Leash breaking a strong dog

I have a boxer mix rescue dog. The community helped me with training her in the past, so I am hoping you can help me again. How do I leash break her?

She pulls on her lead; in the past I’ve dealt with this by walking fast enough to keep up with her, or just not walking her when the roads were slippery. She seems to have something like SAD, and is lazy when the days are short, overcast, and cold, so that worked.

However, this winter - lots of snow, February Thaw in full bloom - that is not working. I have to finish training her.

She’s a good dog, but stubborn - hard as stone and almost as smart - and I am not her alpha, my spouse is. She obeys me, but I have to constantly re-inforce our relative status. I have taught her some manners, but I am just too afraid of her pulling me down.

So, how do I quickly and effective teach her to never pull against her lead?

(Note: I’ve had dogs all my life, but retrievers and shepherd, that I could control by command alone, so I really am at loss.)

Based on not having a dog or ever trained one but just my own personality, I balk at the idea that the dog is over you in the household hierarchy. Maybe your first step is adjusting your own attitude - no pet can be allowed to dominate you, the human. For what it’s worth. :slight_smile:

It’s hard, hard work.

The best results I got were in an open space. Every time the dog moved ahead, I’d abrubtly change direction; eventually it figures that to keep moving it has to be in the right position and it can’t predict or guess which direction you’ll be going in next. Don’t look at or acknowledge the dog if it’s not walking correctly - and at those times praise it constantly (like constantly so you sound like a babbling idiot - “gooddoggooddoggooddoggooddoggooddoggooddog”).

It can take a long, long time and be very tedious and frustrating, but if you keep at it you will hopefully see results. Good luck!

First of all, I think you should get lessons from a dog trainer, to establish the best method for you and this dog. Usually training animals starts with training people, and you sound like you feel a bit adrift in this situation and could use the confidence boost and guidance a good trainer can provide.

In the meantime, have you tried the Gentle Leader? It comes with an instruction video. My dog trainer friend recommends the Easy Walk made by the same company, but I don’t know much about it (I know loads of people who have used the GL). But mostly, I recommend meeting with a good trainer.

One thing’s for sure, never use a traditional harness with a dog that pulls! Hello – a harness makes a dog pull BETTER! That’s what it’s for!

I saw this on TV that works like a charm: walk in random directions, stop repeatedly and unexpectedly. Within a few seconds, the dog realizes nobody is going anywhere unless you lead. The key moment is when the dog is watching you before starting to walk.

When I got my ‘big dog’ 5 years ago he was 80 lbs to my 95 and not leash trained to speak of. Then he developed leash aggression issues, so when he saw other dogs he went nuts, lunging, barking and pulling. It was difficult, to say the least. I’m very thankful the only violent incident we ever had (other dog got a nasty gash after he pinned my dog on his back on the sidewalk) was entirely the fault of the other owner.

It took a couple years, but through a combination of my own emotional progress as well as some firm discipline and plenty of liver treats, he is pretty much 100% on the leash (and in other areas) now. He responds well to commands and is very in tune with what I am asking of him and what I am feeling, even when he’s fearful (he’s still not happy about other dogs approaching him while on his leash, but its totally manageable now). It’s great to see him look to me for confidence, and come to me for help and reassurance if he needs it. We’ve grown together a lot, cheesy as it sounds.

Most important was making it abundantly clear to him I was in confident and in charge of the situation inside and outside the home; not by ‘dominating’ him, but by keeping my emotions in check, trying to project ‘calm-assertive’ energy to him, redirecting his bad or fearful behaviors, and not babying him. It only took a few short months of this before his behavior really began to change, and of course the better he got the more confident and secure I was taking him out (walks before were often downright terrifying for both of us), which was reflected in his behavior even further.

