why do dogs pull on the leash when going for a walk

Dog Behavior: Why do Dogs Pull on the Leash?

January 31, 2021

Walking your dog is a great activity for you and your dog. You get to take in the fresh air, it’s healthy to get the exercise and often a chance to see friends. However, when dogs pull on the leash it may become less enjoyable. So, let’s examine the question, “Why do dogs pull on the leash?” For this introductory post, we will examine two of the biggest reasons why, and later we can address other specific reasons.

Two Reasons Why Dogs Pull on the Leash

1. The first reason dogs pull on the leash is because dogs tend to repeat actions that reward them. We all know that it’s natural for them to run and jump when they are excited and sometimes pull hard when they want to smell another dog. if they are rewarded (or at least what appears to be a reward to them), they will be encouraged to repeat the activity.

In some ways it is similar to parenting a small child. The child learns early on that crying will get them attention and hopefully what they want. If they are hungry, they cry until they are fed.

Now somewhere around their “terrible twos” they will start throwing temper tantrums to get what they want. If the parent gives in to them, the child has learned how to manipulate the parent into getting what they want. Especially if the parents do not oblige quickly. So they repeat the behavior, the temper tantrum, until they get what they want.

So why do dogs pull on the leash? It is likely they have learned to repeat this behavior because it got them what they wanted. They were rewarded and they will continue the behavior to get the reward, whatever it may be. It is a subconscious behavior and like with the child, best to handle it correctly from the beginning.

2. The second reason dogs pull on the leash is because they are just naturally faster than we are. They love to go on walks, and they are excited, so they want to go fast. They want to check out all the new smells, see all the new things to see and hear new sounds. They want to explore the neighborhood. And we just don’t move as fast as they can.

Often, we come home tired from work and don’t want to move too fast. Even if it’s first thing in the morning, we just aren’t going to want to move as fast as a dog can move. And on top of that we tend to let other things distract us. Our cell phones with calls and texts or checking out social media while we are walking. All this takes your attention away from your dog and the dog doesn’t get any interaction or praising – which they love! When considering this point alone is it any wonder why dogs pull on the leash?

SPECIAL NOTE: Your dog is not pulling on the leash because he wants to control you or dominate your walk together. Mostly the dog is excited, wants to explore, and has trouble containing the excitement.

Training Dogs Not to Pull on the Leash

In a future post we can spend more time on various training techniques to teach your dog not to pull on the leash. Here we can deal with the attention, praising and rewards mentioned above.

But first let’s examine the leash, as it is an integral part of the process. The end goal is to be able to have a loose leash with your dog walking by your side. And you may even hope to get to the point of walking your dog off-leash altogether.

But part of training in the beginning involves standing still when your dog tries to pull on the leash. This will send the message gently that you are in control, and then you should offer a reward and/or praise when the dog comes back to you.

Braided leather pull correction tabWe like the braided pull with correction tab because it is adjustable, and you can quickly reign in when dogs pull on the leash. It is also helpful to have a leash that is not too long at first as you have better control, and your dog is less likely to be confused.

Now let’s examine the owner, as your behavior is the most important for training your dog. Just like raising your child you are aiming for consistency and love. So, when first sensing your dog pulling on the leash, or even just the leash beginning to tighten up, you should stop walking and stand still. Your dog may pull harder at first but stand your ground. Then be ready to reward them when they come back to you or loosen up.

Remember, your dog is excited to be outside walking. So, the key here is to provide them with rewards they love, attention and praises. Put away your cell phone and be ready for an opportunity to reward their positive behavior. Why do dogs pull on the leash? To get what they want (smells, running, etc.). Why do dogs stop pulling on the leash? To get something better – your attention and praise.

Consistency is important. When training your dog not to pull on the leash it is important for you to be very consistent. Otherwise, your dog will become confused. Remember, just like the child throwing a temper tantrum, when you show them you will stand firm and they aren’t going to win, you will win the battle and they will give in.

As your dog begins to respond better and more regularly you can lengthen the leashed giving a little more freedom. This is another reason we like the braided pull with correction tab. But if you need an alternative at this point, we recommend choosing from one of the various styles of training leashes at Auburn Leathercrafters. You will find a soft cotton, a very soft leather that gets softer over time with usage, other leathers, and even nylon, all with varying lengths.

Final thoughts on why do dogs pull on the leash?

It really comes down to where the positive feedback comes from. If they get no attention or reward from you when they are cooperative, then they will go after the next best thing…smells, sounds, or even cars to chase.

So, teach your dog not to pull on the leash, and become familiar with Auburn Leathercrafters products. If you have questions about which product is best for your needs, feel free to message us on the contact us page or give us a call at 800-282-8761.