We knew you’d ask this eventually. Those terrible pulls on the lead made you land here, didn’t they? How to stop puppy pulling on lead is one of the most frequent concerns new puppy owners have, and we’ll be happy to guide you through it. 

Going for walks in the park will simply be part of your daily routine now, so you’ll want to keep the headaches (armaches and backaches too) from your puppy pulling on the lead to a minimum. Pulling on the lead isn’t great for anyone – it can cause a myriad of physical problems for owners, even if your puppy is small; but if they’re a larger breed of puppy then you’re really in trouble. It’s also not so much fun for your puppy either, whether they’re pulling into a harness or into a collar, both can cause some damage to their growing bodies, causing them to choke, cough or have a sore neck or underarms. Pulling also means they’re not feeling relaxed – pretty essential if you’re looking for a relaxing walk in the park, right?  

puppy smiling in the park
Photo by Krisztian Tabori on Unsplash

In this article, going to cover all good stuff about your puppy pulling on lead:

  • Why do puppies pull on leads?
  • How to stop a puppy from pulling on the lead in 5 easy steps
  • What not to do if your puppy is pulling on the lead

Let’s pull ourselves together then. The only acceptable kind of pulling. 

Why do puppies pull on leads?

When we think about how to stop puppy pulling on lead, we first need to look at why they do it in the first place.

Puppies pull on the lead for the following reasons:

Puppies pull on the lead because it works

Plain and simple. Pulling gets anyone to where they want to go faster, so it’s only normal your puppy finds it pretty great. The more they pull, the quicker they’ll get to the flapping unknowing pigeon eating leftover chips, so the behaviour becomes very reinforcing! This is why it’s really important never to let your puppy pull you. We don’t want them jumping on the pigeon. 

Because they haven’t been trained to do what we want them to do

We know how it goes. So often, we go out on that first puppy walk without a second thought about what we’re going to do when we get there. Then, we allow our puppy to pull, and they learn that it’s fine to pull on the lead. And that’s when the problems start. 

To skip over these shenanigans, we need to take the time before our puppies go out for walks to teach them loose lead walking indoors, and then make sure we follow it outside too.

Because they feel overwhelmed

Puppies will often pull away from the thing that’s scaring them. Does your puppy pull you to get home from the park? This is because they’re trying to get back to their safe place as fast as possible.

It’s not because your puppy is dominant

No, your puppy isn’t dominant or trying to dominate you. Actually, dominance isn’t even a thing, so you can scratch that whole idea out. 

How to stop a puppy from pulling on the lead

Right, now for the nitty-gritty: How to stop a puppy from pulling on the lead. That’s all you want to know, we bet. 

Well, here’s some good news for you: getting your puppy to stop pulling on the lead is actually really easy. We see your eyes rolling, but really, it’s not as difficult as you think it might be. All you need is:

  • The right equipment.
  • To reward your puppy when they’re in the right place and when they’re walking nicely
  • Stop completely if they pull
  • Remember to have tons of patience, time to practise and to be persistent. 

Alright, listen up, here’s how you do it all: 

Choose the right lead walking equipment

To stop your puppy from pulling on lead you’re going to need:

  • A Harness – one that has no moving parts, and isn’t tight or constricting on your puppy if they move a certain way. If the words ‘anti or no-pull’ pop up on the packaging, better to stay away from them. These kinds of harnesses often rely on body pressure to stop a puppy from pulling, which is what we don’t want. Our favourite harnesses for puppies at the moment are these True Love padded harnesses (great for larger breeds) and the Puppia Sport Harness
  • A 2 Metre Training Lead – we have a few favourites in our best Best Puppy Training Leashes article, feel free to pop by for a visit. 
  • A collar – a harness is optional, but even if you do have your puppy on a harness, it’s a legal requirement to have a collar and ID tag on your dog in many countries. Don’t want to get in trouble with the paw patrol.

Reward your puppy for being in the right place

Before you actually put the harness and lead on your puppy, you’ll want to first teach your puppy about the magic circle. The ‘magic circle’ is the area where being somewhere near your left or right foot is going to get them tons and tons of rewards. 

To start, you’ll want a naked pup – free of collars and harnesses. You’ll also want to do it indoors so that there are few distractions and so it’s safe for your puppy to be off lead.

Here’s what you do:

  • Start with super high value treats at hand, and reward your puppy for being next to you when you’re standing still.
  • Start to move forward just one step at a time and reward them for following you.
  • Start to extend the number of steps you do before your reward.
  • Try it with their harness and lead on while you’re indoors at first, and when you’re feeling confident you can head out to the garden.
  • When you take them outside, you’ll need to reward them more frequently as there are so many distractions. Can’t blame them – the outdoors is wonderful.
  • Change direction to keep them interested in following you, and try to keep them next to you so they don’t start to pull ahead.

