How To Stop A Boxer Pulling On The Lead

Boxer pulling on the lead is certainly not fun to walk with.
Social media are full of posts asking for suggestions on how to stop this issue.

And the usual answers often mention various types of equipment: head collars, slip leads, harness, choke collars, e-collars, or the most shocking advice I’ve seen was a photo of a prong collar around a dog’s waist 🙁

Some people would say to use tasty treats, others would suggest stopping every time a dog pulls.

I have stopped reading these comments ages ago as they just make me feel sorry for the dog, who soon will be a lab rat on which all of the above solutions will be tested. Mostly because the owner is frustrated and exhausted.

I have no doubt all Boxer owners love their dogs, but somehow there is a massive gap between their expectations and reality. I remember myself very well when I was preparing for getting my first Boxer – I was imagining the fun we will have playing with toys, the evening cuddles on a sofa and the great adventures walking together.

The truth is there was nothing nice about the walks since the pup was 5 months old. She would either pull my arms off on every single walk (to a point of hurting my back and shoulder) or she would throw a massive protest, turn her breaks on or even be very vocal because she wouldn’t want to leave a park or a beach. Sounds familiar huh?

I was desperate for help, I felt helpless or even hated myself for putting a head collar on her. You might know these feelings…

The thing is not many people ask ‘why does me Boxer pull on the lead?
Everyone just wants a quick fix.

But without understanding a little bit about our Boxers, it’s going to be difficult to overcome the lead pulling issue.

Let me break the lead walking concept down for you, so you get the full picture.

Boxers were bred for their strength

They were used for cart pulling, biting/fight work, hunting large animals, etc. They are strong dogs who find using their power very reinforcing. They get easily distracted by the environment and they enjoy fast movement. Boxers’ body weight is between 50-70% of their owner’s body weight and they are way more powerful than us.

Dog’s average walk pace is 7km/h

People walk at a slower pace (5km/h on average). The pace is not the only difference. The way we and our dogs experience walks is completely different too. We like to enjoy the scenery and we take pleasure in using our visual senses. Dogs on the other hand want to run freely, chase, sniff and search for interesting scent information in the environment, interact with others or take part in an activity. The easiest way to help you picture a human vs dog walk would be visiting a museum vs being in a nightclub.
We do not only need to help our Boxers to adjust the pace and create muscle memory through learning, but we also need to accommodate the dog’s needs during the walk in a way that is enjoyable for both parties.

Equipment will not teach your Boxer to stop pulling on the lead

As much as loose lead walking is not something you can simply achieve just by using a specific type of equipment, it is very important to make sure the gear we use is comfortable for the dog. Anything that restricts the dog’s body movement, causes discomfort or applies aversive stimulus will have a negative impact on the training and the relationship with your dog. Tools that create tension or force a dog to move in a specific way might seriously damage the dog’s skin, joints, dislocate their shoulder or cause muscle imbalance and pain. This is especially important when dealing with young dogs.

So please do not use head collars on puppies or the tools that ‘correct bad behaviour through shock or pain.

The walking equipment I use and recommend is a double clip Y-shape harness plus a double-ended lead. I have no problem with using just a regular collar and a lead once the dog understands the concept of lead manners.

Frustration, fear and arousal

Have you ever looked at your dog and tried to understand what is happening in his head? I can tell you this – frustration is the most common emotion that stops your dog from learning and stops you from teaching. I see frustration every time I work with a new client. Every. Single. Time.
Dogs get frustrated because they can’t do what they want and can’t be dogs, they don’t get opportunities to sniff, they are uncomfortable because of the equipment, or they are forced to do things without being taught them first.
Owners get frustrated because they can’t control their dogs, their dog is making them feel embarrassed, or they have been trying so many things and it’s just getting worse.

Some Boxers’ confidence level is quite low out and about, they are frightened of traffic, unexpected loud noises or objects, other dogs barking or strangers approaching. If we don’t recognize these problems and don’t help our dogs to feel safe, we might end up with serious behavioural issues.

Arousal is a very popular word in the dog training world now but it’s nothing new in a dogs’ world. Arousal is an important part of motivation, balance and fulfillment. We need a good level of arousal when training our Boxers but at the same time, we need to make sure our dogs are not in a constant over-arousal state. So don’t be afraid to use a tuggy toy with your Boxer on a walk – for fun and as a way of engaging with your dog. Allow your dog to sniff or even better – put it on a verbal cue to help the dog to calm down.

Just because you think cheddar cheese is a good reward, it doesn’t mean your dog will find it reinforcing

If you want to praise your dog with a reward and you want your dog to learn, you need to use what your dog likes. And I’m not talking only about food here. Yes, I use food a lot in training loose lead walking, but I would use a toy, a stick, environment, water, verbal praise or physical contact as a reward, depending on an individual dog.

All my dogs love their raw food and I often use it in training out and about (see our Ditch the Bowl guide). But I don’t rely only on one type of reinforcement. Nella loves sticks – I can use that. Mia loves cuddles and kisses – I can use that. Khaleesi loves movement, so I animate the food to make the experience more interesting.

Depending on your Boxer age and learning history, loose lead walking training will be slightly different with young puppies, adolescent or adult dogs. The best advice I can give you here if you are a puppy owner – train, interact and build relationship with your pup’s out and about. Practice around distractions and celebrate your pup’s attention on you big time. By teaching your pup foundations around other dogs, people, children, livestock etc these distractions will not be a big deal in the future.

With older dogs you need to start by making the learning environment as easy as possible.

Training and stopping your Boxer from pulling on the lead

I put this as the last piece of the puzzle but it’s the most important one. Apart from practicing different training exercises (there are over 10 exercises for loose lead walking inside the Bombproof Boxer Training Club), we need to work on our mechanics to give the dog a clear idea of what we want from them. Our timing is very important too. In addition, keeping the training sessions short, managing our expectations and setting the environment for a dog to succeed are also important components of successful training.

Teaching a Boxer to walk nicely on a lead in different environments and around distractions it’s not easy. In fact, it’s hard! But it’s absolutely possible. With patience, practice and the right training approach many Boxer owners will enjoy walks with their four-legged buddies 🙂

And if you’re a member of Bombproof Boxer Training Club you can now login and start loose lead training with our Loose Lead Legends Game Plan.

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