash.

Conquering a Determined Puller

When learning how to prevent leash pulling, you must accept that every dog has its own unique personality traits. Some will master walking on a leash quickly, and others become an even greater challenge. If your pup is a determined puller, then you might need to tackle the problem a little differently. 

The minute your dog starts to pull on the leash, you need to instantly stop the leash training exercise and walk away. Don’t communicate with the dog or even take the time to acknowledge the pup’s presence. Instead, just walk away. 

Your dog knows he is supposed to stay with you, and he will eventually catch up to you. When your dog is finally beside you again, acknowledge his presence and show that you are happy to see him. You might even want to offer him a reward for catching up to you and striding alongside.

Your dog will start to learn to pay attention to you and stop pulling on the leash because his action of pulling gets him nowhere. You simply walk off every time he pulls, so the rebellious pull is a complete failure from his standpoint.

With the above training option, you’ll achieve remarkable success training your dog not to wildly pull on the leash when how long should I walk my dog, regardless of how excited the canine becomes. Even if a squirrel jumps out in the path, your dog should keep his eyes on you and not start pulling.

Your Pup Fails to Respond to Any of Your Tricks

Is your frustration building when it comes to how to get your dog to stop pulling on leash? If so, then you’ll need to evaluate the equipment you are using to train the dog to walk on a leash without pulling. Sometimes the fix is as simple as swapping out a collar for a head halter which will afford you greater control over your persistent canine puller. 

If you have switched out all the current training equipment for new items to teach your dog not to pull on a leash, but the animal is still straining with every walk, then you might want to explore your training tactics.

Maybe you need to take a refresher obedience class to learn new tricks. You might even want to invest in a few private lessons with a skilled and qualified instructor. 

Weaving and Circling

Puppies and older dogs often learn the trick of running circles around you (you become tangled in the leash) or weaving. Both are annoying behaviours that can prove dangerous because you can easily trip over the leash. 

To overcome the problem, lure your pup beside you using a tasty morsel of food. Once the dog is beside you,  walk forward a few steps holding the food. When your dog stays by your side for a short distance, reward him with a treat. 

You’ll need to repeat this exercise several times so that your canine buddy starts to associate staying right next to you with gaining a treat. Whenever the dog starts to weave or circle, then you must shorten the leash and again start the process of only walking a few steps and then providing the treat. 

Remember, your dog has a short attention span, so you want the dog’s focus on you and not running circles and weaving. Eventually, with persistence, your pup will come to associate the spot beside you with a tasty reward. 

Provide High Value Treats

Do you feel frustrated because you have tried everything, but your dog is still pulling on the leash? If so, then you might have to offer high value dog treats. Some dogs are picky and won’t work without extreme motivation. You’ll need to find a tasty morsel that your dog absolutely loves or maybe a toy that grabs the canine’s attention. 

Overcoming High Prey Drives

Dog breeds with a high prey drive often have problems walking on a loose leash. The pooch will see a squirrel and instantly start to react by lunging full force at the end of the leash. Other dogs simply do not act properly when walking near smaller dogs or other triggers that ignite the animal’s natural instincts to chase.

Once you familiarize yourself with your dog’s prey drive triggers, you’ll need to avoid them. Especially during training sessions because you don’t want your puppy's attention to stray from the task at hand. 

As your dog more firmly grasps the concept of walking on a leash, then you can start to take the dog around things that might elicit a prey drive response. However, when successfully training a dog to walk on a loose leash, remember that all the processes take time and patience. When learning how to prevent leash pulling, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with your dog’s triggers so you can initially avoid them. 

Keep Them Guessing

Your dog probably looks forward to going for a walk. If you are like most pet owners, you take your pup for a stroll around the neighbourhood. Your canine companion has an excellent sense of direction, so probably knows the route that you take well.

In fact, your dog probably knows exactly where you are going to head when you go for a walk, so immediately starts pulling you along. Who is taking who for a walk? At this point, you are probably tired of struggling with your dog pulling incessantly on the end of the leash. A trick to overcome excited pulling is to keep your dog guessing.

Do not make a beeline down the street when you head out on your walk. Instead, walk halfway down the roadway and then suddenly turn. Keep your dog guessing. Do not walk all the way around your residential block. Instead, walk up and down the street, making a series of 180-degree turns or simply walk in a figure 8 pattern in front of your house. 

Keeping your dog guessing as to which way you are going to turn or what direction you will ultimately go is a wonderful way to overcome unwanted, excited pulling. Your dog will learn to pay attention to you. 


One Paw in Front of the Other

how to teach your dog to stop pulling

Eventually, your dog will be able to give you a loose leash while passing trees, people, other dogs, and even wildlife without lunging forward in excitement. For some, this process may be quick, and for others, it could take much longer than you’d like. It will depend on how consistent you are and how excitable your dog is.

The important thing to remember is that your dog reacts based on instinct, and for most dogs, that instinct is “OMG! This is my favourite thing ever!!” Even if it's the same tree or neighbour that you walk by every day. 

You may not always have control of your surroundings, so be prepared for interactions. Check out What to Do if an Off-Leash Dog Approaches you While you are Walking your Dog for tips on how to handle an unexpected interaction during your training sessions.

You don’t want to take away the joys of exploring the outdoors, but you want to make sure that they know the rules, making walks safe and enjoyable for both of you. It will encourage more frequent walking and will train positive listening habits in your pet.

Puppies can be especially excitable, and the earlier you start training, the easier it will be to train good habits.

If you are not making progress and find yourself getting too frustrated, your dog will pick up on this. Consult with a professional trainer if your dog is not responding to this training method or if you find yourself getting overwhelmed with the process.

Do you have a dog that pulls? Share your dog walking successes and frustrations in the comments below.

Written by

Krystn Janisse

Krystn is a passionate pet nutrition enthusiast. She has worked in the pet industry for over a decade and loves to share her passion for animal welfare with others. She loves all animals but is currently channeling some crazy cat lady vibes with her four lovable, but rebellious cats.


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