Oh, and lots of practice. Improvement won’t happen overnight, but it will eventually. Keep your head high!

If they pull on the lead you MUST stop 

To stop your puppy pulling on lead they must learn that pulling doesn’t work. Having you stop walking will be key for this! On another note, if your puppy pulls on the lead, it means we’ve potentially not rewarded them often enough, so we need to make ourselves more interesting than the environment. 

Any new location is going to bring about lots of different sights, sounds and smells that will be distracting and alluring for your puppy, so they’ll want to get to them quickly! This means pulling will be likely to happen. If it does,  Remember to stop, wait for them to look at you and loosen off on the lead and only then walk forward. If they pull again, you might need to change direction or reward more frequently when going towards whatever it is they want. 

puppy pulling on the lead outdoors
Photo by Mitchell Orr on Unsplash

You’ll need patience to stop your puppy pulling on lead

We are not going to sugarcoat this for you. You’re going to need bags of patience! We know how frustrating it can be to get yanked around every now and then, but patience will really get you places. You’ll also need to be consistent with not allowing any pulling and with doing a LOT of lead walking training, not just walks to the park or fun times with friends! Puppies really do need training sessions rather than ‘walks’.

We know you got this! Just remember every time you feel like quitting – one extra training session means one step closer to walks in the park actually feeling like walks in the park. 

Our step-by-step lead walking training programme inside our Zigzag puppy training app, it’s fabulous and personalised to whatever level you’re at. Why not download it today and have a go? You can also access our team of Zigzag puppy experts who’ll be on hand to help you with any problems you have with lead walking or anything else!

What not to do when your puppy’s pulling on the lead

Yep – there are all sorts of things new puppy owners do that they shouldn’t, to help stop their puppy from pulling on the lead

Don’t use any pain to train your puppy

Choke chains, Slip leads, tightening harnesses, prongs and E-collars or many of the other barbaric devices which are sold as anti-pull equipment to stop puppy pulling on lead are big no-no’s. There isn’t any good reason to use pain to train your puppy. No clue why people try to go down that path…let’s just stay off it.

Don’t allow them to pull ahead

As I’m sure you know, puppies are very scent orientated. A new smell can trigger their clever noses and set them off into a sniffing adventure, leaving you trying your hardest to get their attention.  Your safest bet is to try and keep them next to you with lots of rewards for being in the right place, and to use food to lure them back to where you want them to be.

Don’t allow them to pull ‘sometimes’

A variable rate of reinforcement is one of the best ways to train your puppy. This fancy term means that they only get rewarded SOMETIMES, so they get hooked on wanting to try harder each time for their reward. 

Consistency is key as well. If it’s difficult to stay consistent 100% of the time, it can be useful to use two different styles of harness:

  • One which you can just get on about your day with, 
  • Another which you’re ALWAYS going to be teaching your puppy how to not pull on the lead. 

This way, your puppy will feel the difference and know how to behave accordingly. 

Don’t go too fast too soon and rush training

Your puppy may be really good at focussing on you indoors and walking beautifully next to you, but outside is another story! With loads of things to see and people to meet, it can be challenging to want to focus on a training session. To help them out, do remember to reward them with stinky, smelly treats frequently when you go to different places to keep their focus on you as much as possible.

Don’t let your puppy pull on lead towards other dogs

This point is really important! Not only will it help prevent some unwanted accidents, angry looks, or awkward encounters, but letting your puppy drag you over to another dog or a person to ‘say hello’ will become something they expect to happen each time, and will get frustrated when they can’t do it anymore. 

Don’t give up hope!

If there’s anything about this article we want you to remember, it’s probably to not lose hope! Knowing how to stop a puppy pulling on lead and actually coming to achieve it will take some time, but Practice, Patience and Persistence will be what mostly gets you there. 

puppy on a lead sitting outside
Photo by Anders Ipsen on Unsplash

Trust us, we’re not pulling your leg. 

Alright, we’ll stop with all this now. We truly hope you’ve found this article on how to stop a puppy pulling on the lead useful and the days of pulling fly away slowly. But while you’re still here, why not have a look at our Puppy recall training article for when you’re starting to get pretty good at lead walking or hop over to the Zigzag guiding principles to find out more about how the app works. Shameless promo? Maybe. But you won’t regret it; that we also know.