While it would be nice to have a puppy who never pulled toward chicken bones or children with ice cream cones, it’s just not a reasonable expectation. While every normal puppy will try to do these naughty things, it’s important that he is never allowed to be rewarded for them.
Today we are going to practice using the leash to gently and effectively turn puppy away from distractions. My favorite way to do this is on a front-attaching harness. I like them because they make it easy to turn puppy around without putting any pressure on his neck.
Humane: when used properly, this does not hurt or scare puppy
Effective: when used properly, this produces the desired result
While there is no magic tool that will train a dog to walk nicely on leash, there is equipment that can help make it easier for you. At some point, puppy will want to go in a different direction than you do. At this point you have limited options. Of course, you should never let puppy pull you on the leash. Puppy should only be rewarded for following you! In the video you will see a small puppy being introduced to a (Freedom brand) front attaching harness for the first time.
When puppy pulls you on leash (and he will!) do not ever let him be successful. Instead, gently guide puppy away in the opposite direction. Naturally, you will also reward puppy when he is walking nicely – as this is how he will learn better habits. In the meantime, you must prevent him from being rewarded for pulling on leash.
Front Clip Harness
We recommend feeding the single clip of your regular leash through both the front clip of the harness and through the ring of your puppy’s buckle collar.
(We have found that the two-ended leash that tends to be sold with these harness is not helpful.)
A buckle collar, on its own, is an okay tool if you will not be around difficult distractions, have high-value rewards, and are able to focus on training. It’s an easy and totally acceptable option.
Some puppies can be bit stressed by the pressure on their neck, although this is not typical. Occasionally, a puppy can have a more extreme reaction/panic to being pulled (even gently) by the collar. If this is the case with your puppy please let us know
Back Clip Harness
Also called a “pulling harness”. Harnesses that clip to the back (between the shoulders) tend to be very comfortable and safe, but make it much more difficult to guide your puppy in the direction you choose.
We recommend a back clip harness only if you don’t really care if your dog pulls, or if you are doing tracking or carting, or if your puppy really does not pull at all anyway.
- Slide your hand down the leash so it is less than a foot from the clip
- Gently pull in a sideways circle until puppy is facing you, then
- Move away from the distraction, keeping the leash short
- Ease up on the leash tension as soon as you are far enough away that puppy has forgotten about the distraction and is coming with you on his own
- REWARD! This is the most important part. Puppy will come with you more easily in the future if you reward him generously now.
This can be a difficult mechanic if it is new to you. Don’t despair, it does get easier with practice. Avoid jerks or corrective tugs with the leash. Instead, remember to always do a nice steady pull. The real trick is to use the leash just as much as you need to, but not more. Stop pulling, and start praising, when puppy is happily coming with you. Be gentle and effective.