Why might my dog pull on the leash, but only when walking southbound?

I have a dog. He’s about 5 years old. We’ve been living at my current home for about 1 1/2 years.

99% of the time, I start my walk going northbound for about a mile, then we turn around and walk home, southbound. I do this because there’s typically broken glass on the sidewalk south of my house. About 50% of the time, 1/8 mile from home, he’ll start to pull, which he almost otherwise never does when on a leash. I always figured it was because he could smell us getting closer to home, and he would get excited.

Last week, I tried walking in the other direction (southbound). He pulled for about 1/8 mile, then walked calmly for the remainder of our southbound trip. After reaching the normal distance (~1 mile), we turned around. Upon nearing our house, he didn’t pull. I tried this several times, and it was repeatable @ ~50%.

So, I’ve concluded that my dog only pulls when walking south bound and only within a radius of ~1/8 mile, about 50% of the time. He otherwise almost never pulls.

We’ve taken thousands of walks, through humid heat, rain, fallen leaves, and snow (I live in the DC area) at all times of day and night. I haven’t noticed any environmental similarities across occurrences (stray cat, dog on a deck, certain plants, or people congregating).

Why might this be?

Study finds dogs align themselves with Earth’s magnetic field when pooping

Holy crap! That’s incredible!

Our dogs aligned themselves with where they believe that we will step. They aren’t pointing the same way at all.

Perhaps they believe that they’re walking downhill…

He most likely is smelling or hearing something that he want to check out. If it’s safe you let your dog lead you to where he want to go and see if there is any animals tracks around ,or rotten food. Dogs are great at finding really gross stuff so don’t let him lose . I had a dog that ran right to fish head and rolled in it ! She was very pleases with herself , I almost vomit driving back home!

I’m with Purplehearingaid. My dogs are awesome on the leash but do pull a little when they want to go somewhere in particular. It’s their way of saying “hey, I want to go this way”. It’s cute sometimes, like when my boy knows that we’re going to turn on a side street like we usually do and he doesn’t want to, he’ll veer wayyy over in the other direction as we approach the turn. (pulling me to the side instead of forward)

I also noticed that they punctuate their desires with body language when walking. Here are examples that my girl taught me:

head turned but walking forward - Oh, what’s that over there? huh!
head turned and stopping - I want to go over there.
stop, turn head and shoulders - I want to go over there now!
stop, turn entire body facing other direction - I WANT TO GO THERE NOW!

When I had a dog, she definitely had a good sense of the turns one would have to make on a walk to go to the off-leash park, and the pet store that allows dogs inside, and the car wash where the owner has a bowl of dog treats to give out. She definitely started noticeably pulling in those directions as we went past on a walk, in the hopes that we would relent and go to one of those “dog fun” places.

Is there a doughnut factory to the south?

If that comes from the same source I think it does, there’s absolutely nothing to it. They just gather data on all sorts of alignment phenomena in animals, and latch onto anything that looks like it might vaguely match up with the magnetic field. There body of work as a whole is indistinguishable from what you would find if all animals did everything in random directions all the time.

A WAG but do you live in an area where the wind tends to blow in one direction? Maybe a northbound wind is bringing some interesting scent to your dog’s attention and he pulls on the leash because he wants to go check it out.

It might seem like it’s always southbound, but have you tried different parts of the neighborhood to see if he’s always pulling towards home or something? Or towards the woods, where there might be deer or squirrels?

I’m not qualified to judge the validity of the results, but there’s a link to the paper in the article I linked to.

Maybe he’s got a doggie friend that way, maybe there’s an interesting scent of garbage or food that way, maybe there’s some kids he has fun playing with that way.

This reminds me of a story about my grandparents. They had a dog, mongrel/labrador, and every day, at about 11am my Granddad took it to the park. Then he fell ill so Gran had to take it.

The dog walked happily along towards the park until they reached the pub, where it sat down and refused to budge.

Yes, he’s tried that. Read the OP.

Walk no 1 - heads out North, turns round, returns South. Dog pulls on south/ homeward journey.

Walk no 2 - heads out South, turns round, returns North. Dog pulls on South/ outward journey.

I thought about the doughnut factory and wind comments…

There aren’t any nearby smell producers that I can think of. If there were, they’d be 5+ miles away. And if it was 5+ miles southbound, it still wouldn’t explain why dog would stop pulling about 1/8 mile away from home.

I have noticed distinct wind/drift patterns in my and surrounding neighborhoods. There’s a main street (where we walk, north/south) and the neighborhoods are on branches. In the fall/winter and during evening, when the temperature has began to drop, the main street is always significantly cooler than the neighborhoods. This suggests to me a larger wind flow on this north/south corridor.

There are several houses slightly south of me that always cook delicious smelling dinners. My guess now is that dog smells it and pulls towards it. This would explain why 1/8 mile south, he stops pulling. Perhaps he’s outside of the effective smell radius of that house. As the smell fades, dog can likely still smell it while I cannot.

The OP didn’t say it was a police dog…

I am thinking this is your answer: You have been doing the same walk for a year and a half. Your “regular pattern” walk has conditioned your dog that after the turn-around, he is headed back home. So the “smell the barn” conditioning as been implemented. Dogs love routine, and your dog’s normal routine is that he knows he is halfway home once your turn around, so he pulls.

Maybe the reason he pulled when you went south first a few times is that it was something new and “non-routine”, therefore exciting. When he realized this was different terrain, he did not know how much longer the walk was going to be, so just relaxed until he was home. Once he learns that walk route, I bet he’ll pull northbound eventually.

If you develop variety of walk routes, he’ll eventually learn all of them, and know when you are getting close to home and start pulling, no matter what direction you are heading. Kudos for making your home someplace he’d rather be than anywhere else!

So he is used to going to the northern area. He wants to go there !