Pulling on the Leash

We've all seen people flash past whose dogs were clearly taking them for a walk rather than the other way around. Dogs that pull constantly on the leash can turn an enjoyable stroll into a shoulder-wrenching marathon. As with other forms of misbehavior, bad leash manners are your dog's way of saying something. It's important to discover why your dog is pulling on the leash, so that you can find the right solution.

"I'm in charge here." Dogs who pull on the leash have somehow gotten they idea that they, not you, are in control. This usually occurs in families where the people haven't firmly established that they -- not their dog -- are the ones calling the shots.

"Gotta check this out." From a dog's point of view, anything new is intriguing, and anything intriguing is worth investigating. Sights and sounds that mean nothing to people serve as magnets to dogs.

"Gotta get that squirrel." Some dogs strain at the leash whenever they see a smaller animal nearby. Dogs used to be predators, and their instincts tell them to respond to movements by going forward themselves.

"Let's get where we're going as fast as we can." Enthusiasm isn't just a human emotion. When dogs know they're on the way to something exciting, they may pull on the leash in an attempt to get there sooner.

"I'm so excited." Sometimes when a dog isn't taken out for a walk on a regular basis, she'll be so excited every time she does go for a walk that she'll always pull ahead. The best way to avoid this is to take your dog for a walk every day, even if you don't need to walk her for bathroom breaks.

When this isn't practical, arrange for a friend, neighbor, or professional dog walker to take your dog for a walk. This way your dog won't be so excited and will be less inclined to pull ahead.

Regardless of why dogs pull on the leash, the underlying message is the same: They feel that whatever is happening around them or what they're feeling at the moment is more important than worrying about you.

To curtail their penchant for pulling, you have to distract them from whatever it is that's grabbing their attention and get them to focus on you and you alone, says Shirley Sullivan, president of PR Dog, a training and dog day care center in Falls Church, Virginia.

There's an easy way to do this, says Sullivan. "If your dog lunges ahead of you while you're walking, immediately turn around and walk in the opposite direction. This will surprise your dog -- and dogs generally don't like such surprises."

After a few weeks of subjecting your dog to these unexpected turns of events, she will begin watching you so she won't be surprised the next time. And the more she watches and keeps pace with you, the more pleasant your walks are going to be.

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