Dogs pulling on their leash is often misinterpreted as dominance based behaviour, when the truth of the matter is, it’s much more simple than that. Your dog just wants to explore the different smells and whatever might catch his eye. At this moment, these things are much more stimulating and interesting than you are.
Other Reasons Why Huskies Pull On Leash
- Huskies and Malamutes were bread to pull, so it comes naturally to them. That’s why pulling them back, often results in the dog pulling even harder in the other direction
- Pulling gets him exactly what he wants, for you to walk more quickly to get him to where he desires.
- Some dogs pull merely because they have never been shown otherwise.
What Exactly Is Loose-Leash Walking?
Loose-leash walking, (LLW), is not the same as heeling. A HEEL requires the dog to walk with his nose at his owner’s leg at all times. While this procedure is necessary in obedience trials and it comes in handy when walking across a busy street or in a crowded area, it is too restricting for most casual strolls around the neighbourhood.
Long leash walking requires your dog to walk on one side of you, usually on your inside, away from the road. In the UK this would be on the left and the US on the right. This will also prevent the husky from switching sides, often causing the owner to trip. While LLW is not easy to master, it’s definitely one you should begin working on from a young age, the earlier the better. Start as you mean to go on.
Why LLW Is Challenging For Dog To Learn
- LLW is not a singular behaviour like SIT or DOWN. LLW is a group of behaviours that create a certain outcome that results in your dog not pulling at his leash. This makes the concept of LLW much harder to teach and to learn.
- The big outdoors is full of distractions. So while practicing LLW in your home is a good idea, once outside it becomes more difficult/
Stop The Pulling
As I said earlier, pulling on the leash accomplishes something for your snow dog, it gets them to where they want to be, faster. The key to stopping them from pulling, is to stop them from accomplishing it. You can either stop in your tracks or make a sudden turn in the direction you’re walking in, showing him that you’re leading the walk, not him. While this is sound, logical advice, you’d be amazed at how many people will instead yank at their huskies collar hoping one day he will magically stop pulling.
This corrective behaviour is key to prevent pulling. Because when the dog pulls, you either stop or change direction, he will never get to where he wants until the leash is loose. Don’t expect instant results, but eventually he will learn that to get what he wants, the leash must be loose.
Huskies are well known for needing motivation during training, and what better motivation than their favourite treat. Once the desired behaviour is achieved and he receives a treat, this acts as reinforcement that he’s doing the right thing. The treats also cause him to pay closer attention to you rather than the cat across the road or the leaf blowing in the wind.
How To Prevent Leash Pulling
- Never reward your dog’s leash pulling behaviour. What that means is that pulling must never get your dog to where he wants to go. Getting to go where he wants to go is the pay off for this behaviour.
- Always have consistent expectations around loose leash walking and be prepared to enforce them. Also everyone in the household who walks the dog needs to be on the same page with rules, expectations, and reinforcement of the rules. Dogs cannot generalize. For them it is always the rule or it is never the rule.
- Develop good leash walking habits early. The earlier you start proper leash training the better. Starting early ensures that you develop good behaviours and habits in your puppy or dog. Prevention of the problem is much easier than trying to fix the problem after it has been allowed to be an issue for a while. However, even if your dog has developed bad habits, it’s never too late to start leash training your dog. Just understand that re-training a dog takes more time and more patience.
Body Positioning For Loose Leash Walking
You want your dog to be walking on your inside, the opposite side from the road. Pick a side and be consistent, this will prevent the dog from constantly switching sides. Hold the leash in the hand opposite to the side of your dog e.g. if the dog is walking on your left, you want to hold the lead in your right hand. Adjust the leash so that theres no tension, you want to create a loose leash. The hand holding the leash shouldn’t move and should be held against the side of your waist. Keep in mind that is the hand moves, the length of the leash will be adjusted, which in-turn alters the boundaries.
Have your treats in the opposite side to your dog, otherwise they will cause way too much distraction. Remember the treats are only an incentive, ultimately you want him following you, not the treats.
