Leash jerks do no favors.

Want to know what makes me tick? I see red when someone uses the leash jerk to “train” a dog. These corrections can range from a quick snap to the neck to actually lifting the dog off the ground – the WORST advice ever. Couple this with using a prong, choke or slip collar and I enter the red zone.

Yesterday, I saw a man jerk the hell out of his adolescent Golden Retriever on the beach only to have the poor dog cower in front of him. This is not training what dog training or a walk should look like. Fear has no place in modern dog training.

 A month ago, I came across a young man with a puppy on a retractable leash (not a fan of these leashes for various reasons). This puppy happily ran to the end of the leash and the young man jerked the poor puppy so hard both front feet were high off the ground. I had to say something, so I walked past and looked him in the eye and said, “Keep jerking the leash like that and you’ll need a chiropractor for that dog.” He seemed angry and walked away, while the girl he was with sheepishly said, “Oh, she’s just so crazy” to which I did not respond. Yeah, dogs tend to be crazy on a leash when you don’t take the time to teach them leash manners.

Dogs aren’t born knowing how to walk on a leash. You have to teach them. Using positive methods will get you the results you desire without having to harm the dog. Leash jerks teach fear rather than trust.

Contrary to the belief of some, leash jerks are not a viable option for training. Leash jerks are not conducive to training appropriate behavior, your timing had better be supernatural, behavior often gets worse, and you can cause extreme physical and psychological damage to the dog. For some dogs, being jerked on leash escalates the behavior you were trying to correct OR suppresses the behavior until Fido has had enough and perhaps enacts his frustration up the leash towards you or the other dog with you.

Ever consider the anatomy of a dog’s neck? You have a thyroid, trachea, esophagus, lymph nodes, artery, vein, and cervical vertebra. Damage any of those and you could be looking not only a hefty vet bill, but you will likely have a dog in pain. Pain = not so great behavior = makes the behavior you were jerking the leash for worse

4 Reasons to avoid or stop jerking your dog’s leash:

1.      Dogs learn by association. If every time Clover sees another dog (or whatever gets her excited) and only to have her neck jerked about, pretty soon Clover will associate the sight of other dogs with pain. Dogs = pain = react by barking and lunging to keep them as far away as possible

2.      You haven’t trained appropriate behavior. Dogs getting punished when nobody ever took the time to teach appropriate behavior is not fair.

3.      Fear of engaging in normal dog behavior. This breaks my heart. To see a dog that has been leash jerked so much that they no longer sniff, look around or relax while on a walk. When a dog no longer exhibits normal dog behavior, you have punished to the point of compliance.

4.      If you have to consistently correct a dog, you’ve not trained the dog. How many times is that leash being jerked while on a walk? Let’s say 10 times per walk, 2 walks a day = 20 daily leash jerks = 140 weekly leash jerks = 560 monthly leash jerks = 7280 leash jerks a year. Astounding. Clearly, leash jerks don’t work if you have to continually implement them.

This is a short list of why leash jerks are a bad idea. If you are currently doing this, please at least try a positive approach. There are excellent resources and force-free, positive reinforcement trainers that can help you get the leash manners you do want from your dog without the potential fallout listed above.