Today I want to share a story with you. this is Tug's story. Tug was a clients dog and a compulsive puller.
Tug simply loves the outdoors; he eagerly explores the hedgerows, hunting out scents across fields and forests. He lives purely for chasing rabbits and, like any typical springer spaniel, springing through the long meadow grass.
Whenever Tug’s owner, Mary, takes him for a walk he acts like a coiled spring. Ecstatic about the impending prospect of adventure, causes him to pull like a train.
He is not a big boy, but he’s a strong one none-the-less.
Unfortunately, Mary suffers from a bad back and Tug pulling on the lead is a massive issue for her. After each walk she comes back with sore shoulders. Plus, she swears her arms are stretched several inches longer every time she takes Tug out.
Over the past few years, Mary has tried several different things to stop him from pulling.
First she tried a slip lead, which nearly strangled him as he just kept pulling despite the apparent discomfort.
Next she tried a harness that was designed to stop dogs from pulling. It used cords that sit just behind the dog’s armpits which tighten each time he starts to pull, making it uncomfortable for him to do so. That so-called “No Pull” harness worked for maybe for 2 walks before Tug learnt to pull again. The main problem with this harness was that because of Tug’s continuous pulling it rubbed his armpits raw.
So, it was back to the drawing board.
Next, a head collar was purchased, and Tug hated it. He spent the entire time trying to get the darned thing off! To be fair, it did stop him from pulling. But, he was so miserable wearing it, that he refused to walk at all. Again, this was not a method that worked for Tug.
Ready to give up on Tug ever walking nicely on a lead, she stumbled across my advert in the local paper. In a last-ditch attempt to sort Tug’s pulling on the lead, she decided to ask me for some help. She hoped I would be able to offer some advice that would result in some relief from the physical discomfort that walking him caused her, and that I would be able to bring some joy back into their walks together.
When I first met Mary, she was desperate, the chronic pain in her back, the sore shoulders and arms, were really getting too much to bear.
Walking Tug had become a chore rather than a fun way to enjoy each other’s company and the beautiful countryside she lived in. She told me she had tried everything and that nothing worked. After spending a few minutes with them, I quickly identified that there was one key piece of the puzzle missing in their relationship.
To Mary, teaching a dog to walk on a nice loose lead was as simple as putting a lead on her dog and going for a walk. One of her first mistakes was that every time she had tried a new piece of dog training equipment like the harness or head collar, she had merely slapped it on him and gone for a walk. She had failed to actually teach Tug to walk on any of the training aids before attempting to take him out.
What she hadn’t realised was that teaching a dog to walk on a nice loose lead is more than just putting a dog into a piece of equipment that promises to solve all your lead walking and dog training struggles.
You see, she never ever, in all that she tried, actually tried to teach Tug to walk by her side. She just assumed that he would want to please her and do it.
She assumed that Tug would want to walk with her simply because he loves her. She did not believe that giving him rewards for staying by her side would solve the problem she was having.
She voiced her concern to me when she asked me: “But what happens when I eventually stop using these treats? Will he revert to pulling on the lead? I don’t want to have to bribe him