It is rare that you encounter a Labrador Retriever that doesn’t try and pull himself over to you to say hi. They are a breed that simply loves other people and dogs. This is great, but it can be a real nuisance for the owner who is constantly being dragged all over the street. A walk should be pleasant. Your Lab’s pulling could cause injury to you, he could get loose, or he could even injure someone else – these are not pleasant. While it does take some patience and practice, your Lab can learn to have manners on a walk. The following easy training tips will help make sure that your Labrador doesn’t pull on the leash.
#1 – Start Young
Many people make the mistake of not starting leash training right away. But the sooner you instill those good leash manners in your Lab, the better. This includes just an eight-week old puppy. Why wait until his is over 60 pounds and a teenager to train him when you can do it while he weighs just 15 pounds?
#2 – Practice Attention
A Lab’s joy for life makes them a great companion, but it also seems to give them zero attention skills. They want to sniff that bush, say hi to that dog, or lick that child. Even on leash, they try to run in twenty different directions, which is not much fun for you on the other end of the leash. A key to stopping these behaviors is to keep your Lab focused on you during a walk. Working on looking at you when you say her name, offering eye contact without a cue, this is exactly why Leave It and Drop are important to leash training.
#3 – Teach Self-Control
Dogs with lots of energy also usually need to be taught self-control, and Labrador Retrievers are no exception to this rule! Teaching self-control can help keep your Lab calm and cool while on a walk. Stay, Go To Bed (mat-stay behavior), sitting for a toy/food/petting, etc., are all good ways to work on self-control.
#4 – Reward Correct Position
Whenever your Labrador Retriever is calmly walking in heel position – by your side with a loose leash – be sure you reward him. You can even turn this into a game – something Labs love – by trying to move away from your dog and seeing if he stays with you off-leash in your house or in your backyard. Start off easy and get faster/tighter turns as your dog learns the game. Rewards can be anything he likes, including treats, praise, toys, etc. As long as your Lab likes it, it’s a reward. Dogs repeat behaviors that are reinforced, so the more you reinforce him for being in that spot, the more he will do it. It’s as simple as that!
#5 – Don’t Let Pulling Be Reinforced
As mentioned, dogs do what gets reinforced, so make sure your Lab is not being rewarded for pulling. If your Lab pulls on the leash and gets what he wants (to sniff that bush, to greet that person, to play with that dog) then he will continue to do it and it will get worse. So, if you feel your Lab start to pull you in one direction, plant your feet and don’t move, waiting until he returns to you. If he is stronger than you, turn and walk the opposite way. Once he is walking next to you nicely, you can turn back and go the way he wanted to. This teaches your Lab that if he wants to go somewhere, he has to keep that leash loose.