Walking a dog can be a delightful experience, especially when you have a strong bond with your furry friend. However, sometimes your canine companion turns out to be stronger than you are, which can make the walk a bit more exciting than you may like.
Since some of the large breed dogs can weigh up to 100 pounds, not to mention the giant breeds which can come in at up to 200 pounds, it’s important to know the tips and techniques that can make it easier to handle and walk a powerful dog.
As large dog lovers, we’re familiar with just how powerful these breeds can be. Controlling them involves three important things: Basic training, specific leash training, and the right equipment.
Otherwise, you may find that your dog is walking you!
Understanding Your Dog’s Strength
The size and strength of larger breeds means that different handling techniques are required than you may use with a smaller dog. But strong dogs don’t necessarily mean a strong approach – just a different one.
First and foremost, it’s important to recognize that not all strong dogs are large dogs.
Take the Pit Bull as an example. While some Pit Bulls can top 75 pounds or so, most are in the 40 to 50 pound range, which we consider to be medium size dogs.
But don’t let that fool you!
Pit Bulls are solid muscle and can pull like a locomotive, so remember that your Pit Bull puppy may grow up to be strong enough to drag you across the street. This means early training is essential for not only the large breeds, but also for the strong breeds.
The Equipment Needed to Leash Train a Strong Dog
When it comes to walking a dog that’s stronger than you, the right equipment can make a huge difference. Here’s a breakdown of the essentials you need in order to control a powerful dog.
Flat Collar. This is a is a the simplest type of collar and buckles around the dog’s neck. It is usually made from either nylon or leather. This is the most common type of collar and is suitable for small and medium size dogs. However, for big, strong dogs that tend to pull on the leash, a flat collar may not be the best choice because it can put undue pressure on the dog’s neck and throat.
Head Collar. A head collar, also known as a halter or gentle leader, is a collar that fits around the dog’s head and muzzle, not unlike a horse’s halter. This type of collar gives the handler more control over the dog’s head and can help with strong dogs that tend to pull on the leash.
The head collar works by redirecting the dog’s attention and preventing it from pulling. As with all equipment, It’s important to get your dog familiar with the head collar gradually, so they feel comfortable wearing it during walks.
Martingale collar. A martingale collar is similar to a flat collar, but has an additional loop that tightens when the dog pulls, preventing the collar from slipping off. This is a good choice for big dogs with narrow heads or those who are prone to slipping out of collars.
The martingale collar is designed to prevent choking and is a good alternative to a choke chain or prong collar, both of which we don’t recommend for any dog.
A harness is an alternative to a collar that attaches around the dog’s body, rather than their neck. A harness can be helpful for big, strong dogs who pull on the leash, as it distributes the pressure more evenly across their body and can be more comfortable for the dog.
There are several types of harnesses, including front-clip, back-clip, and no-pull harnesses. For training purposes, experts most often recommend a front-clip harness. It has a leash attachment at the front of the harness that helps redirect your dog’s attention and helps prevent pulling.
Harnesses with a front-attaching clasp are particularly effective for giving you better control over your dog’s movements.
There are many leashes available on the market, and choosing one with the right length and durability will ensure you can keep your strong dog safely under control.
Standard Leash. A standard leash is usually 6 feet long and made of nylon or leather. This is the most common type of leash and is suitable for many dogs.
However, for big, strong dogs that tend to pull on the leash, a standard leash may not provide enough control.
Short Leash. A short leash, also known as a traffic lead, is usually 2-4 feet long and is designed to give the handler more control over the dog’s movements. This type of leash is best if you have a strong dog that tends to pull on the leash and needs more control.
Retractable Leash. A retractable leash is a leash that can be extended and retracted as needed. This type of leash can be convenient for allowing the dog more freedom to explore, but is not recommended for big, strong dogs that tend to pull on the leash.
Retractable leashes can be difficult to control and can give the dog too much freedom. Some of them extend up to 25 feet, which is much too far away to have any hope of controlling a strong dog.
