When taking your pooch for a walk, you may find yourself in an all-too-familiar situation: you attempt to take a leisure stroll, only to be dragged along by your pup, who is determined to explore as much of the world as possible. Not only is that frustrating, but it can also be dangerous.
So why do dogs pull on the leash?
It may come as no surprise, but there are actually several reasons why your canine is so eager to take the lead.
#1: Dogs Are Faster Than Humans
Dogs are naturally faster than humans, which makes them more likely to take the lead during walks, especially if you have a large dog breed.
#2: Excitement and Curiosity
Dogs have over 100 million scent receptors, compared to our measly 400. This means they can interact with the world and explore their environment in ways we simply can’t. And this heightened sense of smell enables them to pick up on exciting new scents from far away, stimulating their curiosity and leading them to pull so they can get to that new smell as quickly as possible!
#3: They Have a Strong Prey Drive
Many breeds of dogs were bred for hunting, so instinctually, they may be inclined to follow scents or chase after animals. So if your pup catches a whiff of the squirrel or rabbit they just saw, they may take off in that direction to go after it and drag you along in the process!
#4: Opposition Reflex
Another reason why your pup may pull on the leash is due to something called an opposition reflex. It’s an instinctual reaction that kicks in when dogs feel physical pressure. So if you pull on the leash, your pooch will instinctively react by pulling back in the opposite direction instead of stopping or willingly returning to your side. And to put it simply, the tighter the leash, the harder your canine will pull.
#5: Lack of Training or Poor Leash Etiquette
No one is born knowing how to do everything or if behaving in a certain way is inappropriate. Our furry friends are no different! So if your pup has never been trained on how to walk on a leash or taught proper leash etiquette, chances are they will pull to explore their surroundings. Because they have no idea what behavior is expected of them while out for a stroll, and they simply don’t understand that pulling is bad.
#6: It's Rewarding!
How so, you ask? Well, when your dog pulls on the leash, you give in to their demands by allowing them to explore new scents, sights, or whatever caught their attention. Unfortunately, while this may seem like a quick solution, you’ve inadvertently reinforced the bad behavior.
They learn that every time they pull, you move in the direction of their choice, and pulling equals rewards (gets them closer to their goal, like that squirrel, or if it enables them to find something exciting, like a new smell).
They basically get to do what they want. And the result? Your canine will instinctively reach for the leash’s end and pull every time you take them for walks. This behavior will become increasingly reinforced, leading to more and more episodes of leash pulling.
It’s important to remember that while leash pulling is frustrating and you may feel overwhelmed when your pup starts dragging you down the street, it isn’t an intentional act of disobedience. Instead, it’s driven by instinct and, of course, because of a lack of training. And it is something that needs to be nipped in the bud as soon as possible before it becomes a hard-to-break habit.
Note that there are training tools you can use to help keep your pup from pulling on the leash, such as a no-pull harness or a head collar, though they won’t teach your pup leash manners. They only offer a temporary solution.
To really get your pup under control and prevent them from dragging you around, you’ll have to provide your four-legged friend with proper leash walking training, so they understand how to behave on walks.
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