Pulling power

Kip2

Pulling on the lead is a common occurrence, particularly if your dog hasn’t been trained from a young age. They like to get where they’re going as fast as possible so they pull you along at their pace. Not that you can blame them – walks are exciting and there’s so much for them to see and smell and explore; they just want to get there quickly. It takes patience and strong will to train your dog out of this behaviour. It’s even more problematic if your dog has pulled for years.

When my partner and I got our German Shepherd, Kip, from a rescue centre, they said she was a strong puller. An initial walk/drag to the park showed us just how strong – at 35kg she has a lot of power and she’d never been trained out of it. She’s 10 years old and our vet didn’t hold out much hope (something along the lines of old dog, new tricks) but we gave it a try.

For months we tried the standard training methods:

• We stopped walking every time she pulled and waited for a few seconds before setting off again.
• We walked her to heel on a short lead.
• We would turn around and walk the other way when she pulled to confuse her and show who was in charge.
• We’d praise and reward her when she didn’t pull.

These methods may work for you, and with a younger dog, but with Kip all training went out of the window if she spied a cat or fox. Eventually we looked for a training aid to help us. We’d always used a standard collar so the vet suggested a harness or Loopy (which goes across the face) to prevent her from straining her throat. There are lots of different options but we ordered a harness from a specialist training website, http://www.fordogtrainers.com, and it’s been amazing.

Since wearing the harness, Kip’s behaviour on the lead has improved dramatically. She doesn’t pull anymore and responds quickly to commands. The harness itself is easy to put on – it slips over your dog’s head and is fastened with a strap around their body. I’d recommend measuring your dog to make sure you buy a harness that fits well and is comfortable for them. It’s been so successful we’re wondering why we didn’t try it earlier to help combat the pulling – walking to the park is finally as enjoyable as it should be.

Now we just need to train her out of trying to chase anything that runs…

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