Stop leash pulling, start heeling? Which collar or harness?

First, I want you to know, there is no collar or harness I use or know of that will stop a dog from pulling on the leash.

Let’s get that straight right away, and whilst we are here know that there ARE training aids that will REDUCE the pulling you feel, but the dog is still pulling somewhat.

Without splitting hairs here, I don’t teach dogs “not to pull”. I teach them where TO walk and how TO walk.

There is a significant difference in my mind, but with most people,  they are trying to teach their dog something they cannot reinforce (strengthen).

You can’t reinforce behaviour that is NOT. There is no where to apply the reinforcement.

So, Which collar or harness? Well that is not easy to answer, but when you see an advertisement for some gizmo that “stops pulling”, know that someone is trying to sell you a dream.

Stop leash pulling

How do training aids help?

A Training aids purpose is to “aid training”. It is going to help me motivate a dog to change their behaviour from pulling to heeling (or walking by my side).

I personally do not use no pull harnesses, front attach harnesses, head halters, harnesses etc that tighten on the dog when the dog pulls etc etc, no gimmicks or “fix alls” for me.

Puppies I teach with a clicker or marker as they have not yet “learned to pull” on leash, so no history of pulling to get to rewards to counter train.

But for adults I will often use a collar such as a Martingale, Necktech, Prong Collar or Remote Collar to MOTIVATE the dog with subtle pressure to help the dog move to the desired position. You can see most of these here.

This is NOT how I teach performance heel work, performance heel work is a very different exercise to loose leash walking.

Stop leash pulling
Performance heel work is very different to loose leash walking

So, which one is best for your dog to stop leash pulling?

Here is the best advice I can give you, book a lesson with a GOOD trainer, a person who not only can train your dog but can teach you as well.

Buying endless training aids, gimmicks, harnesses and or wandering along with a handful of food is never going to get you anywhere with a pulling dog.

In fact, your likely to reduce your likeliness of ever finding success if you experiment with many training aids and processes that don’t work.

There is a stepped process to teaching, training and proofing loose leash walking and this process is a little more complicated when your dog has already learned to pull.

My dog pulls like a steam train

Dogs like this have learned to ignore the discomfort that comes with pulling into a collar, they have opposition reflex, the desire to pull against pulling pressure, which motivates them on an instinctual level to pull.

There is the goal of getting to an anticipated reward location like the park, other dogs, people or the next tree to mark in some cases, so you may have a few conditioned hurdles to deal with your steam train.

A good trainer will have your dog walking on a loose leash in minutes, yes, your dog, any dog.

This does not mean the dog is trained though, it will mean the teaching phase has begun and once completed, training can continue.

Training is rehearsing the exercise under increasing levels of distraction until the exercise is solid.

Training needs to be planned out, broken down into teaching the components of the exercise and then carried out with a plan.

Teaching needs to be done in an environment that is not too overstimulating for the dog or too distracting or the dog will be distracted and may appear hard to train, or have you believe your dog is untrainable or stupid.

Stop leash pulling
Both dogs described as impossible to walk around other dogs

At K9Pro we have a purpose built, indoor training room which is sound proofed, well lit, has no windows and no distractions, so the dogs can learn much easier with less stress and confusion.

Once the exercise has been established, we can add planned distractions and bring those into the room and overcome these too. Then head into the street and work past life’s distractions too.

Yes, we can train in a busy environment on the street, but it is your dog that will be feeling more pressure to overcome distraction, so we prefer to give your dog the best chance in our facility.

We built this indoor training room to give more difficult dogs better chances, better options and a chance to work an exercise and learn it clean.

But prong collars and e collars are harsh and cruel

Well in fact they are just training aids and if the dog is experiencing high levels of pain or is frightened or stressed, then this is not the fault of the training aid, but the way it is being used.

I have trained tens of thousands of dogs and have used many prong collars and remote collars, whilst loving dog owners watched on, and I have never had ONE person see any pain, discomfort, cruelty or any reason to remove the collar, but what they commonly DID see was a dog that was working better than ever before.

Imagine if I said, “I don’t use food rewards because I don’t want to give my dog 10 kilos of food every reward”.

Everyone would fall on the floor laughing at me and tell me that I can use just little pieces of food, but when using a prong collar you have to use excessive levels of pain? WHY?

Small leash pops, well timed and in the right environment can be super effective without any pain, cruelty or undue stress or discomfort.

Not all dogs will work well for food, some are simply uninterested, some do not prioritise food and some simply become overstimulated by food and this makes training a relaxed loose leash walk, range from difficult to impossible.

Stop leash pulling
K9Pro Training room – your dog deserves our best

But I prefer to use more “positive” methods?

What I prefer is to have success at training dogs, my preference in what equipment, training aids, food the dog likes etc is of little relevance to many dogs, so my preferences are quite irrelevant really.

Why wouldn’t I use a method or training aid that will give the dog the best chances of success?

Here is something to think about. You come to me as a client and you have a dog you want trained, my answer to you is that: –

I have Malinois and they are amazing at everything and that you need to get a Malinois.

It is against my policy, belief, morals, ethics and preferences to train any other breed, I don’t like it, I prefer Malinois.

I guess most people would walk out the door, but people go to trainers all the time that TELL them what type of training they must do.

They TELL them they HAVE TO use food only; they TELL them that they CAN’T use other than what the trainer prefers.

If you need help with your dog, and you go to a trainer, it is YOUR dog and you should evaluate what the trainer says, does and choose for yourself if it all makes sense and is working for you and your dog.

This includes if you train with me or my staff here. We will explain what we will do before we do anything, we will explain why it works, how it works and then show you it working.

There are no tricks, secrets, hidden meanings, we want you to be successful and we want your best friend to enjoy walks without pulling.

If you were a good trainer, you could train without training aids

This is actually a good point, and I can, but often when a person comes to me, they are NOT good trainers, and don’t really want to be good trainers, they just want their dog to behave better, so training aids often fill the gap between great trainer and pet owner.

The collar, harness, leash, gimmick, food, clicker, target etc will not mean much without timing, understanding, the ability to break down the exercise, the ability to reward effectively, the ability to lay out distractions in a hierarchy to the dog and place them into the training at points at which the dog CAN over come them.

Those things are all part of being a good trainer, when you have a good trainer, the equipment is not that important.

About SteveK9Pro

Steve Courtney is a Nationally Accredited Canine Behaviour Specialist, Obedience Trainer, Law Enforcement Dog Trainer and ANKC Breeder. Steve has been training dogs all his life and in these articles he shares with you his experience...

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