How to Break Your Dog of Pulling on the Leash
and Other Bad Habits

I saw this on a PBS program about dog training and thought I'd try it because the dogs in the video definitely were trained immediately. I checked with my vet about safety, and he said it was perfectly safe. So I tried it.

Chocolate had a bad habit of pulling on the leash when we go walkies. I have tried everything, including what my breeder and my obedience teacher recommended:

Did any of this work? Of course not!

When I saw the program on PBS, I didn't have a dog (but was thinking about it and therefore watched all the "dog shows" I could find). Since none of the traditional methods were working, I decided I'd give this a try since it looked as if it worked!

Here's the scoop.

Pour 1/3 to 1/2 c dried lentils into a zipper-top plastic bag. Zip it shut, squeezing out most of the air. The lentils still have to move around. I used red lentils, but certainly you have your pick of legumes! Match your decor! Match the dog's leash!

When the dog starts to do what you want to break him of doing, call his name, deliver your command, and immediately drop the bag of lentils on his rump, just at the base of his tail.

The dog is so surprised he stops what he's doing. If he has obeyed your command in the past, the chances are good he will do as you ask.

He is astonished by the feel of something dropping on him (especially from above), and he also does not like the noise the lentils make. (How awful can 1/2 c lentils sound?!)

When the dog repeats the forbidden behavior, drop the bag again.

It took two "drops" before Chocolate had the complete picture. I had to drop it one more time because he was not sure that it would always happen when he pulled on the leash, but he was convinced after that.

Miraculous! It was a joy to walk him! No more frenzy when he spotted another dog or a granny with a baby carriage a quarter of a mile away.

In fact, so anxious was he to avoid it, he kept looking over his shoulder to keep an eye on that bag of lentils I carried in my hand. That day, he was even apprehensive about stopping to sniff. The second day, of course, he could differentiate between pressure on the leash that I'd allow (to stop and sniff, for example) and what I wouldn't.


You can use this technique to make the dog stop jumping on visitors. You'll need a second person.

Put the dog on a long leash. Tie rope or string to the leash to make it longer. You need 6-10 feet.

Outside, have the other person approach you and your dog. Your dog will run over to and jump up on the other person. You follow and drop the bag of lentils on the dog's rump at the same time you say, "Don't jump!" or "Down" or whatever your command is. It's important that the dog not see you coming.

Again, it should take only a couple of times to fix the problem.

Also works on barking in the yard. (You have to be right there with the dog, though. You can't throw the bag of lentils at him.) Or staying off Grandma's brocade loveseat and anything else you care to name. (Except housebreaking.)

Chocolate weighs 17 pounds, and I used 1/3 c lentils. Use more or less, depending on the size of your dog. The guy on the PBS show ("Uncle Matty") used dried beans; the dog was a German shepherd.

I made a "travel-size" bag for "touch ups." Easier to carry on walkies. I used 2 T of lentils. It has to be just enough so the feels something dropping on his rump and hears something at the same time.

My vet said he'd never heard of this method but thought it a capital idea. I questioned him again about injuries, and he repeated, no, that it was perfectly safe. If you have any concerns, however, check with your vet before you try this.

What can I say? Works great!

Update: This method even works when we approach someone else walking a dog, even if that dog is undisciplined (as Chocolate used to be!).

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Last updated February 1, 2002.