Dog Pulls On Leash Tried Everything

Dog pulls on leash tried everything

 Do your dog pull on the leash and you have tried everything? Do you daydream of having ‘loose leash walking with your dog?  Do you see other dogs and wish ‘man why can’t Fido be like them’. You are not alone.  Dogs who APPEAR like they do not pull are dogs that are: Small, Low energy, or Old. Only 10% of people are successful at teaching a dog to not pull 

OVER 64% Of People Complain About Leash Pulling Dogs

Pie chart saying that 64% of people complain their dog pulls on leash

To be the 10% we need to deconstruct some lies that have been fed to you. This is why your dog pulls on a leash despite trying everything. Both product and service marketing tactics prey on consumers. For example, you might see a ‘no pull’ harness on amazon which is a marketing tactic. Optimizing for equipment reduces pain associated with pulling but does not solve pulling. Another lie is trainer-based. YouTubers and online classes try to sell you heelwork as the solution to pulling. But they only work when you have treats. Online training only gives you half of the information from pet parents you frustrated.

You need to assess what you think you know when you believe ‘you have tried everything. Below is a step-by-step process that will help you troubleshoot why your dog is still pulling.

WHY EQUIPMENT IS NOT THE ANSWER

Equipment fails because of your expectations. Your expectations are set by marketing tactics. Certain equipment has different functions and those functions are NOT TO STOP PULLING. Harnesses, collars, and leashes are about the PHYSICAL COMFORT of the owner and dog. It is not about getting the dog to behave (no matter what advertisements tell you). Leashes relieve arm pain caused by a dog’s jerky movements. Harnesses are about relieving dog pain associated with pulling, like choking.

You Need TWO Leash Sets

Equipment is about function, not training. Different functions need different leashes. Owners want one set to do all the jobs. This is absurd. Do you think a construction worker can build a house with a hammer? If your equipment is failing it’s because of your expectations or you do not have the right equipment. One could go crazy with this (some trainers do), but I recommend having TWO sets of leashes.

1.      Harness & Traffic Leash COMBO

2.      Collar & Obedience Leash COMBO.  

Harness & Traffic Leash COMBO

When: Walking & Outgoings For Untrained Dogs

Management Use: When the environment is full of ‘pull triggers’, or you expect crowds

Equipment

Why Traffic Leashes Are Best: To provide control over the dog

A traffic leash is a leash that has two handles. One at the top and one at the bottom. This comes in handy when you need your dog close by. It allows for greater control compared to wrapping the leash in your hand as a way to shorten it. It also prevents rope burn associated with leash wrapping.

Why Harnesses Work For The Dog: Prevents neck injury caused by pulling

Harnesses are designed to not hurt the dog when they pull. It is not to stop them from pulling. Do not listen to advertisers. There is no such thing as a no-pull harness. Harnesses mitigate the injury caused by pulling on a leash. A collar is painful for the dog and can restrict breathing. Just like toddlers, dogs struggle with controlling their impulses. They also have no sense of self-preservation. Thus, we need harm-free equipment. No dog will ever go from pulling to no pulling in one session. So, we need to MITIGATE the damages of having a leash on during the training process. That is why I recommend harnesses.

Harnesses MITIGATE the damage associated with pulling. They never solve pulling. 

Therefore, it is recommended to mitigate trigger environments until the dog learns heelwork.

Collar & Obedience Leash COMBO.

When: Night Potties & Advanced Obedience Training

Use: When you need space from your dog or going out for a quick potty

Equipment

Why Buckle Collars Works For Us: They are quick, easy & convenient for quick potties

Buckle collars are easy to get on, clip, and take off. Harnesses make a 2-minute potty a whole thing. Once the dog gets older or you have trained the dog, you can switch from a harness to a collar on walks. Collars also teach a dog that they are not on an adventure. There is a job to, do-do (pun intended).

Why Obedience Leashes Works For The Dog: Most walking leashes (nylon leashes) are too short so the dog can’t get space to relax & go potty. 

Nylons come in 4-6ft leashes but even the 6ft leashes are too short for potties. While 6ft leashes are great for walks they suck for night potties. So, a lot of pet parents do night potties off-leash. The problem with off-leash potting is the level of distraction. Distraction makes the dog lose focus and take longer. It also sets the dog up to fail with recall if they refuse to come in. Obedience leashes are 8ft long. Perfect for night potties. A longer leash is helpful in obedience training. This is because it gives the dog more room to swing into our side (a foundation to heelwork)

Harness & Traffic Leash COMBO

Harness: https://amzn.to/3rYuAwH   Traffic Leash: https://amzn.to/3fHHJoL

Collar & Obedience Leash COMBO.

