Walking with your Staffy should be a pleasure where you enjoy spending time together and exploring the local area while both getting a bit of exercise. However, many Staffy owners dread taking their Staffy out for a lead walk as they often pull so much that the experience becomes unbearable.
Preventing lead pulling is even more important for owners of breeds that people are (wrongly!) wary of like Staffordshire bull terriers because the behaviour is often interpreted as aggressive.
The good news is that you can certainly spend time working with your dog to train them into better walking habits.
In this article, you can find some top training tips for how to stop a Staffy pulling on the lead together with some recommendations for the most suitable walking equipment for them.
Why Does My Dog Pull on the Lead?
Over-excitement is the main culprit for lead pulling but to put it simply, your Staffy pulls on the lead because they don’t know any differently. As soon as you accept that you or their previous owner have not been giving the right signals to your Staffy during walks, the easier it will be to deal with their pulling issue.
In particular, if you often walk your dog by letting them run freely across open land such as a beach or fields, the dog will then associate walk time with being given free rein to go wherever they choose to.
Your Staffy will usually get very excited just before going for a walk. Perhaps you let them jump in the back of the car and drive them to a place that you let them run freely in.
Allowing your dog the freedom to run and play is by no means a problem.
However, an association of being outside the house with pure excitement has been made for your Staffy. They get themselves into a headspace of no control.
This is the opposite of the mindset they need to be in when you want to control them on the lead. For lead work, they must be calm and present. This is the bit that you need to teach them how to do as it does not come naturally. We will get to this shortly.
Does Pulling the Lead Hurt my Dog?
Pulling hard on collars is also likely to be more risky than harnesses, especially if your dog pulls very quickly and suddenly.If your dog does not give at all when walking on a lead you may have experienced them going into respiratory distress where they become dizzy and collapse. This is because they have run out of oxygen in the blood and can not refill because the collar is restricting air flow. This is a serious issue and you must stop walking them and allow them to rest until they are breathing normally again.
If you get to this stage with your Staffy, you really need to take control and teach them to walk calmly on the lead. You may even consider other collar and harness options.
Tips to Stop a Staffy Pulling on the Lead
Like most training, teaching a Staffy to walk on a lead is always best done when they are young. However, as any Staffy owner knows, this breed of dog is commonly rescued and adopted so if you are faced with training an older Staffy who has never had any training, it may take longer and a lot of patience but you can use the following tips to great effect.
- Get a suitable lead or harness
when training a Staffy to walk on a lead, you need to invest in the right lead or harness for them. The next section in this article you will see some of the best suggestions for both leads and harnesses for pulling dogs.
- Switch up the routine
Change your dog’s routine when you begin training them to lead walk by taking them out at a time they don’t normally go out at. This will reduce the initial excitement that they whip themselves up into when they know it is close to walk time.
- Remain Calm
Being calm is your new mantra so you have to start slow when training to lead walk. At all stages, your Staffy must remain calm. So, when you are first training you may not even get out of the front door.
This is a real patience tester so be prepared!
You must show your Staffy that they will not be allowed to leave the house unless they are calm. When you put their lead on and exit the house they must not pull you off your feet. As soon as they pull, stand up straight and stop firmly.
Do not move until they release from pulling on the lead. They will normally look up at you to see what you are doing. When they do this you can then move forward. As soon as they pull again you must immediately stop.
It can be a bit tedious when first starting out but trust me Staffys are very smart and will quickly get what is going on.
- Positive reinforcement
Reinforce the good behaviour of your Staffy with positive words. However, avoid using words such as good boy and well done whilst speaking in a high pitch.
This is a trigger for a dog to get excited. Instead, speak one word at a time such as steady, good, ok and say them in a low tone. This will let your Staffy know that you are watching them and like how they are behaving.
- Stay in control
If you are walking well on the lead and all of a sudden your Staffy gets distracted and starts to pull towards something such as another dog, turn them swiftly in the other direction and say come in a low tone. This will show them that their attention must always be on you and walking calmly.
More Lead Pulling Tips from Expert Trainer, "Doggy Dan"
Even though, we've been well aware of Dan for a while, we recently tried out Doggy Dan's online training course (review to come soon). It's a great resource for both dog and puppy training. It features over 250 training videos on all manner of topics, including a series on teaching your dog to walk correctly.
Click the button below for a Free 3-day trial so you can take a look around.
No-Pull Harnesses and Leads
Our favourite all-round harness is this Julius K9 PowerHarness.
If your dog is a serious puller, you may need to look at some harnesses or leads designed specifically for the problem.
There are multiple types of leads, collars and harnesses. There are harnesses with single clips on the front or back, double-clip harnesses, a harness that loops around their nose as well as head-collars that give you more directional control over your dog.
For most staffies, I like to recommend a strong chest-harness like the Julius K9 I linked to above. For particularly strong pullers, some of the devices below could be worth trying out until they are trained.
This classic figure 8 anti pull lead is soft against the nose of your Staffy. It is an ideal long term lead to keep them on, even once you have trained them to walk on a lead.
The softer, rounded design is also great for improving the comfort levels of this style of lead.
The Gencon is a classic dog trainer lead system that stops your Staffy pulling by turning their nose towards you when they pull.
At no time does it restrict their breathing making it the perfect lead to start your training with.
Halti products have been used for training dogs to walk properly for years and are always recommended.
This no-pull harness is great for owners who don't like the look of the over-the-nose leads above.
The chest panel is comfortable on the dog and still allows you control over them.