Secondly I taught him how to heel, and other commands (sit/down/stay/and the ‘nose touch’ game) using plenty of treats and praise. Every walk we would take, I would constantly be calling him back to me to go through command. This stopped him from pulling me along the whole walk, tuned into every aspect of his environment except for me. I don’t usually put him through his paces on walks any more, but he is still always keeping an eye on me as well as smelling and frolicking, because we established this habit.

At his worst (and on the ice/snow for a long time - our most memorable incident is when he yanked me off the sidewalk onto an icy street, and when I slipped and fell on my back he went into a full run and pulled me, skating on my nylon coat, down the ice for over a block) I walked him with an EasyWalk harness - it has a strap accross the chest/front legs that physically prevents most dogs from pulling. A bit difficult to use sometimes though, always needs tightening up etc. I have used the Halti and equivalents on several other dogs and I much prefer the EasyWalk.

My trainer recommended the Illusion leash (it’s Cesar Milan’s, much cheaper on Amazon and has GOT to be adjusted properly to work) for my crazy-ass puller. And by that I mean I was dragged down the sidewalk more than once by Captain. It’s amazing - it’s like a martingale collar that automatically stays on the dog’s neck where it does some good. It still requires training to go with it, but the collar makes a HUGE difference. I can’t say enough good about it.

ETA - he never tolerated the Gentle Leader, kept pawing at it. The Illusion, no problem.

With my staffie, I just used to stop dead the minute she pulled, to give her the message that she didn’t get to go anywhere if she pulled. Once she calmed down and walked to heel, she got heaped with praise - the moment she started to pull, we stopped again. On days when she was being particularly stubborn, I would cut her walk short and take her home.

It worked, but you have to keep at it - when I left home and my mum took over her walks, she didn’t bother and now the dog pulls worse than ever.

I just wanted to congratulate you for your journalistic common sense–for knowing the difference between a ho-hum SDMB thread, and one that is truly of interest and value to the community.
**“Strong Dog Breaking a Leash” ** = yeah… whatever… (ZZZZZ)

"Leash Breaking a Strong Dog" = unique and newsworthy!!!


After months of poor response to the “Gentle Leader”, plus praise and food treats for good behavior, we took our Labrador to a trainer who taught her (and us) how to properly use a choke collar. The result is a dog we can happily take on walks without her dragging us or threatening to pull us down.

Dogs are different, and the methods that failed for us might well work for others. But you’ve got to establish rules with a big, out of control dog fast, or you (or the dog) could get hurt.

I think of Boxers as the “jocks” of the dog world – they’re big, athletic, physical roughhousers, untroubled by complex thoughts. They’re also a bully breed, and like all the very-short-coated bullies, they aren’t all-weather dogs and can be wimps about the cold.

I second the advice of working with a trainer (and I always plug positive discipline over negative reinforcement, especially for bully breeds, who, although they can be stubborn, are surprisingly sensitive to disapproval).

However, just to share some advice we got from our own trainer, we were taught two techniques to deal with this. Firstly, train the dog to look to you even when surrounded by exciting outside distractions. This can be done by taking treats (and in my case, a clicker) and the dog outside, and saying the dog’s name, and rewarding (treat and praise) every time the dog looks at you when you say her name. Repeat, and start varying the reward (give the treat only smoe of the time) until the dog focuses on you. Secondly, when walking, if the dog pulls, stop and wait until the dog slacks the lead on her own, even if you have to wait a long time. Make it clear that hauling you means NOT getting to go where the dog wants.

Also look into the various types of special leads described above – one of thenm will probably help you. My trainer preferred Gentle Leader to a choker.

A lot of good advice here. We tried a gentle leader with my huge dog - he spent all his time on the ground trying to get the damned thing off his nose. Then we tried a “prong collar” (recommended by a trainer). It’s like a choke collar only with prongs that point in. I know, it sounds awful but the prongs aren’t sharp and he didn’t seem to mind too much. This was just barely enough for allow me, a good sized adult, to control him on walks. Over time he got used to walking correctly. He now uses a regular collar and very rarely pulls at all. It takes a lot of practice.