Buckle Collar: https://amzn.to/3lHOcnK  Obedience Leash: https://amzn.to/3jBd25O

Already Have A Harness And It Sucks?

To start let’s clarify. When I say harness I mean front and back clips. Almost all back clip harnesses have front clips. ‘No pull’ harnesses are pushing front clips. This is a marketing tactic to convince you to buy their brand since most harnesses have front clips.

But the most important thing to note is that harnesses fail because of our expectations of what they do. Marketers promise us that they are ‘NO PULL’ but the equipment is about COMFORT, not training. Harnesses & collars are about the dog’s comfort & leashes are about the owner’s comfort.

A common thing we see on the internet is opposition reflex. Opposition reflex is a common explanation for why back clip harnesses fail. The opposition reflex occurs when there is an automatic response to tension. This occurs when someone pushes you over. Your natural instinct is to return the tension to prevent yourself from falling. This occurs with the back clip when the owner is pulling backward. The dog then equals the tension by leaning forward. But once again HARNESSES are not training tools. They are designed to ease the harm caused by pulling. Marketers say that front clip harnesses solve this issue of opposition reflex. This is because it swings the chest forward instead of pulling backward. Front clipping your harness is good if your dog’s chest is being impinged by the pulling. But again this is about comfort. This teaches a dog nothing.

Harnesses loosen over time which causes the harness to either be too big for the dog or not fit them. This causes an issue with both the front clip and back clip harnesses. With front clips, the harness shifts to their side thus being ineffective at swinging the dog’s chest. With back clips, the harness can slip over the dog’s head when the leash is pulling over its head. A common occurrence when the dog is refusing to move forward. In both instances, the item is not fitted and should not reflect on the product.

TLDR: The takeaway is that Harnesses do not fail. Your expectations of them are failing. Harnesses are not training tools. They are designed for the comfort of your dog. It is your job as an owner to determine if you should back clip or front clip your harness for the comfort of your dog.

Back clip harness having a front clip for half the price

Other Equipment

Many times when a dog pulls they are above threshold. This means their ability to think is impaired. Therefore, many dogs will power through these types of devices. Thus causing damage to their esophagus and can cause physical damage.  Lastly, adverse training has been scientifically disproven. For more information why adverse techniques are outdated check out

➡️ What Do Dogs Need ⬅️

Retractable leashes are complete garbage. They are dangerous for the human and the dog. The first reason is they break easily and are not suited for dogs over 50lbs.  The second is they do not control your dog which could cause your dog to lunge towards other dogs. The third reason is that the rope can cause rope burn and even limb amputation. Lastly, if you drop the leash it makes a big clunky sound which scares dogs. They run away which causes it to keep hitting the ground. 

Heelwork V.S Loose Leash Walking

 Every DIY YouTube video will teach you heeling and call it loose leash walking. They will flex their ‘mad heeling skills’ to entice you to train with them. Heeling is not loose leash walking because heeling is done in ‘training mode’ and loose leash walking is practiced outside of training sessions. Training sessions require engagement. If there is no engagement there is no heelwork.

It all comes down to people’s expectations again. Look at the videos below. Mute and look at the trainers. They are super engaged with their dog. This is because they are practicing heelwork (aka structured walks) but calling it loose leash walking. 

Pet Parent Expectations V.S Trainer Expectations

There are two types of walking: heelwork and loose leash walking. You may have heard of them referred to as ‘structured v.s sniff walks’. Pet parents expect loose leash walking and trainers expect heelwork.

Heelwork is the act of having a dog walk next to the backside of a human’s ankle or heel. Loose leash walking is when a dog is not pulling. The dog can be leading the walk but NEVER pulling. After teaching heel to over 100 dogs, I have learned that pet parents equate heelwork with loose leash walking. They are then disappointed when trainers teach heelwork when they wanted loose leash walking.

Why Pet Parent Expectations Conflict With Trainer Goals: Heeling requires your dog to be staring at you and analyzing your body mechanics. This is because dogs read our body language when heeling. Dogs monitor our mechanics. 

  •  Shifting of weight back means slowing down
  • Leaning forward means speeding up
  • Shoulder rotation means turning.  

This is called Human Focused Engagement

Human Focused Engagement Directly Conflicts With Pet Parents
GOAL #4

Pet parents want both parties to enjoy the walk. Dogs do this by sniffing, looking around, and experiencing life. Pet parents do this by decompressing, listening to music, or talking on the phone. Heelwork requires you to be engaged with your pet the entire walk. This is not enjoyable or enriching for the human or dog. This is why pet parents complain that their dog pulls on a leash when they have tried everything. It is because there is a disconnect between goals.

