Stop Dogs Pulling on the Lead

Marie Miller and Alex Wilson look at the Tellington TTouch ways to stop dogs pulling on the lead and Kerri Bee looks at the traditional method of stopping dogs pulling using conventional positive training methods.

Marie Millers looks at how to walk dogs in balance without pulling

pulling dogIt’s not great to feel as if your arm is being pulled out of its socket, writes MARIE MILLER, when a dog drops his weight into the lead and heads off at high speed with you in tow. Why does he do that? Is he being dominant? Does he want to ‘be the pack leader’? No, the answer is ridiculously simple and much more logical. He simply has not learned to walk on a loose lead.

Start by teaching your dog to be calm when his lead is produced. If he leaps about like something possessed, then as soon as the lead is attached drags you through the front door and out onto the street, you can hardly blame him for continuing the whole walk in the same way. Teach him some boundaries like sitting quietly to have the lead put on and walking through the front door beside you or slightly behind if he is a large dog. If you want him to go through the door in front of you train him to go forward and sit until you come out and shut the door.

If your dog is normally pretty steady when walking and just has the occasional lapse, loose lead walkingteach him to target your hand so that you can regain his attention and encourage him back to your side to walk on a loose lead.

If your dog always pulls on the lead it may be that he has just never learned to walk slowly and in balance. Remember that his natural movement is probably much faster than human walking pace so he might be finding it difficult to walk without pulling into the lead. He might also lose focus and balance when excited by interesting scents and movements around him. If he rushes forward to the end of the lead and you reward this behaviour by following him then he will simply drop his full weight into the lead and pull. It takes two to maintain a pull so you also need to think about your own posture and balance. If you respond to your dog pulling by bracing against the pressure it will trigger exactly the same response in him. 

michief not pullingThere are a number of ways to help a dog to learn to walk in balance on a loose lead. The TTouch Balance Lead technique requires the use of a 6ft training lead. The simple action of looping the lead to form a containing barrier on the dog’s chest can be really helpful to teach him to walk in balance and can help the dog to regain self control if he becomes over excited. If he leans into the lead, briefly meet the pressure and then melt by relax again, giving the dog nothing to lean against. He may immediately lean again so repeat until the dog stops leaning into the lead and stands/moves in his own balance. This is a smooth movement, not a jerk. Meet the pressure and then melt away.

If your dog is small or jumps and wriggles out of the barrier, the TTouch Balance Lead Plus may be more successful. Loop the lead over his chest and encourage him to step over the lead with his off side leg so that it crosses his chest and then pass the end near to you up through the flat collar. Again, meet any pressure he puts against the lead and relax, giving him nothing to lean on.

You can also use the Meet and Melt technique when the dog is wearing a harness. You need a lead with a clip at either end so that you can have two points of contact. Your harness might have two clips, e.g., a ring on the back and a ring at the chest or you could clip onto the back ring of the harness and the flat collar. 

Also doing some simple TTouch Groundwork exercises, teaching your dog to slowly step over, through or round obstacles on the ground and walk across different surfaces can help by making him more aware of his movement and balance, improving self control and confidence.

Walks will be so much more fun for all concerned if your dog learns to walk in balance on a loose lead.

Using a Liberty Leash or Freedom Handle

liberty leash

The liberty leash or a freedom handle on a double-ended lead, writes ALEX WILSON, (with its clips at either end and a sliding handle) allows for two-points of contact on the dog with one clip attached to the back of the harness and the other clip attached either to the front ring or the collar. This allows the dog an element of freedom to find his or her own natural point of balance, and teaches the dog naturally not to pull on the lead. This method is a great alternative to using the standard Tellington TTouch two points of contact if the handler finds that walking the dog with two handles is impractical. The Liberty Leash is also an ideal TTouch lead and great for scenting dogs like spaniels. The secret is keping the hand still and allowing the dog to move and balance on the lead. If the dog pulls , simply lift your hand and take up the tension (don't lift the dog off the ground!) and as soon as the dog responds release the tension returning the dog to a loose lead state.

If you want to help your dog change direction, or if the dog lunces towards something. Simply melt towards the dog, it can help to bend your knees, as soon as the lead is slack move your body in the direction that you want to go. Your dog will then move in the direction that you are going. This technique will also stop your dog going into opposition reflex.

