Finding the Perfect Lead for Your Pulling Pup

Finding the Perfect Lead for Your Pulling Pup

Are your walks with your furry friend turning into a tug-of-war? According to the 2020 PAWS survey conducted by the PDSA, pulling on the lead is the most common behavior dog owners want to change. It’s not only exhausting but can also take away the joy of a leisurely stroll. Thankfully, there are several options available to help tackle this frustrating issue. From collars to harnesses and head collars, each promises to solve the problem in its own unique way. However, when choosing the best option for your pet, it’s crucial to consider their safety, both physically and mentally, along with the effectiveness of the solution.

Rethinking Collars: Are They the Best Choice?

Collars have been a go-to restraint for dogs for centuries, and they come in a wide variety of colors and designs. Some claim to offer additional comfort with wider or padded designs. However, collars are generally not recommended for dogs that pull on their leads. Even the most well-designed collars can exert high pressures on your pet’s neck when they pull (Carter et al 2021). This can cause pain and potential damage. It’s even worse when collars are specifically designed to inflict discomfort or pain when a dog pulls. Prong or pinch collars, shock collars, and choke chains fall under this category. These options are often considered last resorts when all else fails. However, shock collars are being banned in countries like England and Wales, and major organizations like the RSPCA, Blue Cross, and Dog’s Trust advocate for the ban of prong/pinch collars. The BVA and BSAVA have also advised against their use. Choke chains, while traditionally used to prevent pulling, have been associated with serious injuries, including damage to the dog’s windpipe or esophagus and even fainting. Slip leads are gentler alternatives but still carry a risk of damage if used on dogs that excessively pull for long periods.

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Head Collars and Figure of 8 Harnesses: A Popular Choice?

Head collars and figure of 8 harnesses have gained popularity as safe and gentle alternatives for pulling dogs. Many organizations recommend their use instead of the aforementioned devices. However, there are concerns about potential discomfort or even pain dogs may experience, particularly around their faces and the strain these options can put on their necks when they pull against them. As of now, there is little evidence of severe injuries associated with their use, unlike some other methods. Nonetheless, these devices still involve aversive training, where the dog faces negative consequences for their “bad” behavior. Traditional training methods heavily relied on these principles, but there has been a recent shift toward more positive reinforcement and reward-based techniques.

The Harness: A Game-Changer for Pulling Pups

Many experts now recommend the use of a well-fitting harness for dogs that pull. This type of harness allows for free movement of the front legs and has the lead attachment around the front. When a dog pulls while wearing this harness, it naturally twists their entire body away from the direction of travel, preventing the behavior. This is in contrast to older styles of harnesses where the lead attaches to the top, which tend to encourage pulling as dogs can easily lean their whole body weight into them.

The Importance of the Right Lead

Choosing the right lead is equally important in curbing pulling behavior. Extendable leads have gained popularity but come with inherent dangers. Their length makes them prone to tangling, the handles can be cumbersome and challenging to hold, and the brake function may fail at critical moments, resulting in a sudden loss of control. There have been numerous reports of human injuries, including falls, friction burns, and severe damage to fingers caused by the moving parts. Most trainers recommend using a solid lead that is around 1.75 meters long. This allows for a certain degree of freedom while retaining control.

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Positive Reinforcement: The Long-Term Solution

Ultimately, the most effective way to stop a dog from pulling on the lead in the long term is through positive, reward-based training techniques. These methods rely on rewarding desired behavior and have been proven to be at least as effective, if not more so, than traditional punishment-based methods (Ziv, 2017). Punishment-based training can increase the risk of stress and behavior problems such as anxiety or aggression. Moreover, it may damage the bond between humans and canines. While head collars, figure of 8 leads, and slip leads may be suitable for short-term use in specific circumstances where human or canine safety is at risk, they should not be relied upon in the long run.

Remember, finding the right lead and training approach may take time and patience. It’s important to consult with professionals, such as trainers or behaviorists, to tailor a solution specifically for your dog’s needs. So, let’s transform your walks into enjoyable adventures, one step at a time!

Image source: Karen’s Kollars