Why is my Puppy Pulling so much? Puppies who pull can feel very frustrating, after all, many of us got dog to go on long walks with. However a puppy who pulls may be very tricky to enjoy on walks and pups may be very frustrating to train. Often owners ask me how to teach polite walking. However it is rarely the case that a dog who pulls is doing so just because they need to learn manners. Very often there is a much bigger picture at play. The pulling on lead being a symptom of other problems that need remedying. Owners may fixate on the manners on lead, and doing it right, but their puppy can’t take it in because they are not addressing the root of the problem. “What psychobabble are you talking Zara?!” Honestly - it isn’t psychobabble! I promise! I have been re addressing the way I approach lead walking in the last 18 months and addressing the root causes hugely improves lead walking and manners without the owners working too much on loose lead walking at all. Let’s start with exercise... Did you know there is such a thing as too much exercise and too much excitement? Remember that pups need to be sleeping for around 16 hours a day and should spend much of that day in a calm way. Many pups who pull on walks are not getting enough rest or mental stimulation. This often results in owners thinking they need MORE exercise, MORE ball play - MORE everything.
Rest and calm is vital for a puppy, and it is somewhere they should be spending much of their time. A calm and rested puppy is able to think more clearly and make better choices. Sniffing, chewing and relaxing games will drop your pups heart rate and help them to feel more at ease. However what often happens is a vicious cycle, with the dogs pulling on the lead from being generally over wound and not resting enough. The owner increasing the exercise, giving their dog more opportunity for rehearsing pulling and being over wound up. Creating a pup struggling to settle in the house as well as out and about. Very often my first suggestion for dogs who pull on the lead is to address their general stress levels. If a walk is causing them to pull, pant, and jump around then the walks are not good quality. You want to aim for quality not quantity in exercise with a young puppy. If they are getting pumped full of stress hormones and over excitement outside, then that isn’t beneficial for them. Instead I suggested taking walks off the table, not permanently. But 48 hours for an over excited puppy can help them to reach a baseline. Everyone panics- “but my puppy NEEDS exercise”. Pups need mental stimulation and outlets for normal behaviours more than they need manic pulling on lead. Very often owners are shocked by how much calmer their pup is within 48 hours, replacing walks with brain games and scent games instead. Along with learning manners onlead in the house and garden. Then starting their walking from scratch leaving the house calmly.
So how DO you get them walking nicely from then? We expect a lot from pups from a young age. We expect them to walk nicely, concentrate and not listen to any of their puppy curiosity. Some owners expect their pups to walk nicely formally next to them for around 20-30 minutes at a time or longer...and often this may not be achievable for their puppy. Concentrating for long periods is hard work.
Being offlead or a long line for a young dog is far more beneficial than loose lead walking drills. Giving them the opportunity to explore, be a puppy and work out what pays for them is going to help them with their lead walking. As they are getting their base needs met. While they are off the lead and a bit focussed, owners can then work on loose lead walking with games that build relationship and value in being close to their owners. These games and training exercises are building the foundations of lead walking, being close to their owner is fun and it pays off. This is often much easier for pups off the lead or long line as being onlead is restrictive. Being onlead and pulling can cause more frustration, making the whole onlead experience even more frustrating all round. This may mean driving to the park or just doing a few minutes loose lead walking to get there. But it breaks up the lead walking into manageable chunks your puppy can handle.
Being off the lead and long line is often very much more fulfilling for a puppy as they have the opportunity to do normal puppy things. Very often problems are because the puppy needs more outlets for their needs that help them relax. This is especially true of more high energy breeds. They need more outlets to help them switch off and not become hyper. What are good outlets for a puppy? -Chewing Natural Chews -Finding treats scattered -Using Puzzle toys -Chewing food stuffable puzzles (such as k9 connectables, kongs, toppls, hooves etc) These outlets will help to meet your pups behavioural needs. They are great for working that brain without getting them used to being over excited. The more time your pup spends in calmness, the less likely they will be to make poor choices. Try giving your puppy more freedom vs less and opportunities for games they will enjoy and see how that helps your puppy. Keep your eyes out for part 2 (This could become an epic!)