Disengagement is what differentiates Heel Work from Loose Leash Walking.

Why Teach Both Heelwork & Loose Leash Walking

Loose Leash Walking Provides Enrichment

Heelwork requires you to have engagement during the entirety walk. The walk is for the dog. Without them, you would likely be doing something else. Structured walks or heeling require the dog to only focus on you and not enjoy their walk.  Dogs are enriched in their walk because it stimulates their sense of sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch. Your dog wants to see, taste, touch, and sniff everything they find.  Heelwork requires them to ignore all the enriching factors and focus on you. To be honest, if you are going to do heelwork for the entirety of every walk, you should buy a treadmill because mentally it’s the same.

The likelihood that a pet parent is going to keep up with heelwork for a 20-60-minute walk is unrealistic. This means no music, no talking on the phone, no daydreaming. Engaging with a dog for 20 minutes is exhausting. Asking pet owners for this level of engagement for this duration is UNREALISTIC. It is easier to perform on camera for a 2 minute DIY video than it is to practice it daily.

Heelwork Ensures Safety

Heelwork is a great tool to use when passing a dangerous situation. Getting your dog in ‘work mode’ to ignore a squirrel, bunny, aggressive dog, or car will allow you to ensure that your dog is safe. I recommend using heelwork before and after any dangerous stimuli to distract your dog from the environment. Once the danger has passed, I move back into loose leash walking.

How To Teach Heel Work?

  1. The left side is called the “Heel” position
  2. The right side is called the “Side” position. 
  3. Non-show dogs tend to use one word for both sides. This is perfectly okay.
  1. This is the verbal cue
  1. If your dog stays with you for 2 steps, reward. 
  2. If they brake right away, try again
    1. You can have the treat in your hand at the side, slightly behind your leg, but closed.
    2. Make sure, it’s slightly behind your leg, as we want them to be behind us to prevent lunging towards things. 

Do not start outside. This is too difficult for your dog. He is not ready for outside heeling.If you start off poorly he will associate the exercise with negative feelings. 

In the beginning frequency is key. 

  1. Put your legs together
  2. Stand up tall
  3. Give the sit cue
  4. If they sit reward

Outside Training

 Heeling outside should be somewhere VERY comfortable. For example your front or back yard. Some dogs may even need an intermediate step such as a garage. Do not start healing outside of your blocks such as a park or a pet store. There are too many distractions and this will cause you and your dog to get frustrated. Frustration leads to failure.

What Do You Need For Training Outside?

Heeling outside is VERY different than healing inside. It is a VERY big step. Thus, you need to be prepared. It is best to have a hoodie, jacket, or a treat pouch. This way treats are very accessible. It is also best to have high-value treats.

When Can You Progress To More Difficult Environments?

When your dog is successfully looking at you for the duration of the walk. You can begin to generalize the behavior to other places. Places such as the neighborhood, the park, and the pet store.

Heelwork Failures: Why It's Not Working

Using heelwork as a way to teach loose leash walking fails for 3 reasons. The owner wants to disengage with their dog, they forget cookies, and their dog pulls towards triggers.  To solve this, owners need to put in place 3 fixes. 

The Heel Trifecta

This technique consists of:

  •  Check-In
  • The Treat Praise Bond
  • Leave It

The Check In

A solution to the desire to disengage is to train your dog to come in and out of work mode. This is termed ‘The Check In’. The check-in is when you train your dog to continue looking at you while you are looking forward. You do this by looking forward and checking back in with your dog every so often. If your dog is still looking at you, you reward. Over time you increase the gap between check-outs and check-ins. This takes months to teach and is difficult to maintain because it needs intermittent rewards with treats. This leads us to the second solution: Treat & Praise

The Check In Technique​

Treat Praise Bond

 

Heelwork requires you to be a Pez dispenser of treats. Heelwork fails when you forget your pouch or treats. This is why it’s important that once your dog learns heelwork you begin to pair every treat with praise. You are conditioning your dog’s brain to respond to praise as he would treats. Over time you will reduce the treats but keep the praise. With more time you can reduce the praise. Remember you will never remove the reward completely.

Leave It

The check-in method can fail when you add distractions (people, dogs, prey). If you are not engaged with your dog and they see something they want they will pull. A dog comes out of their house into a fenced yard barking at your dog. Because you are not engaged with your dog, he might break his heel and pull. In this moment you need to say ‘leave it”. If you are struggling with this you need to work on leave it’ not ‘heelwork’.