Plus, the leashes on them tend to be on the thinner side, for ease of retracting, which makes them unsuitable for a strong dog.
Hands Free Leash. A hands-free leash is a leash that attaches to the handler’s waist or hip, allowing them to have both hands free. This can be helpful because it allows you to use your body weight to control the dog’s movements.
However, for big, strong dogs this is not a good choice. If your dog weighs 150 pounds and you weigh 125 pounds, it’s more likely that the dog will control your movements!
Slip Lead. A slip lead offers a leash-collar combo that tightens when the dog pulls, making it more difficult for them to slip out of their collar.
With the right equipment in hand, leash training your strong dog can become a more manageable and enjoyable experience. Remember, it takes time and patience to teach proper leash manners, so stay consistent and always use positive reinforcement to encourage good behavior.
Basic Training Comes First
When it comes to walking a dog that’s stronger than you, the foundation of successful training is to do basic obedience training first. The goal is to establish clear communication through positive, reinforcement-based training.
It’s critical to establish the basic obedience skills early. This includes loose-leash walking, sitting, and staying. This ensures your dog is well-mannered as you walk together, even when faced with potential distractions.
Teaching your dog verbal commands is vital. You should choose commands that are simple and clear, such as “sit,” “stay,” “heel,” and “come.”
By using these consistently, you’ll build a strong foundation for a dog that is well behaved on walks. And remember: patience and repetition are key to helping your dog understand and respond to these cues.
The Big 3 Basic Commands
In order to have any chance at successfully leash training your big, strong dog, there are three basic commands you must get your dog to master.
Start by holding a treat above your dog’s nose to get their attention. Slowly move the treat back over their head, using the verbal command “sit”.
As soon as they sit, give them the treat and verbal praise. Repeat this process several times, gradually adding the “Sit” command.
For the “Stay” command, tell your dog to sit and then hold up your palm facing them while saying “Stay.” Take a step back and wait for a few seconds.
If they remain seated, praise them and give them a treat. Gradually increase the distance and duration of the “Stay” command during practice sessions.
Training your dog to heel when walking with a leash is important for maintaining control. Start by walking with your dog on a short leash and keep them close to your side.
Use a verbal command, such as “Heel,” and reward them with treats and praise when they stay by your side. If your dog begins to pull or move too far ahead, stop walking, and wait for them to return to your side.
Once they are back in the proper position, continue walking and reinforcing the “Heel” command.
- Pro Tip: Use a consistent side for your dog to walk on (usually the left side) for easier training and less confusion.
Training with Distractions
To ensure your dog can safely walk with you, it’s important to train them to ignore distractions.
A strange dog running up to you while walking your Chihuahua won’t be a problem. You can easily hold it back or simply pick it up. It’s a different story when walking an 80 pound Labrador that has not been trained in distractions!
Once your dog has mastered the basic commands such as sit, stay, and heel, you should gradually introduce distractions and practice commands in different environments. Enlist family and friends to help simulate real-life scenarios.
Eventually, your dog will learn to focus on your guidance even when among distractions.
To be effective, you must be consistent in your training approach. Regular practice and reinforcement of learned skills will help keep your dog well-behaved and responsive to commands, even when it’s stronger than you.
A great starting point for anyone looking to begin obedience training is this AKC guide on basic dog training. It’s a great starting point for any pet owner looking to enhance their furry friend’s obedience. It emphasizes the role of consistency in training and establishing a strong bond with your dog.
The Importance of Loose Leash Training for Strong Large Breed Dogs
Loose leash training simply means training your dog to walk beside you with slack in the leash and no pulling.
When walking a strong dog, consistent leash training is crucial and loose leash training is an important component. It allows you to maintain control and prevent your dog from pulling or dragging you around during walks.
Helping your dog to master loose leash training will not only make your walks more enjoyable, but can reduce the liklihood of accidents or injuries caused by sudden pulls or lunges.
To begin the loose leash training process, you’ll first need to introduce your dog to the necessary equipment, such as a collar or harness and a leash. Allow your dog some time to get comfortable with the collar or harness and the feel of the leash before starting the actual training.
