Join our daily dog discussions

How do I stop him pulling?

Dog pulling on the lead

(Q) I have a 17-month-old Belgian Shepherd X collie, called Chopper. He is intelligent, quick to learn, playful and energetic. Since I got him at 12 weeks, I’ve been trying to make him walk without pulling. I had him castrated as he pulled me over and I fractured my wrist. I was six months pregnant. He wears a half-check collar, but checking him makes no difference. He now jumps forward, wrenching my arm. There are no places at a dog training school near us. It’s getting to be a last resort situation, but I don’t want to rehome him.

(A) Trainer Elizabeth Kershaw says: Sadly this is not a problem that can be dealt with overnight. Get on the waiting list for classes as soon as possible and enlist some training help. Visit the website of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (www.apdt.co.uk) for classes, or consider private training. In the meantime, you may find using a headcollar or harness helps short-term. Seek instruction about the best way to fit and use these training aids.

Castration is very unlikely to make any difference to Chopper’s behaviour except in areas that are hormonally mediated. Sadly, Chopper has been pulling successfully for over 12 months. The best way to persuade him to walk on a loose lead is to use positive reward-based methods, such as clicker training. Instead of punishing him for pulling, using ineffective checking, teach him an acceptable alternative. Try rewarding him with a high-value food treat every time he walks on a loose lead. If he pulls ahead, stand still and say nothing, bracing your hands against your body to prevent further forward movement. Wait until he remembers that you’re on the other end of the lead and then turn away and walk off, rewarding him when he is walking beside you.

At first reward every two or three strides as he walks with you and gradually extend the distance he can stay with you. Each time he pulls, stand still and repeat the above. Never allow him to get the reward of arriving where he wants to be if he is pulling. It should take longer and longer to reach the park unless he can do so beside you.

Top tips

  • It is important to train your dog to walk on a loose lead as he can suffer long-term health problems from constant pulling.
  • If he believes that pulling ever works to get him to where he wants to go, he will continue to do it.
  • When practising your lead walking, try introducing a different lead and collar to let your dog know you’re in training mode.
  • Headcollars make it difficult for your dog to pull and can be used when you aren’t able to train, or if you feel you can’t hold your dog because of his size. When wearing a headcollar, your dog should be on a plain lead.

Not found what you are looking for? Email your advice question to advice@yourdog.co.uk for the chance to have your question answered by our panel of experts!