A few weeks ago, I was sitting on my porch having a cup of coffee before work, when I heard yelling from down the street. The voice was angry and sharp. As it got closer, I realized it was a woman yelling at her dog. “Stop pulling,” she said, over and over, giving the dog a sharp jerk on the leash each time. The dog kept pulling. It was a large dog, and was virtually dragging the woman down the street. She was clearly frustrated, and yelled back to her companion that she had “had it” and was going home. Clearly this was not an enjoyable walk experience.
Dogs that pull vigorously on the leash are a common sight. And unfortunately for dog owners, it tends to be the biggest ones that pull the most. As the woman walking her dog down my street learned, pulling back doesn’t always work. Nobody wants to play “who’s in charge?” with their dog. So what is a dog owner to do?
Fortunately, there are a number of options available to discourage pulling without creating a competition between dog and owner. One popular option is the head collar. A head collar consists of loops of material that strap around the dog’s muzzle and the back of the neck. While they are often confused with muzzles, head collars are not intended to restrict the use of the dog’s mouth. Instead, the collar creates pressure on the bridge of the nose and top of the neck that allows a person to control the dog’s head with minimal exertion. The dog has no leverage to pull when led on a head collar.
Some dogs are uncomfortable when first introduced to the head collar. They may paw at the straps or rub their heads on the ground in an effort to escape. It is best to introduce the head collar just before doing something the dog really enjoys, such as going for a walk or playing fetch. Giving the dog something enjoyable to focus on will often cause them to forget or ignore the head collar. But for dogs that are especially bothered, there is the front harness as an alternative.
A front harness works in much the same way as a head collar, except that it attaches to the dog’s chest and shoulders. Unlike a conventional harness, the chest harness clips to a leash at the front of the dog’s chest. Leaning into a conventional harness encourages a dog to pull, but the front clip on a chest harness gradually tightens across the chest and shoulder blades as the dog pulls. This pressure discourages continued pulling without choking the dog.
Both of these products can be purchased online and in pet stores. Some popular brands of head and chest harnesses are Gentle Leader, Halti and the Snoot Loop. Either one creates a gentle disincentive to pulling that does not put the dog at risk (such as with a choke chain) or create a pulling competition between dog and owner.
Finally, there is a simple practice that dog owners can adopt to discourage pulling. Rather than yanking back on the dog’s leash when it pulls, just stop, turn around and walk in the other direction. Most dogs will immediately turn around and follow. A headstrong dog will usually charge right past the person and start pulling in the new direction. The solution? Turn around again. Yes, this takes patience! There may be a few walks that amount to nothing more than turning circles in the driveway. But most dogs will eventually realize that in order to get anywhere, they need to let the human lead. And for the more stubborn ones, this practice can always be combined with a head collar or front harness.
Walk time should be fun for both you and your dog. If you have a dog that drags you from place to place, try the turnaround technique and/or a head collar or front harness. With a little patience, your canine friend should come around to the idea of a walk as a group exercise.
Featured on this page are just a few of the many wonderful pets available for adoption at the Humane Society of Central Arizona, located at 602 W. Wilson Court, just south of Main Street. Hours are Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Tuesday and Thursday from 1:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Closed Sunday and holidays. Adoptable pets are already spayed or neutered and current on vaccinations. For more information, call (928) 474-5590 or visit our Web site at http://humanesocietycentralaz.org.
Halo is a 4-year-old spayed female Thai Ridgeback/Sharpei mix. She may not be an angel, but she sure is a great dog! Halo is a loving, people-focused girl who enjoys lots of attention, although she can be a little pushy asking for it! She likes to go for walks, knows basic commands and is making great improvement on her manners. Halo likes to meet dogs that will let her be a little bossy — playtime is great, but preferably by Halo’s rules. She loves to play with stuffed toys, and will entertain herself with one even when alone. With a little love and a little obedience training, Halo may just turn out to be an angel after all!
Oakley is a 2-1/2-year-old neutered male Pit bull mix. Oakley is a friendly boy who adores people! He is not shy about asking for attention, and may jump or lick to get people to notice him. He enjoys playing with toys (especially tug of war!) and romping in the yard. Oakley knows some basic commands and will gladly sit for a tasty treat, but would benefit from additional training. He would do best with older kids or a dog-savvy home due to his energy level. Oakley does best with female dogs, and his play style can be a bit rough. He should meet all dogs in the home prior to adoption. Oakley cannot go to a home with cats. Oakley has been a regular greeter at our Thrift Store for a month now, and hasn’t met anyone he didn’t like!
Sarge is a 4-year-old neutered male Border Collie/Shepherd mix. Sarge is a mellow, friendly guy who greets every new person with a wagging tail. He is low- to moderate-energy, and would be fine in a slower-paced home. But he loves to get out, so a walk now and then would be just his speed. Sarge is not overly playful, but welcomes gentle petting and relaxing with people. But he does LOVE to play fetch! Sarge is dog social, but can be a little too familiar, so tolerant dog friends are best.
Chip is a 4-month-old neutered male domestic shorthair. He is a super-friendly young guy who is equally at home with cuddling or toy time! He is a bundle of energy and loves to play. Chip is friendly with other cats and would do well with a feline companion. Chip has an adventurous spirit and loves to explore — he’d be right at home with a cat condo or lots of nooks and crannies to investigate.
Porky is a 3-month-old spayed female domestic shorthair. Porky is a HUGE player! But, since she’s young and hasn’t really interacted with a lot of cats until recently, she’s still learning appropriate play styles. So she might get too rough with other cats. She’s not trying to be mean, but just hasn’t had a kitty buddy to show her the ropes. Porky’s ideal home would be with another older cat that’s good with kittens. That way she can learn manners from them, and they’ll be patient with her. Porky is very curious about dogs. She lived with one for a bit, and might be happy going home with another!
Eerie is a 5-month-old spayed female domestic shorthair. He is a little shy at first, but pet him a few times and watch him come out of his shell! He is a curious kitten, and loves to explore his surroundings. Eerie is friendly with other cats, and has a calm demeanor with even the most difficult felines. If you have a crabby cat, Eerie might make a good companion. He would do best in a home with older kids.