Pulling and Leash Biters

Originally posted 12-9-17.

This weekend, I have had the opportunity to host this lovely bull in a china shop, Zak. He is an absolute lover that doesn’t know his own size. With every giant puppy, he comes with his faults but he is truly full of life. Playful, curious, and hungry for adventure. But he’s stubborn. He is at that age where he is testing the boundaries, finding his confidence, and refusing maturity. As I am sitting here writing this, I am watching him in his crate, he can’t help but fight sleep. Falling asleep while sitting up, yawning, but refusing to tucker out. Parents, sound familiar?

He had a great morning at the Cibolo Holiday Parade, showing off to potential adopters and parade-goers. While running through his obedience behaviors, he made me think about how important proper equipment is and how it can help and hinder a dog’s success.

As a puppy, he is still learning bite inhibition, heck he may even have an oral fixation but most of all, he is still learning to appreciate the leash. Biting and tugging the leash happen often but it’s manageable. He’s learning that he is attached to his human and running around like a banshee isn’t an acceptable behavior for any species. To set him up for a successful day, I tested the head halter on him and thankfully, he took to it quickly and without an issue. I paired that with his “Adopt Me” harness and dual-clip leash. Clipped to his head halter and his harness, he’s was happy as a clam.

Equipment for dogs should not hinder them or be adverse. The equipment should not have value. Leashes are valuable to a dog. Leash = Walk However, it shouldn’t. (That’s a whole other topic.) For this post to make education sense, I will discuss pulling on leash. If you have a puller, consider a harness. If you have a dog that stops randomly and doesn’t get up (my land whale, Beverly), consider a back clip harness.

Note: There is no product out there, that will stop a dog from pulling. If there is a guarantee, stop. Think long and hard then put it down. Walk away. Don’t waste your money. There are tools out there that will help but only paired with training, will it work effectively.

If you have a light puller, products like a martingale collar may be a good option. The collar slightly restricts as the dog pulls against it. The slight restriction will cause them (generally) to slow down to release tension. If used properly, it should not be aversive. This is also helpful for dogs that stop and refuse to move. Pair it with behaviors like “Stand” or “Let’s Go” and it will be used quite nicely.

For medium pullers, front clip harnesses are a fantastic tool. Whether they restrict or not, there are many products on the market that work well with positive training methods. Dogs have a pulling reflex called Opposition Reflex. Which basically means they are known for opposing the pressure of the leash. Ever see a dog pull so much that they choke themselves? Or push a dogs butt down trying to get them to sit? They push again the pressure, even if it hurts. Because of this opposition reflex, having a back clip harness for a puller helps REINFORCE the pulling. They get their shoulders underneath them and “dig in the dirt”. Front clip harnesses, help change their direction towards you, not against you.

For extreme pullers, head halters are helpful. Think of horses. How can humans train them to follow willingly? Where the head goes, the body follows. Dogs don’t want the pressure on their head which helps prevent the pulling. You can change direction quickly and control better from the head.

I put a head halter on Zak today not because he is an extreme puller but because he is a leash biter. (Dual purpose, who knew!?!) Because the leash clip, sits under his chin, the metal is close to his mouth. When he tries to reach for the leash, a mouth full of metal isn’t as fun or tasty. It helped tremendously.

Head halters are useful tools for reactive dogs, large or overwhelming dogs, etc. Please note, whichever brand or product you use, make sure it is fitted properly. Safety first. If you need assistance, reach out to a trainer for proper fit and to positively associate that product to prevent it from becoming an adverse training method.

Thank you for reading!