Daily walks are one of the many pleasures of owning a dog. You and your fur-buddy hitting the open trail together, getting some exercise, and enjoying the sights and sniffs along the way.
Unless you live right out in the sticks, walking your dog calmly on a leash is an essential part of dog ownership – for your safety and the safety of your dog.
But many dog owners will also know that training a dog to walk nicely on the leash is easier said than done.
Most dogs pull on the leash because they are just super excited about going for a walk!
Many pups rank their daily walk right up there with dinner time in terms of excitement and anticipation levels.
Keen to get where they are going, whether it be the dog park or a trail, many dogs will throw themselves into their collar or harness or collar, dragging their unfortunate owner along behind them.
Any dog can become a champion puller, but the most common culprits are very active, working breeds of dog. They're the ones that have been bred over generations to have high energy and stamina.
Border Collies, Spaniels, Labradors, Huskies are all known to throw themselves into life and their daily walk at breakneck speed!
A leash ‘reactive' dog is quite different from a dog who just pulls because of pent up energy and enthusiasm.
Leash reactive dogs tend to be nervous characters who have missed out on proper socialization as puppies.
Being on the leash and unable to run away from things that scare them leads them to react by lunging or pulling towards any threat with aggression.
It's a serious issue that can cause anxiety for the owner too. The owner's fear and nervousness transmits down the leash to the dog, and that can make things even worse.
Leash reactivity is unfortunately reinforced if the dog's aggression succeeds in making the scary thing (another dog, for instance) moves away.
If your dog has severe leash reactivity issues, then you and will need to seek help from a professional dog trainer.
There are some real and serious dangers to having a dog that pulls on the leash, especially if your dog is large and powerful.
Your dog could easily pull you into a road in heavy traffic or cause you injury to your arm or shoulder when lunging at something.
Pulling can also cause long term physical problems to your dog, such as neck and spinal injuries.
In an ideal world, every puppy would get early leash training. Starting young is the best and easiest way to ensure your pup learns good leash manners.
Training an adult dog to walk calmly on the leash can be a lot of work, especially if the behavior has become ingrained.
The best and most effective method is to stop and wait every time your dog pulls. Only move on again once your pup is by your side and sitting still.
Eventually, your dog will get frustrated and pick up the idea that forward movement is only possible when he walks on a loose leash.
However, it may take many weeks or even months, and everyone who walks the dog needs to stick to the rules. You'll need the patience of a saint to make progress!
If training is going badly or taking longer than you want, you will no doubt start looking for gear that can help solve the pulling problem, at least in the short term, while training continues.
A regular dog harness with a simple back clip won't help at all if your dog is in the habit of pulling.
Throwing his weight into a harness may make it even easier for him to drag you along than when he is wearing a collar and lead.
Special no-pull dog gear such as harnesses can change the balance of forces in your favor.
There are a lot of different options out there for training harnesses that will effectively stop your dog pulling while also being humane.
Here are the major types of no-pull harness available and our recommended products for each.
When a dog pulls while wearing a regular harness, he leans into the harness using his forward momentum. Switching the location of the leash attachment to a front loop means that instead of going forwards, he gets pulled round to face you!
It can be a little confusing at first, but dogs soon learn that walking at your speed without pulling is the only way to achieve any forward motion.
One drawback of these front fastening harnesses is that it makes it easier for dogs to grab and chew on their leads! The fit of the harness needs to be good and snug to ensure there is no chafing.
Best no-pull front clip dog harness:
PetSafe Easy Walk Dog Harness is a simple but effective design. The patented Martingale loop on the front chest piece helps provides relaxed control and prevents twisting
Side clip harnesses work in a similar way to the front clip harnesses, with the same result of your dog getting turned around to face you whenever he starts to pull.
Best no-pull side clip harness:
Our recommendation for a side clip harness is the Ancol Stop Pulling Dog Harness and Lead Set. There is a clip-on each side so you can switch over depending on which side you want your dog to walk.
Some front clip harnesses also provide a back clip for flexibility, and so can switch to a back clip once your dog has got the hang of things! It's also possible to attach two separate leashes for increased control.
Best no-pull front and back clip harness:
Our top pick for a front clip and back clip harness is the RuffWear Front Range Dog Harness. It's got some seriously comfy padding, is lightweight, and comes in a range of bright colors.
These harnesses work on the same basis as a classic training technique, which entails a rope being tied around the dog's torso and tightened every time he tries to pull.
A torso harness applies gentle pressure around your dogs' torso just behind his front legs. The sensation or squeeze is usually enough to check your dog and stop him pulling.
You should only need to use this type of harness until your dog learns to walk nicely on his leash.
Best Torso Harness:
A popular and great value torso harness is the Sporn Non-Pull Mesh Harness. The straps are wrapped in sherpa sleeves for extra comfort.
For serious pullers, you may want to try walking your dog in a combination training harness. It combines the effectiveness of a front clip AND a clip attached to a martingale that applies pressure around the torso area.
Best no-pull combination harness:
The 2 Hounds Design Freedom No Pull Harness with Leash is a very effective combination harness. The dual leash can be attached to both the front clip on the harness and the back clip, which connects to a torso martingale.
The Halti No-Pull Harness is another good combination harness that features lots of comfy padding.
As a rule, most of these harnesses need to fit quite snugly on your dog. But no two harnesses are exactly alike, so make sure you read and follow the manufacturer's instructions carefully to ensure a good fit.
Poorly fitting harnesses may cause your dog harm or be ineffective.
A handy feature to increase your dog's visibility and safety while you are both out walking at night.
You want to be sure that the materials your dog's harness is made from will be robust and reliable in all scenarios. This is especially important if you own a big, powerful breed of dog.
If the product has a generous warranty period, that's usually a good sign of quality.
Purchasing a no pull dog harness with a handle is a sensible idea. A sturdy handle built into the harness for quick and secure close control can come in very useful in certain situations.
A headcollar fits around your dog's nose and behind his ears. The lead is attached under the chin, and makes the nose and head loop tighten if your dog tries to pull.
Dogs can't lean into the headcollar the way they can a collar or regular harness.
It can take a while for a dog to get used to a headcollar, so introduce it to him gradually.
Let him associate it with a reward as you build up the amount of time he wears it each time you put it on.
The fit of a headcollar should be quite snug. Too tight or too loose is a problem as it may be uncomfortable or not work as intended.
You should NEVER jerk or snap the leash when your dog is wearing a headcollar.
The straps put pressure on sensitive bones in your dog's face, and you could do some serious damage.
Some dogs never get used to a headcollar. If this is the case with your dog, think about choosing a humane no-pull harness instead.
On her Positively.com website, Dog Trainer Victoria Stillwell suggests that headcollars are the best tool to use for very leash reactive dogs.
For the average enthusiastic puller, a front clip harness is considered a better option.
The Halti Headcollar made by The Company of Animals is one of the best dog headcollars around. The noseband comes fully padded for comfort, and it incorporates an additional safety link to your dog's regular collar.
In your hunt for anti-pulling devices, you'll no doubt come across suggestions for prong collars, choke collars, and shock collars.
All these devices rely on causing discomfort or even pain to your dog and need to be avoided.
Positive reinforcement (i.e., rewarding good behavior) is a much more effective training method.