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One of the most common behaviour problems I encounter is pulling on lead.

There are a number of environmental and behavioural reasons why this might be happening, but a small change to the type of lead you use may help alleviate the problem.

Dogs have something called an 'opposition reflex’, which means that if your dog is being pulled in one direction, he will automatically try to pull in the other.

Using an ‘unlocked’ flexible / extendable / retractable lead exacerbates this pulling behaviour. A dog can feel the backward pull of the lead behind him, so what does he do?; he continues to pull forward against it. The more we allow a dog to pull, the more we’re inadvertently rewarding his behaviour. The art of loose lead walking means that there’s no pull against the dog, and therefore no force to oppose.

With some practise, patience, and well timed rewards, we can easily encourage ours dog to walk nicely alongside us.

I'm pleased to say that more of us are choosing to walk our dogs on harnesses these days, but it'd be prudent for me still to point out here, the risks associated with walking by collar, especially where flexible / extendable / retractable leads are concerned.

When our dogs pull or try to run away from us, what do we tend to do to bring them under control?; we hit the ‘lock’ button to stop the lead extending further, and this puts an incredible amount of strain on a dog’s neck.

Some potential dangers to pressure of this kind on a dog’s neck include:

* whiplash

* bruising of the oesophagus

* fracture of the larynx

* sores and lesions

* dislocation of bones

* asphyxiation

* spinal cord injuries, with possible paralysis

* brain damage

* prolapsed eyes due to increased pressure in the head.

Choke collars and slip leads pose the very same risks to a dog's neck.

Walking with our dogs should give them, and us, a huge amount of pleasure. Fresh air, exercise, time spent together, meeting new people, perhaps a cheeky stop in the pub? It should be relaxing and stress free for everyone involved; however a pulling dog makes it anything but!

To ensure that walking with your dog is relaxing and fun, practise loose lead walking and recall.

The wearing of a collar and identification tag in public is mandatory, to comply with the Control of Dogs Order 1992, but leads should always be attached to a harness if possible.

If you do choose to walk by collar because your dog can walk nicely alongside you on a loose lead, a flat, nylon, 'break-away' type is best. The buckle releases when pressure is applied, thereby avoiding strangulation or injury. There's always that chance that something exciting will catch a dog's eye and he'll immediately want to investigate further!

There are number of reasons why the lead pulling may persist, so if you’re in any doubt, be sure to seek professional advice.

Dog on a harness.

Flat, nylon, collars and harnesses are kind to dogs.

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