top of page
  • Writer's pictureHannah Johnson

Stop My Dog Pulling On Lead!

Loose Lead Walking

Okay, loose lead walking! Now I know this is a tough one, and a super common struggle with many owners. And the first thing that I want to address here is why, why is it such a common struggle. Well there are a few things that can play into this, but a big part regardless of your dogs personality is something called the opposition reflex. The best way to describe the opposition reflex in my mind is, if someone pushes on your shoulders what do you do? Do you fall down immediately? Or are you inclined to lean into the push to help prevent you from falling down? Naturally when something pushes on us, we push back. This is the opposition reflex, it’s natural and it’s a very useful thing! So often as humans we think that dogs just shouldn’t pull on a lead and that pulling on lead is a struggle. Hopefully this will help you to see that pulling is natural, go we have to go against the dogs natural instinct to teach them not to pull the lead. There are also areas of a dogs personality, those concepts, which can affect this too. Let’s dive a bit deeper into those.


The first concept is proximity, now as a reminder, a dog who has good proximity is a dog who wants to stay close to you, they want to be in your space in your bubble. They are really happy hanging out super close to you. A dog with poor proximity is a dog who maybe keeps their distance, maybe that dog who plays fetch but doesn’t quite bring the ball all the way back, or they recall but want to evade being put on the lead so they hang back a few feet away from you. A dog with really bad proximity is a dog who will go off miles and would rather be further from you than nearby. Proximity is a powerful thing when is comes to walking on a lead. A dog with good levels of proximity is a dog that is much less likely to pull on the lead.

Games that help with proximity are games where your dog is close to you and in your space, for example Proximity Vortex, middle, magic hand, leg weaves, funder, typhoon, tornado, orientation game, proximity zone, go commando etc. There are lots we can play but those are always some of my favourites!


The next concept I work on a lot to help with loose lead walking is disengagement, specifically disengagement from the environment. A lot of the time we find our dogs pulling to get to a specific goal. Whether that goal is a squirrel, or a cat, maybe another dog, a person, a car, a jogger, a good sniff on the tree over there or the bin over here. So many things in the environment call to our dogs, and what we want them to do is disengage from those things.

Games that will help with disengagement are magic hand, middle, mouse, A to B, attention noise, toy switch, boomerang and food prison.


Another concept we want to help with loose lead walking is calmness. The calmer your dog is, the less likely they are to pull on lead. Now this doesn’t just mean outside the house, this actually transfers to inside the house too. Calmness, or a lack of calmness, is at the root of so many behaviour struggles. A dog that is calm is a dog that is much more likely to be able to make the great choices that you are shaping them to make. Calmness is that bucket being at a low level of fullness. Calmness is king!

The first thing I want you to do to grown calmness in your dog is to check out the calmness triad video in this group.

Games that will help with calmness are mouse, aeroplane feeding, reward nothing, scatter feeding, head low, chin target, figure 8 walking and the crazy lady game to name a few.

Engagement & Focus

The last concept which I find is a primary focus for loose lead walking is handler engagement & focus. Engagement is that ability to engage with you when they are not already engaged, and focus is the ability to hold that engagement for a longer period. If you can get your dog to DISENGAGE from the environment as we talked about above, and to ENGAGE with you we’re onto a winner! But it’s not always easy holding that focus so we need to build that too!

My favourite games for engagement are paint the town red, magic hand, leg weaves, eye contact, two paws on and orientation dash.

Then the games for focus are very similar but what you want to do is extend the time you’re playing them! Always start these games off nice and short, but over time as your dogs ability to engage improves you can then start testing their focus a bit more just by playing for a little longer. And I really do mean a little initially, just 10s more can be a fair bit for some dogs!

Now I want to jump back to that Opposition Reflex, what can we do to help that? We can teach them a game called giving into leash pressure!! I have posted a video of this up in the group, but this is the best game and usually the first one I will jump to when we have loose lead walking struggles (unless we have a dog that cannot engage with you or disengage from the environment at all). You can start practicing this at home in your living room, dining room, bedroom, garden. Anywhere low distraction! And as they get better at this you’ll start to see them applying this out on walks!

6 views0 comments


bottom of page