Like Zsofia’s dog, ours doesn’t enjoy the Gentle Leader…she tolerates it for a while but then starts scrubbing her face on the ground to get it off. That said, I love the thing. Without it, I’d never be able to handle her.

Victoria Stillwell (the It’s Me or the Dog lady) agrees with Candyman: when the dog pulls, change direction. Soon the dog realizes that it’ll never get anywhere unless it behaves. We haven’t successfully managed to train our dog with this yet because we aren’t consistent, but it’s obviously the right thing to do.

I have also had luck with the prong collar aka German pinch collar. My dalmatian is a very strong puller, but she does very well with the prong collar. It does look awful, but its really quite humane.

My dog has learned to not pull and the collar stays slack the whole time. I still use the prong collar for walks, but that is just because she reverts back to pulling with a normal collar.

I have a harness for my 35kg staffie cross something tall. He used to pull amazingly hard, but I’m not sure how to describe this - his harness when he pulls tightens in such a way that he’s actually pulling his front feet off the ground.

Gentle leaders just make him freak out in fear, but this has worked.

We use a prong collar on our Staff because is so damn strong. Her pain threshold is also pretty high so even with the collar on she will still pull hard if she really wants to be somewhere. Can’t imagine trying to control her with a plain old collar.

I have nothing against prong/choke collars, but please make sure you are using them correctly. I can’t tell you how many people I see using them that don’t have them on the dog in the correct way. I have a friend who uses them exclusively and has had great success with big, strong dogs and prong collars.

I used a variety of collar methods, depending on the dog and how badly they pulled and what motivated them. The Halti worked well for most dogs, the Gentle Leader only worked for a more submissive dog. Prong was my last resort and had to be used for a very young, stubborn rottie mix who took forever to train.

In the end what works for all dogs is behaviorally training them not to pull. Do the stop and change direction when they get out ahead of you. Keeping their attention focused on you the entire time you are walking and not sniffing around. Most of the leash training I have had to do I do with treats and making sure the dog is looking at me the whole time. Walking backwards and having the dog focus on you works, but you need a “spotter” and this can be time consuming.

I have two walk modes with my dog. Casual and business. Casual walks she is allowed to sniff around and I don’t care so much about her getting too far ahead of me. I use her 12 ft lead for those walks and we are usually in the woods or hiking. We have a relaxed pace.

Business walks are at a brisk pace, 6ft lead held pretty close to me and she heels the whole time. Back when I was fostering, a dog had to get the hang of the business walk before they were allowed on a casual walk. They also had to respond to the “heel” and “place” commands. (“Place” is the dog sitting facing forward on my left hand side with her attention towards me.)

The dog is not going to respond well to you if you are not above it in pack structure.

Another vote for prong collars. Slip/choke collars when drawn tight slide up and around dog’s neck from the underneath position, are very bad for a dog’s collarbone.

I have a very rambunctious German Shepherd who loves to pull like a sled dog. And the prong collar proved an instant success.

Well, thank you all. I will start with changing directions when she pulls. I think I’ll try this in the basement, so she stops getting all hyper-happy when she sees the leash. In the meantime, she can run off her energy in the back yard.

I have a pull-choke collar, but it slides down and doesn’t work. I used a harness for a while, that’s why she has some manners, it’s not enough. I’ll probably go to a pet friendly store and try out the various other options to see which works best.

Fortunately, it’s cold and she’s lazy.

I would probably have said the same thing based on my experience with other dogs. This dog, unlike my others, does not live solely to obey my commands. She argues with me. (I win.)

In her and my defense, she is not out of control. She’s a good dog, and she’d be well enough trained for a retriever or shepherd.

That almost sums up my little girl.
(But she’s no bully; she only goes after big dogs, of every species.)

In case this isn’t a whoosh, in this context “bully” refers to the bully breeds, which are (generally) the bulldogs.