A walk, to a dog (as well as to many of us humans!), is the highlight of their day, so it’s not surprising that when they head outside, they can’t contain their excitement and start pulling on the lead. There are so many things to grab their attention: the scent of other dogs and animals to sniff out, a bird fluttering into the undergrowth, a fellow pup to greet.
They tug on their lead out of sheer eagerness to move on to the next sensory experience. Or they hold back to get a good old sniff of whatever dubious smelling creature has already passed this way.
If you’ve read up to here in this article, you’re probably looking for how to train a dog not to pull. You’re fed up with being tugged along, arm jolting this way and that, as your dog proves he’s the leader of the pack.
We take a look at how to stop your dog pulling on the lead, and the equipment available to help you do it.
And when you’re ready to put your new skills and equipment to the test, check out our favourite dog walks across the UK.
Best harness for dogs that pull
One thing’s for certain, you don’t want to be using any equipment which will hurt your dog. There are gentle ways to train your dog not to pull, and comfortable leads, harnesses or collars to use in the process.
At around £20, the RabbitGoo No Pull Dog Harness with two leash clips is an affordable option that comes in a range of sizes. By attaching the lead to the front clip, when your dog pulls they will pull themselves around to face you. At some point, they will learn that pulling is not achieving the desired effect of moving forward quicker!
There are numerous other brands that produce similar harnesses, including Mekuti, Embark and Petsafe.
Things to look out for when choosing a harness:
- Avoid harnesses with back clips if you’re looking to curb your pet’s pulling. Back clips encourage dogs to pull against them (like a husky pulling a sled!).
- Your dog must have freedom of movement (check specifically that straps don’t go across the front of the shoulders).
- Consider your dog’s activities – if they’re prone to disappearing into bushes, a mesh harness is likely to get caught.
- The harness should fit snugly, but there should be space to put your fingers under the straps.
Best head harness for dogs that pull
Head halters can help train your dog not to pull when out for a walk. The concept behind them is that a dog can put its whole body weight behind tugging on a body harness, while it’s harder for them to pull with their head.
When your dog pulls, their head will be directed downwards or to the side; the head harness has the effect of reducing the force of the pull (saving that jolt on your arms) but may not help your dog to learn not to pull at all. For best results, both head harnesses and body harnesses should be used alongside training.
The jury is out on the best head harness for dogs, but good brands include Petsafe, Halti and Beaphar to name but a few.
Things to remember when choosing and using a head halter:
- The halter should fit perfectly, without rubbing the head, moving into the eyes or causing discomfort.
- Your dog should be able to do all the things they normally do with their mouth and head!
- Some dogs don’t like having things around their head – they may need some gentle training to encourage them to wear it.
- The head halter shouldn’t be used by you to tug your dog, injury can be caused if you pull or jerk too hard.
Best collar for dogs that pull
One thing that you want to ensure when scoping out the best collar for dogs that pull is that your choice is humane. There are some collars on the market which inflict pain, punishment or shock your dog into behaving. While some believe they have a place in training, we are going to focus on how to stop your dog pulling on the lead using gentle methods and equipment.
For that reason, if you’re looking for the best collar for dogs that pull, the body and head harnesses listed above will be your best option. Harnesses help distribute the pressure across a larger area than a traditional neck collar. A dog that consistently pulls hard on its neck collar may be inflicting injury – as you may expect with a sensitive area such as the neck.
That said, a collar with an identity tag is a legal requirement in the UK, so your pup will need to wear one as well as their harness.
Things to remember when choosing a dog collar:
- Measure your dog’s neck where the collar will go – the tape measure should lie flat and be snug, but not tight.
- Bear in mind that the measurement on some collars is the length of the collar, rather than the neck size it is designed to fit.
- When fitting the collar, you should be able to fit two fingers comfortably between the collar and your dog’s neck.
- Dog collars come in a whole host of different materials and can have a whole host of features – including waterproof, reflective, and even LED. Choose one to suit your activities.
- Breed-specific collars are available which have been designed to be comfortable and harder to slip off for certain pups. Greyhounds, for example, should have broader collars to suit their skinny necks.
For the low-down on all the best gear for walkies, take a look at our article on dog-walking essentials.
Best lead for dogs that pull
There are so many anti-pull dog leads on the market, that choosing the best for your pup can feel like an overwhelming task! The first question you need to ask yourself is why do you want a no-pull lead?
Have you tried to train your dog not to pull and have given up, so need a lead which eases the impact on both you and your dog? Or are you in the throes of training and need a lead to help you on your mission?
The EzyDog Zero Shock lead does what it says on the tin. It’s stretchy, so absorbs the shock when your dog decides to do a bunk. Retractable leads such as those by the brand Flexi can give your dog a little more leeway when they pull, with the lead automatically retracting when you get closer again. The Halti Training Lead used in combination with a harness with front and back clips enables you to fix it to both points, giving you more control during training.
Of course, you could always opt for a ‘normal’ lead which you find comfortable (and stylish!), combined with a training programme to teach your dog to walk and heel.
Things to remember when choosing a lead:
- Pick the right lead for the job – your choice will be different depending on whether you’re doing no-pull training or trying to limit the impact of pulling.
- If your dog is prone to chewing, durability is obviously a key factor!
- Decide what length of lead you need – this will differ depending on whether you’re running with your dog, looking for a hands-free option, or training on a short lead.
How to train a dog not to pull
Now we’ve covered the equipment, let’s take a look at getting that dog of yours to walk nicely beside you, so you can enjoy lovely strolls together!*
Choose a quiet place
The best place to start is in your garden at home, or an outdoor space which is familiar to your pet where there are no distractions. Give your dog a reward when they sit or stand by your side – they’ll learn that being close to you is good for them! You can introduce the lead when they get the hang of this.
Begin walking and reward your dog whenever they are by your side. As they get better at sticking with you, you can space out the treats. Remember that different dogs will learn at different speeds. You may have to persevere with simple, straight walking until it has clicked with your dog that they need to walk beside you, even when you change direction or there are other distractions.
How to stop your dog from pulling
Any time the lead tightens because your dog starts walking ahead of you, simply stop, and don’t tug them back. This will teach your dog that pulling doesn’t achieve the desired effect of them getting further, faster.
The most important thing is to keep up the training. However slow you seem to be progressing, as long as you persevere, you’ll find that your pup will get there eventually. So every walk, every time they’re on the lead, stick with the programme! Dogs are like children in this respect, give them an inch and they’ll take a mile!
*Information in the section ‘How to train a dog not to pull’ is based on advice found on the Dogs Trust website.
Putting it all into practice
Now you’re equipped with everything you need to transform your four-legged friend into a heel-walking pup-star, why not reward yourselves with a ramble on some of the UK’s very best dog-walking routes?
Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing,
please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.