Puppies are natural born explorers!
They love to walk, sniff, and check out just about everything they encounter. Sometimes their nose gets the best of them and they catch a scent of something that makes them want to explore things further…this leads to pulling, if your pup is on a leash.
There are many tools that can help you and your pup walk well together. Some tools are amazing and some should never be used while walking your puppy. Here’s the scoop on the best tools to use and which ones to avoid!
The best tool set up is a regular 4-foot or 6-foot leash and flat buckle collar combo. The collar should be snug but not too tight and sit high on your pup's neck, just behind the ears while out walking, not low on their neck where their chest muscles are.
Keep in mind your pup wasn’t born wearing these accessories so they may require some training to teach them that a leash and collar mean good things happen, like walks or treats.
Collar and Leash:
Even with a regular leash and collar, you’ll still need to teach your puppy that staying at your side is best. They will need to be taught that close to you is the better place to be, not pulling out in front. Letting our pups lead the way leads to lots of pulling and potential dangers since you won’t be able to block any oncoming dog from racing up to your pup or you won’t be able to stop your pup from eating yucky things from the ground like garbage, decaying critters, and chewed up gum or cigarette butts. EWW, gross! Puppies find these things super tasty. 🙁
Rewarding for staying close:
We start teaching pups the “close to me is the best place to be” game inside where distractions are limited. Once they know that staying at your side is the better choice, we can practice walking outside in the driveway before taking a spin around the block where distractions are even higher.
Front Clip Harness:
If your pup is still pulling after teaching them how to walk with a regular collar on then you may want to look at using a front clip harness. This is better than the harnesses that clip on your pup’s back near the shoulder blades. Front clip harnesses redirect your puppy’s body back towards you if they start pulling ahead. Back clip harnesses don’t really deter your puppy from pulling since the point of connection is on the back and not the front. I won’t bore you with a physics lesson but trust me, you‘ll have better control with a front clip harness!
Some dogs still pull even with all the lessons on walking next to you and wearing a front clip harness so the next best tool would be a Gentle Leader®. It’s just like the head halter a horse wears, it’s not a muzzle. If you can control the head you can control the whole rest of the body. Head halters, like the Gentle Leader®, are excellent for strong pullers. **Note: there are a few steps you’ll need to take to teach your pup to wear a head halter. This is not a tool you’ll take out of the package and slap on your dog right before a long walk. Introduce the Gentle Leader as a game, grab the FREE Gentle Leader® game directions here!
Don’t use this tool!!
Many puppy owners love using retractable leashes because they think they are giving their puppy a better walk while using one. Retractable leashes are the worst tool to use to walk your puppy because they encourage your puppy to pull out ahead of you, and the mechanical components inside jam up easily. If you need to reel your puppy in fast to keep them away from danger..it will be too late. Retractable leashes are clunky and many have spooked pups to run in the road and get hit by a car after being pulled out of their owner's hand and dropped on accident. Retractable leashes cause serious rope burn to the back of your legs and ankles as well as the underside of your dog if they get tangled around either of you.
The safest and best place for your puppy to be is at your side, under your control. You can let your pup explore, but allow that on your terms, and by making an association with a word or phrase like “go check it out.”
How Many Minutes Should You Walk:
The rule of thumb for walking puppies is 5 min of walking for every month of age. Dogs should go on at least 2 walks a day to help them release their pent up energy. Most dogs over 8 months and over 25 lbs. need at least 45 min walks each, if not more. Pups under 8 months and under 25 lbs. should go on at least 2 walks a day for 30 minutes each, if not more.
Which tools have you tried to help your dog walk next to you and stop pulling?