Walking your dog; Sometimes it is Good to be a Tree

OK, this is not what you are thinking. One common problem may dog owners have, especially with larger breeds, is pulling on the leash during walks. As with many other behaviors, owners have to deal with, pulling against a restraint is a natural instinct for many dogs. The original positive use of this behavior was pulling a sled or cart, however, few of us ask our furry companions to do this.

The important thing to remember when dealing with pulling on a lead is successful pulling encourages more pulling! The key to inhibiting pulling is to make it fruitless. The dog is pulling for a reason, such as to get to a squirrel, go swimming, follow a scent or greet another animal.

Have you ever noticed that a dog tied out in from of a store typically does not pull against its lead to greet you? By the way I don’t encourage doing that, however it is a good illustration. The dog has learned that it is ineffective to pull, the pipe he is tied to won’t move and has “trained” him not to pull.

You can do the same thing. As soon as your dog starts to pull and the lead becomes taught, just stop and “Be a Tree”, don’t let the dog make any progress and in the beginning, don’t even say anything to the dog. Just be patient, very patient. Eventually, the dog will slacken the lead and probably look back at you and think “hey dummy what’s the problem.” If you are really prepared, you have some small high-value treats right at hand and you can throw one right near, but not ahead of the dog, once the lead slackens, to reinforce the positive behavior of not pulling. You can now start to walk again. As soon as the leash tightens, you’re a tree again. During this training phase you probably will not get very far quickly, but remember the result will be a lifetime of pleasant walks.

This technique can be very effective, however the trainer (owner) has to be very consistent and very patient. Successful pulling episodes, from the dog’s perspective, can undo many “Be a Tree” conditionings.

It is also useful to recognize there are some situations where as the trainer and leader, it is best for you to pick up the pace to prevent pulling. For instance, you put a lot of time and effort into house training your dog and chances are he really needs to go and wants to quickly get to his favorite spot at the beginning of a walk.