When Your Dog Pulls On the Leash and Why Choke Collars Are Not the Answer.

Animal Watch

THE DOG BLOG-- Dogs do not understand the connection between the tightening of a collar around their neck and you at the end of the leash.  All they know is that something is digging into their neck and since dogs can tolerate a lot of pain, they just pull harder. 

I can't tell you how frustrating it is to see dogs on regular or choke or spiked collars pulling forward as I watch the collar dig into their neck while their owners pull back. For some reason the pet parent thinks the dog will stop pulling because he is choking and then gets frustrated when they see it isn’t working. Most will feel guilty because they know the dog is hurting while others think the dog deserves it because he won't stop pulling. Either way the dog continues to pull. 

Vets don’t like choke collars and tell us the trachea can be damaged or eventually tighten making it difficult for the dog to breathe so choke collars should never be used on breeds with short snouts. And importantly, choke collars should never be left on at home. If the collar gets stuck on something the dog can literally choke himself to death as he gets into a panic trying to pull himself away. 

Frankly, I don't think they should be used at all, unless you have an exceedingly aggressive dog (not just the typical excitement a dog exhibits when it sees other dogs) and even then you should have an experienced trainer who has worked with aggressive dogs, show you how to properly use it. 

They will tell you to make sure the leash is always loose and when it tightens you simply give a “correction” which is a sharp and quick (not harsh) snap of the leash while using your voice to tell the dog what you want him to do. I like “no pulling!”. The tightening of the collar should last less than a second. Do Not Ever jerk the dog back or yank it hard!. The tone of your command should be firm not angry. This way the dog can connect the pressure on her neck, to you and your voice, calmly, firmly telling her what to do. The leash is not just something we use to keep the dog from running away. It is a tool to get the dogs attention focused on you and your commands. 

But if you are using a choke collar simply for a pulling issue then throw it out and listen up… 

The absolute best way I have discovered in getting dogs to walk at our pace is a no pull front harness. It is a harness that attaches the leash to the front of the chest and doesn’t involve choking or pain of any sort. I love this harness and have never put it on a dog without instant results. I have seen dogs go from pulling their pet parent’s arm off, to instantly becoming docile and relaxed while walking alongside them. If they do pull forward a bit a slight tug and command and they slow right down. 

There are two main companies that sell it, Halti and EasyWalk. I like Halti because it has a clip that attaches to the collar for added protection but Easy Walk has a wider variety of sizes.  Don’t be intimidated by the design. They are actually very easy to adjust and put on. You can order it online (cheaper) and bring it to a pet store for help putting it on if you need it. 

If I hear an owner complain the harness isn't working it is usually because they are so used to the dog pulling and the leash being tight, they continue to tighten the leash out of habit. I instruct them to let the leash be loose while they're walking and watch what happens.  To their delight and surprise the dog just walks along with them. I can't tell you how often I've heard “WOW! I can't believe this!” If the dog starts to speed up just a slight tug and “no pulling” and they instantly slow down. 

So if you have a dog that takes you out for a drag I can’t recommend this enough. Email us with your success story. I love hearing dogs and owners get over an obstacle to greater love and appreciation of each other. Never thought you’d hear yourself saying “I love walking my dog” did you?

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(Dianne Lawrence is the dog whisperer at What a Good Dog LA. She can be reached at 323-734-9119.)