How to Stop a Labrador Pulling on a Lead

Knowing how to stop a Labrador pulling on a lead can transform walks from stressful nightmares to enjoyable strolls. This post explores practical techniques to keep your Labrador by your side.

The best ways to stop labs pulling when walking

Walking nicely on a leash doesn’t come naturally, and Labradors, like any other breed, will happily try to pull you in the direction they want. While this may be OK with a puppy, these dogs can weigh up to 80 lbs as adults; they are also excitable and naturally curious, quite a combination that can result in them being powerful pullers.

Walking on a loose leash involves your dog walking inside you, furthest from the road and having no tension in the lead. Some owners find this difficult, especially if your dog is easily distracted.

All is not lost; however, there are ways to prevent your pooch from dragging you around the neighbourhood.

If your canine companion pulls, this article will give you some tips and training methods to stop a Labrador from pulling on a lead.

Why Do Labradors Pull So Much?

a labrador in long grass

They Haven’t Learned Not To

Dogs pull; it’s a simple fact, and if you adopt an older dog with no previous training, chances are they won’t be great walking companions, and it’s not dominance or being naughty. It’s just what many dogs do.

If you address the problem by pulling in one direction, it will just make things worse. To teach your dog to walk on a loose lead takes time and patience, but it’s worth it.

Over Stimulation

Your Lab will experience an explosion to their senses when they go for a walk; there are so many scents that tell them stories, and there are places to explore around every corner, not to mention cars, people, and other dogs. Not surprising, then, with this sensory overload, that training completely goes out of your dog’s head.

Top tip when leash training: keep walks short and avoid places with other dogs; it’ll make things much more manageable.

Introducing Distractions Gradually

Start training your Labrador in a quiet place with no distractions. Gradually introduce distractions as your dog learns to focus on you and not pull on the lead. For instance, move to a place with more people and dogs around.

Increase the distractions step by step, allowing your Labrador to get used to different environments calmly. Always reward excellent behaviour with treats and praise to encourage your dog to walk nicely without pulling, even when distracted.

Remember, the goal is slowly building your Labrador’s focus and tolerance to prevent pulling on the lead in various situations.

Not Enough Exercise

Labs are a working dog that needs a lot of exercise to keep them healthy and happy; if your Labrador doesn’t get out much, has little off-lead activity or goes for a 10-minute walk twice a day, pulling will be the inevitable consequence.

You can try tiring them out before they go for a stroll with a game of tug or by throwing a ball in the garden.

Mental Stimulation Activities 

To stop your Labrador from pulling, keeping their mind engaged is essential. Simple games like ‘find the treat’ or puzzle toys can be very effective. These activities tire them out and reduce their urge to pull while on a lead.

Choosing the Right Equipment

Choosing the right equipment is vital in training your Labrador not to pull on the lead. Here, we will discuss the options available and their pros and cons.

Standard Collars vs. Training Collars

Standard collars are common, but training collars can offer more control. Training collars are designed to help manage your Labrador better during walks. Explore the options and choose what’s best for your Labrador.

Harnesses: Front-Clip vs. Back-Clip

Harnesses come in two types: front-clip and back-clip. Front-clip harnesses offer more control and reduce pulling, while back-clip harnesses are generally more comfortable for the dog. Consider your Labrador’s behaviour and needs when choosing a harness.

8 Ways to Get a Labrador to Stop Pulling

1) Start Labrador Lead Training When They Are a Puppy

Having a new puppy is great fun, and it’s easy to forget that behaviours such as pulling on the lead may seem funny in an 8-week-old Labrador, but not so much with a fully grown one; that’s why it’s crucial to get the basics down and leash train from the off.

From day one, have a couple of short training sessions a day to teach your furbaby their name, sit, leave and come. All these things will let them know that doing what you ask will result in something positive

2) The “Turn Around” Technique 

If your Labrador starts pulling, turn around and walk in the opposite direction. This teaches them that pulling won’t help them go where they want. Repeat this each time they pull to instil good walking habits.

