Saving the Best for Last Competition: How to Teach your Dog to Pull on the Lead

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A beagle sitting.

Let your new puppy drag his new lead around behind him

To get your pup used to his new lead, clip it on and let him drag it around behind him. He'll soon learn that having a lead on doesn't restrict him in any way, and he can go where he likes. If it gets stuck on something, a good pull will set him free, or he can rely on his owner to release him.

Teach your puppy a lead means he has to stay with his owner, and that this is a good thing. When your puppy has been alone for a while, attach his lead to something that will not move – if it moves it will teach the wrong thing – and clip it to his collar (both need to be soft at this stage). Allow him to reach the end of the lead and discover he cannot move any further. Handle your puppy all over, grooming with a soft brush, smiling and being happy, but not overexcite him. He should be feeling the pressure of restraint without thrashing around on the end of the lead. When he stops wriggling and accepts the restraint, unclip the lead and withdraw from him for a while. Do this as many times as you can, aim for five minutes twice a day – if every member of the family does this at least once per day he'll be well set up.

Let people make a big fuss of your puppy while he's on a lead

Every time you take your new puppy out on the lead, (some) people will go gooey and mushy and want to make a fuss. Make sure they squeal and/or make silly noises and say hi to your puppy while they are standing just out of your puppy's reach. When your excited puppy launches himself at these exciting people, move forwards, ensuring he drags you a bit, so he can reach them.

You cannot control other people's actions, however, you do not have to respond to them, so continue walking with your puppy and don't take a lot of notice of noises or squeals. If you are asked if someone can say hi to your puppy try to ask them to assist you with his training and approach calmly, ignoring the puppy. Make small talk for a short while, then, when puppy is busy with something else, ask them to say hello calmly, within the distance he can reach so he doesn't feel any pressure on his lead when he greets his admirer.

Buy a flexible/extending lead

Your dog will learn that to get to that interesting smell, other dog or person, all he has to do is lean into the lead, get that pressure on the collar and move forward, and he'll get where he wants to go with little or no difficulty.

Extending leads can be very dangerous in many ways, it is best to avoid them. If it is not safe to let your dog off his lead, it is not safe for him to be on an extending lead – they don't allow your dog more exercise, he is getting the same walk, just 6' away from you, learning you are not involved in his walk in any way. Train a good recall and he can be off lead whenever it is safe.

Let your dog stop you to sniff everything and anything he fancies

This is a good one if you want your dog to pull in a sideways direction. When you're walking on a lead, let your dog drift to the side of the path to sniff something just out of reach, follow him aimlessly as he wanders from side to side. Let him cock his leg on every vertical surface he fancies.

When walking (especially on paved surfaces), teach your dog it is not appropriate to stop unless you do, simply by not stopping. He may try to stop and sniff, keep going gently without yanking him off his feet. When he is walking nicely with you, verbal praise, chat to him, so he knows he is being a good boy.

Never let him sniff or investigate anything, ever, and never let him off the lead

This is the one you need if you want your dog to slam on the brakes (ie pull backwards). If you never let your dog run free off the lead, and never let him stop and enjoy the area he is walking in, he'll soon learn to throw his weight backwards, often sitting down, to force you to stop or drag him.

Equally, he should sometimes be allowed to investigate his environment – if you wanted to stop to admire the view you would expect your dog to wait quietly with you. Rather than allow your dog to stop you, on a walk, aim to stop every now and then, maybe sit on a bench and let him potter about in that area for a while. Some parks have benches very close together on their access paths, they can be made great use of in training. You can do this on or off lead – if the lead training has gone well he should investigate the area he can reach without pulling.

Always walk to really exciting places

Put your dog's lead on, and walk him to somewhere he loves, or drive to the car park, and lead walk him to the good bits. Never walk anywhere dull, such as your own front door, without going somewhere lovely first.

Puppy's first walks should all be short, frequent and circular to the front door. Frequency helps keep the excitement down to a minimum, short means he will want to make the most of them without speeding them up by rushing, and circular means there's no point in pulling as he just gets home faster.

Make sure to really excite him

Get your lead out, and say something such as "Walkies!", "Who wants to go for a lovely walk?" and make sure your dog is leaping all over the place in excitement before you've even got the lead on. Then once it's on, carry on with the exciting talk and be sure he runs out of the front door, with you hanging on behind.

Keep his lead (or two) out. Pick it up and take it with you as you move around the house, so he learns it's nothing special. You can make this even more effective by pretending to get ready for a walk only to abort at different stages – even going so far as to be just about to walk out of the door before turning round and going back in. However, it is not essential unless he is already really loopy about walks.

Dogs naturally walk faster than humans, and in single file. This is why lead training can be difficult as they naturally want to walk in front of us. Be gentle, and understand you are asking them to do something that doesn't come naturally. Imagine how you would feel if you were told you had to walk in single file, and not next to your friends or family. You might forget, too, and keep dropping back to a more natural position. Be patient with your dog when he is learning.

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