Patience is critical, as pushing your dog too fast may result in fear or resistance.
Once your dog is familiar with the equipment, start the training in a low-distraction environment like your backyard.
Stand next to your dog, holding the leash with some slack, and reward your dog when they maintain a relaxed position by your side. Encourage your dog to continue this behavior by using verbal cues like “let’s go” or “walk” along with some treats or praise.
Be sure to be consistent with your verbal cues. If you sometimes use “let’s go” and other times use “come on” to signal you’re going for a walk, you’ll confuse your dog.
Pick one verbal cue for each command and use it consistently.
Over time, you’ll want to gradually increase the level of distraction by practicing the loose leash walking in different areas, such as parks or busier streets. With time and consistent practice, your large breed dog should improve in maintaining a loose leash while walking, even in more distracting environments.
Keep the training sessions short, fun, and rewarding for your dog to ensure sustained interest and progress.
Don’t Forget to Add Some Fun
Begin by incorporating short walks into your routine to help your dog get comfortable with the surroundings and gradually improve leash skills. As your dog becomes more familiar with walking on a leash, you can slowly increase the duration and distance of the walks.
During your walks, try to integrate some fun and rewarding activities for your dog. This can include:
- Taking different routes to keep the walk interesting
- Allowing your dog to sniff and explore (within reason)
- Offering treats and praise for good behavior
This approach will make your walks more enjoyable, strengthen the bond between you and your dog, and improve their overall behavior.
Remember that consistency and patience are crucial when walking a dog stronger than you. By establishing a good exercise routine, using the right tools, and practicing positive reinforcement techniques, you’ll be much successful in controlling your strong dog.
10 Best Tips for Walking a Strong Dog
Walking a strong dog can sometimes be a challenge, but with the right techniques and tools, we can make it an enjoyable experience for both us and our furry friends. Here are our top 10 tips for walking a dog stronger than you:
- Use the right leash and collar: Choose a durable, high-quality leash and a collar specifically designed for strong dogs. Consider a front-attachment harness or head harness to help control your dog’s pulling force.
- Proper obedience training: Begin by teaching your dog basic commands such as sit, stay, and heel in a familiar environment where they feel safe, ensuring they’ll listen to you during walks.
- Utilize positive reinforcement: Reward your dog with treats and praise when they follow your commands and remain calm on their walk.
- Consistent communication: Maintain clear and consistent communication throughout the walk. Use short, clear commands while maintaining a confident tone.
- Keep a firm grip: Hold the leash with both hands to maintain control over your dog’s movements, and ensure your grip is strong enough to keep them in check.
- Start with short walks: Gradually increase the duration of your walks to help both you and your dog build stamina and confidence in managing their strength.
- Avoid distractions: Select walking routes with minimal distractions, such as other dogs, people, or vehicles, to help your strong dog remain focused and manageable during the walk. You can then gradually introduce distractions by varying your route.
- Stay calm and assertive: Remain calm and confident, as dogs can sense our emotions. By projecting confidence, your dog will be more likely to remain calm and follow our lead.
- Use walking tools: There are several tools available, such as gentle leaders and no-pull harnesses, which can help control your dog’s pulling and make your walk more enjoyable.
- Monitor body language: Pay attention to your dog’s body language and adjust your walking strategies accordingly. For example, if your dog seems tense or anxious, try to redirect their attention by changing directions or temporarily stopping the walk to practice obedience commands.
The Bottom Line
Training your big, strong dog to not pull on a leash is pretty straightforward with these basic steps:
- Select a durable leash, two to four feet to start with, along with a proper collar or harness.
- Use positive reinforcement with all your training techniques.
- Establish clear communication with your dog, using positive reinforcement to get it to listen.
- Be consistent and patient. Teaching a strong dog to walk properly on a leash takes time and consistent practice.
The best time to start training is when your dog is a puppy (and not yet bigger and stronger than you!).
If you wait until your puppy is full grown, or if you adopt a full grown dog, it will be best to use a professional trainer.