SPCA New Zealand
Advice & welfare

Ask a behaviourist
How to stop your puppy pulling on the lead?

I’ve just adopted a puppy, Cody, and walking him is a nightmare. He pulls all the time! What can I do?

Dogs pull because they’re excited about where they’re going and by pulling they get there faster! Going for a walk is probably the highlight of Cody’s day and it’s hard to dampen that enthusiasm. It’s important to work on this while Cody is still a puppy, and always train as you mean to go on, the aim is to have a loose leash. If he is pulling while you’re out walking, stop, call his name and reward him with a treat when he comes back to you. Then continue forward, repeating as soon as he starts to pull again. Consistency and persistence is key! The sudden stop is all the pressure needed to indicate that pulling is unwanted, as Cody learns it is more rewarding to stay close to you, and then only a small amount of tension on the leash will remind Cody to slow up and stay close.

Your goal is to make Cody want to follow you and build a strong bond with him so he wants to follow you.

It can be frustrating, but pulling or yanking on the leash often doesn’t work. Punitive tools such as choke chains, prong collars and martingale collars aren’t effective either because in most cases the reward of going for a walk is greater than the pain you’re inflicting.

If you’re still having trouble with his training, you may wish to look into some of the newer tools such as a halti or harness, which can help dogs who persist with pulling.

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