Pet parents tend to think their dog should know ‘what to leave’. Leave it does not teach a dog to differentiate what to leave and what not to leave. Dogs do not have the same ability to understand that a chicken bone can cause an obstruction. This is why your dog will continue to keep eating rotten food even though it made them sick. This is common sense for humans but not for dogs. If the take-out made you sick, you are less likely to try it again. A dog will be happy to try it again. This is why ‘Leave it’ tells a dog what to leave. If your dog is pulling when you are not engaged it is because you are not engaged with them or you did not cue them to ‘leave it’. If you are cueing and the dog ignores the command you need to touch up on your leave-it training.

TLDR: Breaking heels due to distraction is a ‘leave it’ problem, not a heel problem.

Loose Leash Walking

Loose leash walking consists of two things rules and the no-pull method. If your dog is a puppy the good news is you have a blank slate. Dogs pull towards other dogs, people, and places because they are interesting. Pet parents have a tendency to allow their dogs to pull. This teaches them the outside world is more interesting than them. If you have a puppy you need to set rules. If you have an adult dog you need to install the no pull method.

1. Puppy Rules

The stricter the rules you set out for your dog at a young age the better they will be. When dogs are puppies it is the owner’s job to train them to never engage the environment without permission. This is especially true on leash. This is not heelwork but instead focuses on a solid ‘leave it’ skill. This skill applies to people, prey, and other dogs. You should never allow your puppy to have on-leash meetings. I know it’s hard but it will prevent pulling down the line.

2. Adult Dog

If your dog is 1+ years old or rescues it is likely your dog has a history of on-leash meetings. In conjunction with training, it is best to try the No-Pull Walking Method when you are not training. 

3. Personality & Age

Sometimes a pully dog will become more docile with age. In addition, some owners are lSometimes a pully dog will become more docile with age. Besides, some owners are lucky because their dog hit the genetic jackpot. Their dog has no interest in other dogs, people, or prey. Please do not compare yourself to these dogs. They are not magicians. ucky because their dog hit the genetic jackpot and has no interest in other dogs, people or prey. Please do not compare yourself to these dogs. They are not magicians. 

The No Pull Method

The no-pull is unique because it requires you to abandon your mentality of heelwork. The expectation of heelwork is that your dog must be to your side.

A dog can be in front of you without pulling. My dog does not pull but is in front of me during the entire walk. I can be on the phone, reading emails, listening to music, or taking a business call. Would I be able to do these things if they were pulling? No, because they know The No-Pull Techniques.

LEARN MORE WHY THIS TYPE OF TRAINING METHODOLOGY IS OUTDATED. 

Who Is The No Pull Method For?

 

Dogs 1 year or older, already have ingrained behaviors such as pulling. This is either due to the lack of leash rules or leave-it skills.

Owners should not feel ashamed they did not teach their puppy leash manners. Many dog owners are unaware of how to teach loose leash walking. This is because of the push for a “no pull” harness and costly training services.

Additionally, owners with rescues did not have a choice in how their dog was raised. Even pet parents who had their dogs since they were puppies have gone through some type of trauma due to other owners’ lack of control.

How To Perform The No Pull Method?

Allow your dog to walk in front of you. Anytime the leash creates tension, stop and wait until the dog creates slack in the leash walk. The most important part of this is that you dedicate yourself to weeks of being consistent. This is also something you can do without being engaged. Once you feel the leash tighten, stop walking.

Treat Free Methods

Dog pulls on leash tried everything

Heel working without treats is possible in short bursts. If you have worked through the heelwork trifecta and you are still having issues try the threat-free method. Treat-free methods are great for owners who have a dog that pulls even though they have tried everything listed above. There are two types of threat-free methods: Tug and Gentle Leaders. People who are in this category experience:

  1. Dog disengages after 10 minutes of no treats
  2. Forget treats often
  3. The dog is not praised motivated
  4. The dog has been on treats for a long time (+1 year)

Tug Method

 In agility, we use leashes that are made of fleece or rope. They are designed for rewarding a dog after a run. This is because in agility we are not allowed to bring treats into the arena. But we are allowed a leash. Tug is rewarding for dogs so we allow them to play tug before and after each race. The benefit of this method is you will never forget your leash. In the pet world, leash tugging is seen as bad. But there is no harm when the leash is made for that purpose. Its common advice to use incompatible behavior to prevent undesired behaviors while on walks. This is an example of an incompatible behavior. An incompatible behavior is when your dog is doing something that prevents them from doing the undesired behavior (barking). In the case of pulling, having your dog hold a tug toy is an incompatible behavior. When your dog does not engage with an item you can reward it with play. The Tug-Leash Method prevents you from forgetting another item because it utilizes what you already have to prevent outbursts.

