Leaning on the Leash

All the Best Dogs Walk with Slack Leads

Dear Laura,

I have a Golden retriever who pulls on the leash. I have tried everything to get her to stop. I have tried different types of harnesses and leads. She is ruining my back. I am in pain and am frustrated! What can I do?

Sincerely, A.

Dear A,

Golden retrievers are very intelligent, high-drive, active dogs. You want to make sure that she is getting an ample amount of off-leash activity. It will be easier to train her if she burns off some of her excess energy.

Dog parks are wonderful for this. They mentally and psychically stimulate dogs. Meaning she gets exercise while communicating and socializing with other dogs. It is frustrating for fast-paced dogs to contain their energy and walk at our slower pace. Also, hiring a dog walker to run or walk quickly with her may also help.

I believe all dogs need their minds stimulated with training, but especially retrievers, border collies, Aussies, and other very active types. If she does not know commands, her walks may be her only really stimulating activity. So she sets out the door trying to take in the most she can before the walk ends.

Make sure she knows basic commands like sit, stay, leave it, down, wait, come, and of course, heel. Heel means that your dog walks at your side with a slack lead and her shoulder does not move past your knee. This can take a lot of work. To teach “heel” you can hold a treat at your naval or just in front of her, walk a few steps, and then ask her to sit by your side. When you ask her to sit, you should raise the treat over her head. If she moves to face you, guide her head with the treat so she is looking away from you and then ask for the sit. Her butt will drift closer to you as she sits.

Practice “heel sit” in the house, in the yard, and out in town. Outside the property you may have to increase your reward (from biscuits to chicken) to keep her attention. You may also want to hire a professional trainer to help you get started. Little tips about your body placement, and how you use your hands and voice, can make a big difference in her learning.

At a quiet time, you want to explain to her the situation while picturing and feeling everything you say. It will go something like this: “When you pull on the leash (picture her pulling and the leash taught), my body hurts really bad (picture your back hurting, feeling like you are in a lot of pain, and being upset with her). I would really like it if you walked by my side (picture her walking by your side with a slack lead). When you do this my body feels much better (picture yourself feeling good in all ways and her happy by your side). I dread walking you when you pull (picture yourself not wanting to take her for a walk), but when you walk nicely I want to take you everywhere (picture her life getting better cause she gets to go to new places with her walking by your side).

Explain to her that the harness you use, and the “heel sit” exercise, have been to teach her to walk nicely. Tell her the best dogs always walk nicely beside their people with a slack lead and ask her to try harder to do so.

I hope this helps. Good luck!

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