Pulling On The Lead.

Yesterday I looked out of the window to see a young man being taken for a walk by his two dogs. The word ‘waterskiing’ sprang to mind! Dogs pulling on the lead think that they are ‘leading the hunt’, which means that they think that they are in charge of your pack. If your dog pulls on the lead, no matter how relaxed or obedient it may be at other times, it is thinking that it really ought to be in charge of the walk. The common misconceptions is that your dog is pulling because it is so excited to be going out, or because that is what it has been bred to do in the case of husky owners. Not true. What looks like excitement is adrenalin surging through your dog’s body. It is getting ready to take charge of the hunt. In the wild, the Alpha pair are in charge of the hunt, therefore if you can take the role of Alpha, part of that will include you taking charge of the walk and your dog will choose to walk with you (not because it is being checked, or is on a halti).

Read more about how to get your dog to walk on a slack lead here.   Or you can read “The Dog Listener” by Jan Fennell. If you would like one-to-one help to learn how to stop your dog pulling on the lead (and any other behavioural problems you may have) then please give me a call. I provide in home consultations in Essex, and parts of London, Kent, Suffolk and Hertforshire. Dog training in a way that makes sense to your dog! I’d love your comments on this article – please add them in the comments space below!


13 thoughts on “Pulling On The Lead.

  1. The “alpha” idea in dog “training” has been debunked many times, the best way to teach a teach to not pull is to understand WHY and the reason is because they naturally walk faster than us and they want to get to what they see, you can solve the problem of dog pulling by gently turning them around when they start to pull and with some form of sound, for example “ah ah”, and then when they do walk on a loose leash reward them with praise and maybe even play or treats. Also remember that a dog that has so much energy they can not focus can not be trained and it is recomenned to play a quick game with a dog a few minutes before a walk to make sure they have a good amount of energy on a walk. Also even in a natural wolf pack there is no “alpha” there is the mum, dad and the kids.

    1. Interesting comments. Interesting that people are still keen on debunking such a simple and straightforward way of understanding our dogs, which with over a decade of experience, I see playing out in every single household that I visit. Decades of wolf research at Yellowstone has shown (and is still showing) that there are Alpha pairs and they change when needed, but let’s just go with the mum, dad and kids theory (which isn’t the case, there are also aunts and uncles there, but the Alpha pair would be the mum and dad of the youngsters). In that situation, who would be taking charge, the parents or the kids? The parents, because they need to guide the kids how to do things safely.

      This is the role that we need to take. Dogs do not see us as their parents, so we need to convince them that they are safe to accept our guidance. This is essential because they are living in a human world. One that they don’t inherently understand. If we were to live in the woods then maybe it would be better for the dogs to take control! 🙂

      In any given situation, human or animal, there is an element of leadership, whether formal or otherwise. We see this arise time and time again, so why dogs would be any different doesn’t make sense (well not to me anyway).

      The reasons dogs pull on the walk is because they have an excessive amount of adrenaline which is as a result of them taking the walk seriously (they are leaving their territory, heading out into no-mans land where they consider themselves to be more at risk. Consider the military scenario of going out from base camp onto a patrol). Without being guided by their owners that the adrenaline is not helpful then they would not be able to walk more slowly. Playing with a dog before a walk would have the opposite affect to the one desired, meaning they are in a more heightened state before trying to walk. Thus trying to convince them to walk slower would be close to impossible. The most important component in teaching your dog not to pull on the lead (as I teach my clients in greater detail than it is possible to go into in an article such as this one) is to be prepared not to walk. I.e. only going out if the dog’s behaviour is conducive to a walk that is beneficial for everyone involved. This is also how the parents in the wolf pack teach the yearlings to hunt. They only bring them along when their behaviour is appropriate, this is learnt through trial and error, and guidance.

      I agree that you want to focus on walking on a loose lead and change directions if they start to pull, I would suggest with gentle encouragement and praise. Again, this is something I teach my clients in detail. However play would confuse and distract, and I very much focus on keeping things positive, so don’t use “ah ah”. But for any of this to work, the dog needs to be in a calm enough state.

      Thanks for your comments.

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