Techniques for Stopping Leash Pulling on Walks
1. The Stop and Go Technique
Take your dog out for a walk but don’t get him all excited by saying “walkies”, just get up and take him for a walk. The moment he begins to pull, stop walking. Don’t wait 5 minutes before your arm gets sore, stop the second he starts to pull. Some dogs will naturally sit down when you stop, especially if you’e taught them to stop at roads, which is fine. Other dogs will pull for a little while, but will eventually stop. Once your dog has stopped pulling, then you can start walking again. There’s a good chance he will instantly pull, at which point you stop again. Bear in mind, for the early stages of training you’re not going to get anywhere fast. You’ll spend the majority of your time stopping and starting.
This very effectively communicates to your husky, that you are leading the walk, you are making the choices and pulling isn’t getting him to where he wants. He will slowly but surely learn that in order to get to where he wants, he must cooperate with you and the rules you’re setting in place. Rather than pulling getting him what he wants, following the rules will.
In this case, actions most definitely speak louder than words. There’s no need to talk to him during these sessions as that will only act as further distraction. You want his focus to be on the lesson.
For the most part, trainers have been encouraging dog owners to stop moving when their dog begins to pull on the leash. While this works very well for young puppies and for some dogs, it does not work for every dog. The longer a dog has been pulling owners around on their leashes the less effective the Stop and Go technique tends to be. For that reason I will also present other methods for teaching LLW. Use whatever method to which your dog best responds.
2.“Random Walk” Technique To Stop Your Dog From Pulling On The Leash
Once you have practiced the Stop and Go technique, you can add this variation to your training. But I advise first mastering the stop and go technique first.
You want to position your husky and leash in the exactly as outlined above, but rather than stopping when he pulls, you’re stopping randomly. Stop for 10 seconds and walk in a different direction, at a different pace to before. You can also alter how much slack is on the leash too. This trains your dog to not only walk on a loose leash, but also that he must be paying attention to you.
During the first few sessions you’re inevitably going to feel resistance from your dog as he pulls in the opposite direction, largely because he isn’t paying attention to you. But you’ll find he will eventually begin to watch you more intently.
Don’t let these training sessions become stressful, as your husky will undoubtably pick up on your tension, which will in turn effect his behaviour. Your progress will be much faster if you take your time and have fun. Remember plenty of treats for desired behaviours.
3. Advanced Walking With Reinforcements Added
Once your dog has mastered the LLW and has started to look to you for instruction, you can begin adding in the reinforcers of verbal cues, praise, and treats to mark the desirable behaviours.
Start by placing your dog at your left side, leash draped across your body and held in your right hand. Begin walking with the dog. If the dog starts to pull forward, use a sound like “Uh-uh” and stop moving forward. At this point your dog should stop moving forward. Immediately mark this behaviour with a cue of GOOD or YESSSSS and give a treat. Begin walking again, and when the leash has slack in it use the verbal cue GOOD or YESSSS to mark the behaviour. With lots of consistency and practice your dog learns that the only acceptable way to walk on a leash is without pulling. When you work with Snow Dogs allow more time for their strong willed determination to do as they please.
When you consistently follow these routines for Loose Leash Walking, you are delivering two clear messages to your dog:
- If the leash is tight because you are pulling, you do not get to go there.
- If the leash is loose, you get to walk, get praised, and you even get yummy treats for your continued co-operation.
It is a win – win situation for both of you. You get walk a dog that is control and your dog gets to go for a nice outing. No yelling, pulling, arguing back and forth, and no getting pulled down the street by your Snow Dog.
Tomorrow I will be talking about the merits of Tethering your dog to you to not only to reinforce LLW, but also as a means for him to watch you for instruction as well as establishing (or re-establishing) yourself as your dog’s leader.
As always, we welcome your comments, question, and stories about this topic. When we share our stories we may well be helping someone who is struggling with their Snow Dog.
Helping ALL Snow Dogs ….. one owner at a time.