In this video Janet Finlay explains how to use the liberty leash or freedom handle

Alex Wilson Looks at how to stop dogs pulling the TTouch way

loose lead walkingTellington TTouch is a training method, developed over 40 years ago by Linda Tellington-Jones and her sister Robyn Hood, which identifies the link between posture and behaviour. It incorporates bodywork and ground exercises to help improve co-ordination, balance and physical and emotional fitness, whilst deepening communication and understanding between the animal and its handler.

With its roots in the Feldenkrais method of Awareness Through Movement, TTouch techniques gently guide the animal through non-habitual exercises that can alter existing habitual patterns. As posture affects behaviour, many owners and carers note that unwanted behaviour diminishes as the animal's posture and balance improves. TTouch teaches the animal to act, rather than simply react to a situation; it gives animals experience of an alternative way of being, so that they can make better choices.

Many dogs pull on the lead because they are physically unbalanced. This can be caused by many different things including the equipment that we use; for example, any piece of equipment that you put on a dog, even a flat collar or harness will influence that dog’s nervous system and it is important that we choose equipment that will achieve what we want in a kind, fair and effective way. There is no point putting our pet dog in a sled dog style harness that will encourage them to drop their weight forward and pull if we want to achieve loose lead walking. It is a myth that all harnesses encourage dogs to pull, this is only true with the types of harnesses used in sledding, tracking or Cani-X that are attached further down the dog’s back or at the base of the tail with a single point of connection, rather than a well-designed walking harness that has a high point of connection on the dog’s back, usually just behind the dog’s front legs, and an additional front ring.

The way we use a lead and harness in Tellington TTouch helps a dog to shift their centre of gravity into natural balance. When we are walking a dog on the lead we do not want them dropping their weight forward or back; we want them as neutral as possible, balanced.

To achieve this result, ideally we are looking for the dog to wear what is known a balancing harness, and there are many good products on the market including the UK TTouch Harness designed by Sarah Fisher, the Xtra Dog Walking  Harness, designed by Marie Miller, amongst others. These harnesses have a high connection point on the dog’s back just behind the front legs and a front-ring that sits on the point of the breast-bone or sternum. We generally attach a training-lead, to the harness, so that we can influence the dog’s posture and help the dog to walk in balance. We tend to give gentle signals upwards on the back connection (rather than backward) and forward on the front connection (rather than pulling back) allowing us to meet the pressure of the pull, then melting away so that the dog can understand what is expected - As a rule of thumb, we want to walk the dog to our side.

When walking the dog, if the dog pulls, resist the pressure of the pull and immediately melt away. If you have not achieved the desired effect repeat until you have achieved a loose lead. In many instances this can have an almost immediate effect. Sometimes it may take a while to achieve the desired effect but even moments of a loose lead will teach the dog what we are trying to achieve. Initially when training this technique, It is easier to use two hands with one for the front and one for the rear connection. Once familiar with the technique, you can put both ends of the lead in the same hand.

If the concept of using two hands is daunting, then you can use either a Liberty Leash, which is a double-ended lead with a sliding handle, or a Freedom Handle, which slides onto your double-ended lead. This allows the dog an element of freedom to find their own natural point of balance, taking pressure off the lead with nothing for the dog to pull. This method is great for dogs like spaniels who want to have their noses constantly on the ground. The secret is keeping the hand still and close to the body and allowing the dog to move and balance on the lead. If the dog pulls, simply lift your hand and meet the tension (don't lift the dog off the ground!) and as soon as the dog responds melt again encouraging them to keep the lead loose, you can also step forward in a crescent as you do this, until you are in the dog’s line of sight, then melt so the lead is slack.

Alex Wilson is a Tellington TTouch practitioner (P1) and a student member of The Association of Pet Dog Trainers (UK) having passed their Advanced Instructors Programme. He is also a member of the Pet Professional Guild and head trainer at Xtra Dog. He teaches full day Tellington TTouch workshops around the UK, if you would like to find out more about hosting a workshop, please visit www.xtradog.training.

Thanks to TTouch practitioner (P3) Janet Finlay for proof reading and fact checking. Janet is also a member of the APDT no 01046

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Watch this webinar with TTouch Instructor Robyn Hood looking at pulling on the lead

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Tellington TTouch Groundwork - Marie Miller looks at some simple groundwork exercised you can try

polesThis photograph (left) shows that Fluffy is demonstrating how the 'step-over' is used to teach dogs how to use their legs mindfully and independently. The soft poles can be set at different distances, heights and angles. A wand is being used to help her focus on the direction we are moving. A soft rope harness is being used to help her to balance as she learns to lift each leg independently while moving slowly.

