Welcome to our weekly 'Ask a Vet from the SF SPCA' feature on 7x7.com. Dr. Jeannine Berger, DVM, DACVB is a board certified veterinary behaviorist who counsels guardians whose pets’ issues are beyond the scope of training. Think of her as a pet shrink…at your service. Ask your own questions in the comments!
Q: My dog pulls and pulls on his leash until he is practically suspended at a 45 degree angle by his collar. Does it hurt him? How can I make him chill out with the pulling?
A: Why do dogs pull on leashes? Simple and easy: It gets them where they want to go. Most humans and their dogs thoroughly enjoy their walks, and some of them are more enthusiastic than others, naturally. The solution for some people when their dog pulls on leash is to use neck collar with metal or plastic spikes –also called a Prong collar. The idea behind this is that when the dog pulls those spikes cause pain and discomfort over a very sensitive part of the neck, namely over the larynx and pharynx (the wind pipe which is made out of soft tissue and cartilage). The idea is that this discomfort will stop the dog from pulling.
Granted, in some cases that does happen. However you are reaching your goal by inflicting pain and discomfort on the dog. But in many cases, dogs wearing the prong collar were still pulling hard on the leash. Why? Because the dog is happy to go on a walk and will tolerate the discomfort and eventually get used to the pain around his next – therefore the pulling never really stops, but the pain persists.
Walks should be fun for humans and dogs without either enduring aggravation or pain. Two great solutions are in a head halter such as the Gentle Leader® or the Halti® or on a front buckle harness – where the leash attaches at the front by the chest or sternum.
In addition to having the right tools, positive reinforcement training will give your dog the right direction. Using irresistible treats to keep your dog’s attention while you walk, with constant reward for not pulling will be very helpful. Here is a class that we offer. Many trainers and dog walkers can teach you the skills as well.
Invest in a humane and savvy tool today and start enjoying your walks again. Your dog will thank you!