Pulling on the lead is a common problem that most dog trainers are asked to help with. It is not only uncomfortable for the handler but for the dog too. There are plenty of myths around which piece of equipment to use and whether our dogs are trying to 'be the boss'.
A simple way to look at why your dog pulls is to look at their behaviour in the moment and assess the underlying emotion or drive behind it. Once we know why it is happening, we can help work towards making improvements.
Well, how do we do that?
Here are the top, most common reasons that dogs pull on lead. You may be surprised to learn that they have nothing to do with equipment or 'dominance'.
Drive and Learned Behaviours
Remember that your dog was not born understanding what a lead is and how to walk on it. It is a completely unnatural way for them to explore the world around them. Can you imagine how strange it must feel to be placed in an environment and be attached to some funny tether-thingy, attached to a human?
Mostly dogs are driven by exploring, foraging, and experiencing the world around them. Some dogs are particularly bred to find smells, movement and distractions particularly motivating.
Simply put, your dog is just doing what dogs naturally do! They are not designed to walk beautifully next to you at all times.
Lack of Consistency and Training
Training and engagement with our dogs when on walks will help to teach them the skills they need to be able to cope on a lead.
All to often our dogs are not taught the skills to be able to walk on a lead. Sometimes these skills are practiced in a training hall for a few weeks, but our dogs are not able to generalise this to real life situations.
When asking why your dog pulls on lead, it can be helpful to ask yourself these points:
Have I spent enough time consistently teaching my dog the skills they need to walk on a lead without pulling in all different situations?
Is everyone who is involved in walking my dog doing the same training and sending consistent messages?
Does your dog truly understand how to walk on a lead?
Fear and Anxiety
It may be surprising to hear that fear and anxiety can cause pulling on the lead. Think about it....if you find the world around you worrying, it can feel beneficial to move through it as quickly as possible.
Fearful dogs will want to move quickly to avoid certain triggers, to move to a safe space or to hurry back home.
There is a big link between dogs that are struggling with some underlying pain or discomfort and pulling on the lead. It may seem counter-intuitive and that dogs in pain should want to move slower, but often the opposite is true.
It can often be that moving faster is more comfortable than moving slowly. Adrenaline can also 'mask pain'. So moving fast and hyper-fixating on the world can up adrenaline levels and mask the pain that our dogs feel.
Walking Too Slowly!
This is a simple one but often our preferred walking speed is too slow for our dogs! We all have different speeds at which we prefer to walk. It must be pretty frustrating to be attached to someone walking half your speed at all times!
A lot of the time, we expect too much from our dogs and we do not equip them with the skills they need to be able to offer us the behaviour that we expect from them. Underlying emotional and physical factors can also play a part.
If you would like help identifying why your dog constantly pulls on the lead and you would like to improve your walks to be able to enjoy them more, please contact your local force-free, positive trainer who can help you identify they underlying cause.