 

upright polesIn this photograph (right) the soft poles can be adjusted to different shapes and angles to help Fluffy to learn to co-ordinate and shift her weight over her legs as she turns. Notice how hard she is having to concentrate.

 

teetotterIn this photograph (left), the Teeter-Totter helps Fluffy to move up a slight incline, halt and re-balance. Move forward a pace, halt and re-balance as the board tips forward sightly so that she can walk calmly and slowly off the other side.

 

 

 

poles

Another photograph (right), showing different shapes and angles of the poles to help Fluffy to learn to co-ordinate and shift her weight over her legs while turning. Again she is obviously having to concentrate hard.

 

labyrinthIn this photograph (left), the labyrinth also teaches a dog to change direction and remain in balance.We have found that reactive dogs can often be more easlily de-sensitised to the presence of other dogs outside the labyrinth while they are inside it. We can then progress to them following other dogs through it.

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Kerri Bee looks at loose lead walking using traditional, positive methods.

pulling dog

Why Do Dogs Pull?

Dogs pull on the lead for many different reasons, but underlying all of these is the same reason:

People allow them to!

If you allow your dog to pull, you are simply rewarding the behaviour, and if a behaviour is rewarded it is likely to be repeated.

Dogs and people see the world differently, for example:

Person thinks: My dog has pulled all the way to the beach as usual, thank goodness it’s time to let him off.

Dog thinks: Pulling on the lead is what gets the lead taken off

Allowing your dog to pull is actually teaching him or her that this is what they must do to get to where they want to go. Pulling on the lead is extremely rewarding, don’t allow it.

The Correct Equipment: Harnesses and Leads

harness Give some serious consideration to walking your dog on a good quality harness, both for training and long term. Leads attached to collars can actually cause a dog to pull in the first place and pulling on a collar can cause long term neck, back and throat problems. A good harness can be a real asset to training and your dog’s long term health.

A well fitting, comfortable harness will prevent a dog feeling uncomfortable and desperate to get out of it. Furthermore, harnesses that have both top and front connections allow for more flexibility in how the lead is attached. Double connection harnesses also allow use of a double connection lead, the benefits of which can be seen above.

• Don’t allow your dog to pull – ever! That can be a scary thought for owners of dogs that pull like mad, so do some planning as follows: 

• Learn the clicker method (detailed below) and practise this as often as possible. There is no instant fix, it takes time and effort.

* Every time your dog is on lead must be a training session, if that’s not possible (not enough time; too many distractions etc) use a headcollar; drive him there, pick him up if he’s small, just don’t allow him to pull. Allowing pulling some of the time will undo your hard work and confuse your dog.

• You could consider setting aside a whole day or a weekend or even a week off work to give your training a flying start.

• Be positive and interesting, talk in an upbeat way, and communicate with your dog.

How to teach your dog to walk on a loose lead

1. Red Light, Green Light’

Red Light/Green Light is the underlying principle of all lead walking training and it is simply this:

•  When you walk nicely, you go forward

* When you pull, you go nowhere

 

2. Clicker Training

• Start with a loose, fairly long lead but avoid holding it in your hand because this will arapahoe on single connectionencourage you to pull! Instead try using a 2m double ended lead around your waist so you walk your dog ‘hands free’ or alternatively loop your lead over your arm or just over a couple of fingers, this will help you to focus on training your dog rather than using the lead to correct him or him.

• Try holding your clicker on the same side as your dog and have your treat bag on the other side, easily accessible with your free hand. Proper treat bags and ‘bum bags’ are far better than a plastic bag in your pocket, you need to be able to produce treats quickly and regularly.

• Use your clicker to ‘explain’ to your dog when he or she is doing the right thing i.e. walking on a loose lead:

• Bring your dog into position next to you and feed 2 or 3 high value treats so he or she knows what’s on offer.

• Walk off and as soon as your dog starts walking, click and treat (assuming he isn’t pulling yet).