Fleece and Rope Leash Used For Tugging

How To Teach Tug

Tug is taught through ‘drop it.’ To teach drop it you will need an agility tug leash. This can be bought on Etsy or be homemade. They are made of the same material as tug ropes. You present the rope to the dog and say ‘get it’. Once they grab the rope, you swing it left to right (never up and down). Once they are engaged and you have played for 60 seconds you need to hold the rope completely still and say ‘drop it’. Drop it takes patience. If your dog is still tugging the rope after you cued him to drop it, you need to hold it to the ground and wait. The minute their mouth opens you reward and say get it. Continue to play tug with them. You never let go of the rope. Your dog should only be allowed to play tug when you say to get it.

There are two types of dogs: tug naturals and non-naturals.

Tug naturals tend to struggle with the drop it aspect. Please keep in mind that in the beginning, when you say drop it, you are looking for a slight release of the item from their mouth. Never expect a dog to drop the item completely. Over time you will increase your expectations to bigger and bigger drops. Eventually, you will expect the dog to completely let go.

For those dogs who do not enjoy tugging, training ‘Get it’ is difficult. If your dog is unwilling to engage, drag the rope on the ground to imitate prey. Once they do engage make sure to swing it lightly to the left and right. Let them win by pretending they are pulling you backward. This builds confidence in their tugging skills.

Story Time: I have two dogs, an Aussie and a Border Collie. The border collie was a natural tugger. When she was a puppy she never wanted to drop it. With her, I had to tell her to drop and sit completely still. Once she dropped it, I immediately played tug with her. This encouraged her to drop it more often so we can begin the game of tug. The Aussie did not care to tug. I had to spend a year building his confidence. Now he loves to tug. To build his confidence I had to pretend he was the strongest dog in the world and act like he was pulling me back.

Gentle Leaders

The gentle leader is the only equipment that is a training tool.   But, it is also the hardest to teach a dog to wear. Most people do not put enough energy into training a gentle leader. Or they are turned off because of their muzzle-like appearance. It is not a muzzle and thinking it is one can be dangerous. If another dog comes up to your dog it is very possible for your dog to bite another dog while wearing a gentle leader. I tend to recommend a gentle leader when I notice that heelwork training is too hard for the pet parent to maintain. If you have not tried a gentle leader to teach your dog to not pull a gentle leader might be best for your family. 

How To Train A Gentle Leader: The Wearing Stage & Training Stage

  1. Have the leader on the ground and reward your dog for sniffing the leader
  2. Open the nose hole and put a treat on the other side. Let your dog put his nose through the leader to get the treat. 
  3.  Once your dog is comfortable placing his nose in the hole for the treat, let go of the leader so that it is resting on his nose. Reward the dog for not knocking the leader off. This could include 5 treats for 5 seconds. 
  4. Once the dog is comfortable with the leader resting on his nose, clip the neck collar. The neck clip should be placed right below the boney part of the head. The clip should have no more than 2 fingers looseness to it. Reward your dog for every second he does not take the leader off. Repeat until your dog is not knocking the leader off with his paw or nose. 
  5. Next tighten the chin clip so that leader can not slide forward. This is the hardest part for the dog. Reward generously and do not move on until they are no longer pawing at it. 

Once your dog has learned how to wear the leader it is time to train loose leash walking.

  1. Clip the leader to to your leash. Starting inside walk your dog back and forth. Every time your dog walks past your hip, stop. Your arm must be at your side. You must resist the urge to let your arm pull forward. The dog needs to learn the length of the leash.
  2.   Keep repeating until the dog learns to not extend past his leash.
  3. Move this exercise outside. Practice until your dog is no longer pulling past your side.
  4. Then remove the leader and see if they will pull forward using a regular collar. After training the leader might not be needed. With some dogs it might be needed for life. 

Leave It Training Start-Finish

Often a ‘weak’ leave is the root cause of pulling. Without a solid ‘leave it’, heelwork and the no-pull method fail.  Many owners teach leave it only 50% because that is what YouTube videos and blogs give for free. This comprehensive guide will teach you how to train to leave it from start to finish. It also provides a printable agenda to keep you accountable during your training. 

The Ultimate Training Guide

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