We at Your Dog’s Coach have taken many a dog for a walk over the years and absolutely love what we do! However, one of the things that makes our job tougher is when we walk dogs who pull until they turn blue in the face.
Puppies Do Not Understand the Concept of Loose Leash Walking
Yup, it’s so logical to us that dogs should understand not to pull so that they can breathe. However, puppies do not come naturally equipped to understand the concept of walking on a leash, it is a learned behaviour, and if your pup gets to where he wants to go by pulling you there, then that’s the reward for pulling. Dogs don’t do things that don’t pay off.
You’re Choking Me
Another way to look at it from the dog’s perspective is that when they feel that sensation of the collar cutting off their air supply, the goal becomes getting away from that sensation. Think about it, if someone was choking you wouldn’t you struggle to get away?
Part of the reason your dog may have a pulling problem, or any behavioural issues for that matter, is because you may not be correctly communicating what you want from your dog in a given situation. That is why we also strongly recommend that you seek out a knowledgeable dog training professional with experience in using a variety of tools to help you. We would be very happy to recommend a trainer to you.
Equipment We Love
(We’ll add to this list as we find other equipment we love):
There is a style of harness called The Easy Walk that we at YDC have used extensively with great success with a variety of sizes and breeds of dog. Have a professional fit your dog as it must be adjusted to fit each dog individually.
How the Easy Walk Works
The leash attaches to the harness by a martingale loop that sits at the front of the dog’s chest that, when the dog pulls forward it tightens around the front of the chest and shoulders slowing down the forward pull and provides the walker ease in bringing the dog back and getting them to walk close by on a loose leash.
We’ve found The Gentle Leader style of head halter to work very well as it is fully adjustable to fit the dog properly. If a piece of equipment doesn’t fit as it should, it will not work for its intended purpose. Have a professional fit your dog for his/her GL. It must fit very snug
How the Gentle Leader Works
The principal behind the mechanics of The Gentle Leader is that when the dog misbehaves it applies gentle pressure to the points on the muzzle and high on the neck that the pup or dog will instinctively understand from being corrected by the mother dog in the litter as she taught them what was acceptable behaviour and what was not.
The pressure created by The Gentle Leader also helps anxious dogs feel more comfortable (the same principal as The Thunder Shirt) and brings the hyperactive, over-excited dog down several notches in intensity. This then allows the dog to be able to think and take instructions rather than being reactive. Finally, some control. Not only can you better control the dog and stop them from pulling, because where the head goes, the body must follow, but the dog feels only pressure. There’s no pinching, poking or choking so you can feel confident that you aren’t hurting your best friend.
Equipment Used to Stop Pulling We Don’t Recommend
First is the Prong Collar – that’s just self-explanatory in our minds. They are archaic and unnecessary with all the other options out there available for use.
The same goes for the old Choke Chain. It needs to be kept up high on the dog’s neck, right under the chin, and put on the proper way so that it releases properly. However, the choke chain is inherently too big as it must go over the dog’s head which is bigger than its neck and thus it will promptly slide down the dog’s neck to the gag reflex and cause even more choking. Pulling continues except now you feel even worse because now not only can the dog not breathe but his eyes are bulging out of his head too! Doesn’t feel good to do that to one’s best friend.
Finally, the E-collar there’s just too many things that can go wrong creating potentially negative, life-long behaviours in the dog. It has been shown that when something the dog is looking at (a child or particular person, another dog, cars, etc…) becomes paired with a negative sensation it can come to dislike and potentially become aggressive towards that object. That’s just simple classical conditioning like Pavlov’s dogs: ring the bell, provide the food and eventually the drooling becomes a conditioned response to the ringing of the bell. Dog sees someone, starts to pull, gets an electric current to the neck…does the dog associate it to the action of pulling or to the person he’s pulling towards? We guess you are taking your chances that you’re doing it at the correct time for the dog to distinguish. We prefer not to take that kind of chance.
Trial and Error
For the occasional dog, when there is a change of equipment, the results are amazing and practically instantaneous! However, as with anything new it is more likely that it will take some time for you and the dog to get the hang of it. If the dog is used to pulling and getting its way, it will sometimes just dig in and try harder, fighting with the new control you have over his movement. With practice and determination and lots of positive reinforcement when the dog is walking properly, the suggested equpiment can be the style of equipment that saves the walk for you and your best bud! Your dog will thank you!
Enjoy Your Dog Walks
The last idea we want dog owners to think about is just how important the walk is in the life of your dog. If the walk is embarrassing, frustrating and not enjoyable and you discontinue walking your dog you are guaranteed to see other negative behaviours develop. Things like barking and charging the window or door, fence fighting with the dog next door, OCD behaviours like tail chasing, stalking your cat, and chewing or destructive behaviour. Where else is all that pent up energy going to go?
So go enjoy a nice long walk with your dog! If you can’t have an enjoyable walk due to your dog’s behaviour on leash then consider that the solution could be as simple as a change of equipment.
Wendy Van Gaalentop