• Clicking & treating immediately not only ‘marks’ the loose lead, it keeps your dog’s attention on you, and therefore distracts him/her from what is in the environment and hopefully prevents pulling from the start.

•  Click & treat very frequently to begin with, every 2-3 paces at least. This keeps your dog’s attention on you and what he or she is being clicked for.

• Talk to your dog in an upbeat way, or whatever way will motivate and encourage your dog to pay attention to you.

• Only click when your dog is actually walking with a loose lead.

• Avoid clicking jumping or spinning, ignore this and concentrate on reinforcing the behaviour you do want – you’ll then get more good stuff and less jumping.

 

Points to Be Aware of

• Avoid tightening the lead or using it in any way. Try to think of it just as a device for stopping your dog running into the road – motivation, communication via the clicker and reward are what trains a dog.

• Remember to get the food out as you click and deliver it in front of your dog’s nose.

• If your dog reaches the end of the lead, stop change direction and call him with you, click and treat as soon as he falls into step beside you.

 

Troubleshooting: some possible answers to common problems

 

Dog cuts in front:

    You are holding food where your dog can see it

    Too long between clicks

    You’ve clicked for turning inwards by mistake

 

Dog jumps up

   You may have clicked jumping up by mistake

   Your food may be too exciting

 

Dog lunging at other dogs

    Environment is too distracting

 

Dog still pulling

    Environment too distracting

    Training technique needs further tutoring

    A different training technique or equipment is needed

Progressing Your Training

1. NEVER allow your dog to pull

2. Practise in low distraction environments; gradually increase the steps between clicks e.g.:

Walk 2 steps-->Click/treat-->Walk 2 steps-->Click/treat-->Walk 2 steps-->Click/treat   Walk 3 steps-->Click/treat--> Walk 3 steps-->Click/treat--> Walk 3 steps-->Click/treat--> Walk 4 steps-->Click/treat--> Walk 4 steps-->Click/treat--> Walk 4 steps-->Click/treat-->

3. NEVER allow your dog to pull

4. Only when your dog understands that the lead must always stay loose, you can gradually increase the distractions, but you will probably have to increase the frequency of the clicker each time you increase distractions, at least to begin with.

5. NEVER allow your dog to pull

6. Increase/decrease value of rewards and frequency according to how distracting the environment is.

7. NEVER allow your dog to pull

Lead walking and Maturity

Most dogs are not fully mentally mature until they are about three years old. This may differ slightly with breed. It is only at this age can you expect your dog to know how to behave, and only if they have been taught positively and consistently from puppyhood. A two year old dog that has always pulled, may take until he’s three, but it’s more likely it will be longer as he will need to be rehabilitated.

Management & Training

In a perfect world, you would train your dog to do all the things you want him to do in an environment with NO distractions.

Then you would train him to do the same things with very low distractions.

Next you would train the same things with slightly higher distractions and so on and so forth.

BUT at no time would you ask him to perform any aspect of his training in an environment where the distractions are too high – WOULD YOU?

If you do this, it is much like a driving instructor asking a pupil who has only just learnt the controls, to drive through town in rush hour!

Therefore you can only expect your dog to sit, or lie, or come back or walk with a loose lead when the distractions are within his current level of training.

There will be times of course when you need your dog to go into more distracting environments than his current level of training, and that is when you need MANAGEMENT.

Good management is about preventing your dog from learning the wrong thing. 

REMEMBER: It’s not fair if you haven’t trained to the current level of distraction. You wouldn’t expect a learner driver to cope with Cardiff central at rush hour.

 

If Your Dog Still Pulls On The Lead Your dog is most likely still pulling because:

1. You have not trained your dog sufficiently and/or

2. You are walking your dog in places that are too distracting

 

Checklist

1. How often do you train your dog?

2. How long do you train your dog for?

3. Do you take play/sniffing breaks at appropriate intervals?

4. How often do you allow your dog to pull and for how long?  

5. Are you progressing your training at a pace that suits your dog’s age and understanding?

6. How frequently do you click and treat?

7. Do you increase the rate at which your click and treat if the distractions increase?

8. What strategies do you employ if you need to take your dog somewhere, where the distractions are greater than his/her current level of training?

9. Are your treats worth working for?

10.Overall, are you being realistic about your own expectations of your dog.

 

Remember that if your dog pulls it is because you are allowing him or her to!

Harnesses and leads to help stop your dog puling