Why Dogs Pull on Leash

Dogs pull for may reasons but most common reasons are:

  • Dogs normally move forward, backward, sideways and circle around
    • On leash, dogs normal movements are restricted
  • We, the human, walk in straight boring lines
  • Using sidewalks were the path already exists, so the dog knows where to go
  • Your dog learns that the pressure, when pulling, gets them where they want to go
    • Park, other dogs, people anything your dog wants to check out


Rules for Leash Walking

Rule #1: NO PULLING when your dog is on leash. You and your dog can only move forward when the leash is loose, 100% of the time.

The focus is going to be teaching your dog to politely walk on leash under all circumstances not about getting the dog walked.

Food rewards:

Start with the learners “highest value” reward. Create a reinforcement history and build the connection between you two.

Determining Position & Reinforcement Zone:

First thing, figure out where you want your dog to be positioned relative to walking. Example: your dog’s front feet at your ankle, six inches between you two

If your dog’s feet are passed yours, they are already a half body in front of you makes it more difficult to turn and give your dog rewards. This is the Reinforcement Zone.

Keep a High Rate of Reinforcement:

This will keep your dog engaged with you and willing to play and learn

Pre – Leash walking Game: * the following instructions are for the dog to be on the handler’s left side. If the handler prefers the dog on their right, reverse the following instructions.*

  1. Have the leash in the right hand, 10 treats in the left hand.
  2. Place one treat at a time, high rate of reinforcement, on the ground directly behind your feet. Stand still while the dog eats the treats.
  3. When the dog is finished eating the treats, toss one more treat behind you.
  4. As soon as the dog finished eating, be ready to mark and treat, when the dog looks at you, toss another treat behind you.
  5. Next, take one step forward while the dog eats the treat. Be ready to mark as the dog moves toward you, and deliver a treat just behind your left foot.
  6. Repeat a few times
  7. Once the dog is reliably moving forward with you and eating the treat behind your left foot, begin to take two steps forward, then three, and so on. Don’t be afraid to take it back a few steps and increase the steps as well.

This game reinforces your dog for positioning beside or behind you (rather than out in front) practice at home, with the dog on and off the leash.

 Yielding to Pressure

This behavior teaches the dog to give into the pressure of the leash and not pull against it. Move with me – not against me.

Placement of reinforcement:(where the dog is going to get treat)

Feed dog in the direction you pulled – treats in hand already (hand on collar and leash on collar)

What it look like:

  • Face the dog,
  • Reinforcement in the right hand
  • Extend your left hand to grab the collar on the dog’s LEFT side (your right). Back of your dog on the dog’s neck.
  • Grab collar, pause, marker cue, let go of collar, reinforce dog to your right so that the dog moves to his left to grab the treat.
  • Quickly work up to Pulling the dog’s collar in the direction that you will reinforce.
  • Do not pull the dog hard enough to make them move, that part comes for free because of the placement of reward.
  • Practice in all 4 directions


Polite Loose Leash Walking Deliver the treats at your pant seam throughout this exercise, it is the preferred position for your dog*

  • Stand with elbows close to your sides, hands in neutral position, with dog on your left side (or right, if you prefer) and the leash loose, mark and treat several times.
    • Take one step forward, as the dog moves with you, mark and treat.
    • Repeat, taking one step forward and as the dog moves with you, mark and treat.
    • Continue to practice, keeping a high rate of reinforcement, marking and treating for each successive step you take while the leash remains loose (J shape).
    • Speak to the dog in a happy, encouraging tone of voice.
      • The leash is just for safety, do not tug, drag, or pull your dog while on the leash.
  • If the dog lunges and pulls on the leash, stop, and stand still while keeping gentle pressure on the leash. Do Not attempt to pull the dog to you. As soon as the dog stops and looks back toward you, mark and treat, and continue.
  • As the dog makes progress, eagerly walking at or near your side, begin to mark and treat every few steps
  • Next, add some distractions, put some objects around the low distraction environment you and your dog have been practicing in. (this could be boxes, kid toys, play equipment, get creative it’s good practice for the real world).
  • Once your dog has made the progress with adding distractions it’s time to move somewhere new. The backyard is a good place to start. Your dog knows the area, still lots of smells and when was the last time you have your dog on a leash in the backyard?
    • See how your dog does, you might have to go back a few steps to make sure everyone stays successful with training.

Circle method for loose leash walking:

We move forward as long as the leash is loose, when working with a dog using this method I am looking for slack in the leash not a heel.

If the leash gets tight, I start moving my feet to the left or right and have the dog move on the outside as I make circles, it might take many circles, depending on the dog and how much they are pulling. We can continue moving in the direction while making circles or keep circling until the leash is loose and you’re ready to move forward again. *If the leash gets tight, you and your dog are circling!* You are not a pivot point, your feet need to be moving you in the circle as well.