How to Put an End to Pulling and Enjoy Walking Your Primitive Dog
Walking your Shiba, Basenji, Akita, Carolina Dog, New Guinea Singing Dog, etc, doesn’t have to be a hassle. I know the picture well. Either their nose is in the grass trying to find every critter hidy hole. Or they embrace their inner freight train and pull you with the strength of a much larger ancestor. But this doesn’t have to be your normal evening stroll. You also don’t need fancy complicated equipment. In fact, I want you to get rid of most of your equipment.
Start with a flat or martingale collar. If your dog is practiced at backing out of a collar, look into a harness. Harness Lead makes a leash that converts into an escape resistant harness. This is my favorite for the best Houdini. For dogs with any kind of throat sensitivity or gagging and coughing, also go with a harness. By the way, it is a myth that harnesses encourage pulling. Yes dogs who are trained to pull wear harnesses. BUT they are just that – trained. If you teach your dog to pull in a harness, they will pull. If you teach them to walk nicely, they will walk nicely. You get what you reinforce. So let’s put an end to the myths and legends of the dog world instead focus on what will bring you success and your dog, comfort.
Speaking of comfort, throw out your prong collars, slip/choke chains, Starmark collars, and any other training collar that is supposed to “prevent” or “stop” puling. For any training tool to actually stop or prevent pulling is has to cause discomfort. For a primitive dog who knows what they want, that equals a significant amount of discomfort. Also remember that these are sensitive dogs. Delivering pain to the neck is not something they understand. And to debunk another myth;
It doesn’t simulate a mother’s bite.
You are not their mother.
You are not a dog.
Neither is the leash.
Also throw out your retractable leashes as well or at least only save them for dog sports training or camping or something like that. For daily walks they will ruin your training. The reason for this is that the leash maintains constant light tension on the dog. We want the dog to maintain a loose leash, that can’t happen if the leash is always taut. If you are determined to keep using a retractable leash then stop reading now because every day you use it you will undo your training.
If you’re ready to make a lasting change and enjoy walking your dog, let’s just grab 2 additional things; a 10-15 foot long leash (or 2 6 foot leashes clipped together) and poop bags (because poop happens). *Treats are recommended but optional.
Now let’s get started!
Step 1: The Stop
Find a wide open area to start. Either a field, empty parking lot, schoolyard, sport field, etc. Attached the long leash to your dog and stand still. Let your dog get used to the length of the leash. If they attempt to pull you stay in place and do not pull back on the leash. Once your dog has had a chance to sniff and look around, take up any slack in the leash and hold the tension steady. It should be enough tension to hold your dog relatively still without pulling them to you. If your dog moves to you, praise them and give them a treat. If your dog moves to the side just rotate your body and adjust the tension. Practice this slow gentle stop for about 5-10 minutes until you are used to creating the correct amount of pressure to pause your dog and your dog is comfortable with it. If they insist on pulling stand still, strong, and be patient. Do not verbally or physically correct them. No ehh!, tsk!, hiss, or leash jerks.
Step 2: Move up
Now when you stop your dog, move toward them, maintaining the gentle tension on the leash. This should look like a hand over hand motion down the leash. Do not pull your dog to you. You are moving to them. Make sure you maintain enough tension that your dog does not more forward. When you get to your dog greet them and praise them. If your dog attempts to try and escape release 2-3 feet of leash and try again with less leash tension.
Once you have greeted and praised your dog, let off the leash tension and let your dog move around. Prevent them from going near traffic of other hazards but let them move around again.
Repeat 3-4 times.
Notes for future training sessions and in new locations: repeat Step 1 once and immediately move into Step 2.
Step 3: Go
At this point you will have allowed your dog to move around and then moved hand over hand down the leash to them each time you have stopped them. Now it is time to add motion on your part with the leash slack. Pick a direction and start walking.
When your dog heads out in front of you, slow them to a Stop like in Step 1. Move to them as in Step 2, and then release and keep walking while feeding out leash slack for your dog. Continue to stop your dog, move to them and then let the leash slowly go slack again. If at any point your dog chooses to stay close to use, praise and reward them.
Step 4: Practice
On all walks practice the stop, move up, and go regardless of leash length. Use shorter leashes in areas with sidewalks and roads, where longer leashes are not safe. Be sure to visit more open areas to practice with your longer leash at least 3 times a week. After 2-4 weeks your dog will be automatically pausing at the leash pressure and waiting for you. If they stop automatically you can let the leash go slack before you reach them. Reward them.
Special Consideration for Reactive and Fearful Dogs: This method works fabulously with reactive and fearful dogs. However if your dog has a bite history, please use a muzzle at all times when training around the public. Because of the amount of leash being used your dog can easily reach other dogs and people who may be in the vicinity. However in combination with a muzzle many dog’s reactions diminish significantly and learn to ignore triggers all together.
Send us your progress! We love seeing your training. You can send pictures and videos to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will be happy to help you with any problems as well.