Chase Correll | July 9 2018
One of the greatest annoyances in the life of a dog owner is a pup who always wants to pull on the leash during a walk. We all know how excited our pups get when we say, “time for a walk!” Many of us even resort to spelling out w-a-l-k, in order to avoid any unwanted excitement. Because sometimes that excitement can lead to our pup constantly tugging forward, when all we want is a pleasant stroll at the park. But I digress. All we want is to limit our furry friends from pulling on their leash. It annoys us, and can lead to neck injury for them. That’s a lose-lose scenario any day of the week.
Term For Today: Oppositional Reflex
The key in learning how to prevent a behavior, like leash pulling, is to better understand why it happens. A lot of dog owners have succumb to the train of thought that the best way to prevent pulling is to pull back on their dog whenever it pulls forward. This actually only encourages the dog’s leash pulling behavior, and increases the risk of neck injury for the pup. The reason dog owners shouldn’t pull back on their dog’s leash is explained through a process called, “oppositional reflex.” This oppositional reflex isn’t your dog’s way of showing spite or defiance; it’s actually a subconscious, physical reflex your dog will use to react to your tugging on its leash. Dog’s demonstrate this oppositional reflex because when they feel they are being pulled in one direction, it is in their nature to maintain their balance by straining in the opposite direction.
Don’t forget that humans have this oppositional reflex, too. When our pup starts to pull, we are enticed to pull back. Let’s break that cycle, shall we? Instead of pulling back, say your dog’s name or engage with them. Once the leash has slack again, you can continue on. The most important thing is to not allow your dog to make forward progress while it pulls on the leash.
Avoid Retractable Leashes
Retractable leashes require tension at all times, so that it may retract. This constant tension trains dogs to believe they have to pull in order to walk forward. Essentially, retractable leashes encourage your dog’s leash pulling behavior. Not to mention, retractable leashes also pose greater risks to your dog’s health and wellness. The stiff tension of the retractable leash creates a jarring trauma on your dog’s neck whenever it pulls forward. This can lead to a variety of neck health issues for your fur baby. Nobody wants that.
The Best Leash
The best dog leash is a rope leash that offers slack for your pup, but is still strong enough to keep you in control. Rope leashes, like Sleepy Cotton’s Upcycled Core Leash or Classic Leash, have a natural elasticity that prevents jarring traumas to your dog’s neck when it pulls forward, but isn’t elastic to the point that it creates a tugging sensation in response to your dog (like many rubber, shock-absorbing leashes). This is important because those rubber, shock-absorbing leashes create a cycle of oppositional reflex for the whole walk. When your pup pulls, the rubber leash pulls in response. That is exactly what dog owners want to avoid.
Remember the term: oppositional reflex. Pulling back on your pup during a walk will only encourage it to continue pulling on the leash. Instead, call your dog’s name or engage with it to prevent it from pulling on the leash; don’t let the dog make forward progress while it tugs forward. Also, avoid retractable and rubber leashes that encourage bad leash pulling behaviors, and find a rope leash that prevents neck injury and encourages good walking behavior.