3) Importance of Socialisation 

Socialising your Labrador from a young age is vital. It helps them get used to different environments, people, and other dogs, reducing anxiety and the urge to pull on the lead during walks. Regular playdates and walks in various settings can be beneficial.

4) Focus On You: A Simple Leash Trick

a brown lab

Getting your dog’s attention amidst distractions is a big bonus if you want them to quit pulling, and this can be done before they’re even old enough to go for walks in the real world.

Train your dog to look at you when you call their name or give a command; once they can do this, amp it up a bit do it when you have visitors or get someone in the family to play with a ball in the room if Fido still looks at you when you say there name you’re winning.

5) The “Red Light, Green Light” Method

Use the “Red Light, Green Light” method to train your Labrador. When they pull, stop walking (red light). Only start walking again (green light) when the lead is loose. This teaches them that walking nicely means the walk continues.

6) Teaching Self-Control Is Vital

a gold labrador eating

Dogs need to be taught self-control; it doesn’t come naturally. They are a species that acts purely on instinct, and if your Labs impulse means he pulls, it will make daily walks a nightmare.

Some methods can be used to help your pup overcome their impulsiveness, and they are simple enough that anyone can succeed with a bit of patience.

Check out these excellent impulse control exercises

7) The “Lure and Reward” Strategy

Implement the “Lure and Reward” strategy to foster self-control in your Labrador. Use treats to lure them into walking beside you without pulling. When they do it correctly, reward them with a treat. It encourages calm and focused walking.

8) Invest in the Best Lead for a Labrador That Pulls

a shop with harnesses and leads

Many dog owners choose a standard collar for their dogs, which is perfectly fine unless they pull like a steam train. Not only might it cause injury to the dog’s neck, but it may also make the pulling worse.

This is down to a reflex named thigmotaxis (I can tell you’re impressed). This is why choke chains don’t stop pulling and should be avoided at all costs. Your dog’s collar should be broad and fit snugly.

The leash is necessary too; you want one that sits comfortably in your hand, is made from quality material and doesn’t use a short lead. Preventing tension when you use a short leash will be nigh on impossible 4-6 feet is the best option. A slip lead is often used for heel-training working dogs.

Harnesses are also a good option as they give more control to the owner and are generally safer.

9) A No-Pull Harness Will Help Stop a Strong Dog Pulling and Lunging

a labrador on a walk taking a command

Head collars and no-pull options are extremely popular for training as they can discourage pulling as if by magic; unfortunately, this isn’t the case with all dogs.

While they may address the issue in the short term, they are no substitute for effective training. The methods we’ve discussed, such as changing direction and rewarding good behaviour, work much better than a harness or head collar to stop your Lab pulling.

10) Break Out The Treats

a lab taking a treat

Every owner knows that a Lab likes their grub, so there is no better motivation than rewarding good behaviour with a healthy titbit (don’t overdo it)

When your canine companion walks in the correct position, offer a reward every few steps. If they start to pull, stop walking or walk in the opposite direction until the tension on the leash is released, then reward again. Your dog will soon learn that keeping the leash loose and walking in the heel position is a good thing and pulling isn’t

11) Never Reward Pulling on Walks

a black labrador pulling

Treats are not the only reward for a dog; if they start pulling to get to another dog and you follow him, that is a reward. It’s essential to be aware of this when you start training, as the first time you let your furry friend pull, all the hours you’ve spent working on this will be for nought.

Even if you intend to go where he is pulling, stand your ground or change direction and start walking away; once your dog stops pulling, you can return to your original route, thus showing him again that pulling gets him nowhere.

12) Inconsistent Commands

Avoid using different commands for the same action, as it can confuse your Labrador. Stick to short, simple commands and use them consistently. This helps your dog understand what is expected during walks.

 13) Over-Relying on Equipment

While equipment like no-pull harnesses can be helpful, they are only a partial solution. It’s important not to rely solely on them. Focus on training your Labrador with consistent commands and rewards to foster good walking habits.

