PET PEEVES: Dogs Who Pull Too Hard on the Leash
Turn Your Pet Into a Straight-A Student With Reality-Based Behavior Solutions
Q. Our family’s 1-year-old dog, Buck, yanks me and my daughter down the street when we take him for walks. It was cute when he was a puppy, as he explored all the new sights and smells. But now that he’s big and can pull us so hard, we find ourselves taking him on fewer walks. It’s no fun, and I’m afraid he’ll pull one of us down. Can you help bring our fun and safety back?
A. You’re not alone. This question is probably as old as the MHS organization and is something many dog owners have experienced. Fortunately, today there are many “tools” to help curb your pet’s urge to pull. It’s so easy to let our adorable pups go where they want to on our walks. It’s fun to watch them learn and investigate, and since we can still control them, we don’t give it a second thought. That is, until they reach the age of about 8 to 10 months, which is about when the larger dog breeds become strong enough to take us for a walk. After all, they’ve always been allowed to go where they wanted to on walks, and the quick learners figure out that, by throwing their weight around, they can still pretty much go wherever they want.
Certainly, if you’d like to learn to train Buck to walk politely at your side with a loose leash, there are many quality dog trainers who can help you. Select a trainer who utilizes positive reinforcement training methods – someone who will reward Buck for walking nicely, rather than suggesting that you punish him for bad behavior. You might want to start by calling the Michigan Humane Society’s free Behavior Help Line at 248.650.0127, for some helpful tips to regain the joy (and safety) in your walks.
On the other hand, if you’re like me … truth is, I’ve never expected or wanted my dogs to heel when I walk them. Oh sure, my neighbor looks so good walking with her two dogs in a perfect heel while my 85-pound Lab mix sniffs about, wandering from smell to enticing smell. But to me, our walk is for my dog to sniff, check things out, and get a bit of exercise for his brain and his body. He need not march alongside me – that’s not so fun for him. But he also has to be attentive and not pull me or race down the street, potentially putting us both in peril.
If you’re looking for a quick fix, something to almost effortlessly discourage Buck from pulling hard on the leash, there are a number of good tools on the market. Here are some of my favorites:
- Head collars, such as the Halti, loop around your dog’s muzzle and over the back of his head. The leash clips under his chin. This tool can be very effective for some – but not all – dogs. When the dog pulls forward, the Halti causes his head to turn, thereby changing the dog’s forward motion back to you. For most dogs, it takes a few days to get used to the feeling of the Halti collar.
- Harnesses that clip in the front, at your dog’s chest, have become popular, as have other harness styles that discourage pulling. They work by applying pressure to the dog’s shoulder area when he pulls forward. My favorite is the Easy Walk by Premiere Pet Products.
- A “new kid on the block” is the Weiss Walkie. This harness clips to your dog’s buckle collar and wraps around his chest, applying pressure when he moves forward. Thus far, it’s getting good reviews. Actually, MHS volunteers have been successfully using a homemade version of this for years to walk our shelter doggies.
Whether you want to train your dog to walk with precision by your side, or use a special harness or head collar to discourage his sled-dog aspirations, you’ll soon be enjoying walks again.
CJ Bentley is an animal behavior expert and senior director of operations for the Michigan Humane Society. She routinely appears in local media and has helped launch, develop and manage many innovative pet behavior and training programs, including Pawsitive Start, within MHS. She is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer (CPDT), and past executive director and current member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT).
Does your pet do something that really “peeves” you? We’d love to help! Send us a photo of your pet “peeving” you, along with a brief description to:
Attn: MichigAnimals/Pet Peeves
Michigan Humane Society
30300 Telegraph Rd.
Bingham Farms, MI 48025-4507
Or e-mail your photo (in jpeg format) and description to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Selected “peeves” will be featured in an upcoming issue. Submissions become the property of the Michigan Humane Society, and submission constitutes permission to use them in any manner.
The goal of this “Pet Peeves” column is to provide real-world solutions to pet behavior issues that range from the mildly annoying to completely frustrating. These “fixes” are a combination of my experience as a companion animal behaviorist and trainer, the realities of family life today, and a strong desire to see our beloved four-legged friends flourish in good homes. In this issue, we’re featuring some common doggy “peeves” that result in poor holiday party etiquette. – CJ Bentley