14) Does Clicker Training Work?

a lab puppy looking up

There are mixed opinions about dog clickers, but we think they’re fantastic for most dogs if you use them correctly, and they work brilliantly for teaching your dog to walk nicely.

Sometimes, our instructions can be complicated for our dog to understand, the tone of voice changes, and you may reward your dog for lying down just as he stands up, so he has no real idea what he has done right.

Using a clicker means the dog understands when that noise is heard, he has pleased you, and a reward is forthcoming. This can be especially useful if other family members walk your dog or you have two dogs.

The Power of Clicker Training 

Clicker training can be a powerful tool. It involves using a clicker to mark the behaviour you like, followed by a treat. It helps communicate with your Labrador what behaviours are rewarded, aiding quicker learning.

Advanced Training Tips

Training in Different Environments

To prevent pulling, training your Labrador in various environments is beneficial. It helps them adapt to different situations, making walks more enjoyable and stress-free.

The Role of Positive Reinforcement

Using Treats and Praises Effectively

Reward your Labrador with treats and praises when they walk nicely without pulling. It encourages good behaviour and makes training sessions positive and productive.

Avoiding Negative Reinforcement

Avoid punishing your Labrador, as it can create fear and anxiety. Instead, focus on encouraging good behaviour through positive reinforcement.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Using Force or Aggression

Using force or aggression can scare your Labrador and make training difficult. Always use gentle methods and positive reinforcement to train your dog effectively.

Get Plenty of Regular Exercise

Different Forms of Exercise: Fetch, Swimming, Agility

Ensure your Labrador gets regular exercise through activities like fetch, swimming, or agility training. It helps burn off energy, reducing the tendency to pull on walks.

Seeking Professional Help

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, you might need help to train your Labrador not to pull on the lead. In such cases, seeking professional help can be a wise decision. Here, we discuss when and how to seek professional help.

When to Consider Hiring a Professional Trainer

If you can’t manage your Labrador’s pulling behaviour after trying various strategies. Consider hiring a professional trainer who can provide expert guidance and help effectively train your dog.

Benefits of Attending Dog Training Classes

Attending dog training classes can offer a structured environment where your Labrador can learn good behaviours. It also allows them to socialise with other dogs, which can be beneficial.

Finding a Reputable Trainer

When looking for a trainer, ensure to check their credentials and reviews. Ask for recommendations from friends or family who have dogs. Finding someone who uses positive reinforcement techniques to ensure a happy and healthy training process for your Labrador is essential.

a labrador walking nicely

FAQ Section

Q: Why does my Labrador keep pulling even after training? 

A: Your Labrador might still be pulling due to ingrained habits or overexcitement. Consistent reinforcement of training and patience are crucial to overcoming this issue.

Q: How long does it typically take to train a Labrador not to pull? 

A: Training duration can vary. Generally, with consistent daily training, you might see improvements in a few weeks. However, every dog is different.

Q: Are certain breeds more prone to pulling than others? 

A: Yes, breeds with high energy levels and strong prey drives, might be more prone to pulling. It’s essential to tailor training to your dog’s tendencies.

Q: How can I train an older Labrador who has been pulling for years? 

A: For older Labradors, start with basic leash training techniques and be patient. It might take longer, but older dogs can still learn good habits.

Q: What should I do if my Labrador becomes aggressive when I try to stop him from pulling? 

A: If aggression occurs, stop the training immediately. Consider seeking the help of a professional trainer to address aggression and ensure safe training.

Final Thoughts

Labradors are among the most intelligent breeds; however, they are large and can be boisterous and energetic, especially when young, so early training is essential.

The good news is their eagerness to please and devotion to their humans makes teaching them new things, such as loose-leash training, a walk in the park literally!

We hope you enjoyed this post, and good luck teaching your Lab to walk by your side.

John Devlin

Hi, my name is John, and I am the founder of Dogsbarn – a UK-based website dedicated to helping the owners of furry friends enjoy life with their four-legged companion. We currently own two golden retrievers, George and Henry, who love running around in the park together. We are thinking about adding a third – called Frank! Our mission is to provide excellent guides and introduce great products we’ve bought or come across online.