How to train your collie to walk calmly and stop pulling

Training your collie to walk calmly while they are on their lead is an important aspect of basic collie training. Without sufficient training, collies will pull and strain at their collars, pulling you along instead of walking calmly by your side.

Collies will pull on their lead if they think this is how they can move forward faster. If you continue to walk forward as your collie pulls, this reaffirms their belief that pulling is acceptable behavior. You can stop your collie from pulling on their lead by refusing to move forwards while they pull, and reinforcing good behavior.

In this article, we’re going to explore the psychological reasons why collies pull on their lead, and how you can train them to stop pulling and walk calmly.

Why do collies pull on their lead?

There can be several reasons your collie pulls on the lead. You may even notice that they only pull on their lead in certain locations and not others.

Collies pull on their lead because they are excited to get to wherever you’re going, and because you haven’t trained them not to. Collies are more likely to pull if you’re using an extendable lead too, since they can’t tell when they have gone too far.

Let’s look at each of these reasons below, before we dive in to how to train them to walk calmly.

1: they are excited

Collies are enthusiastic creatures and most get very excited when they are out for a walk, especially if it’s their first walk of the day. Collies have so much energy and this can manifest itself in hauling their owners about the streets to get to where they want to be faster.

You may notice your collie pulls more as they get closer to their favorite places such as the doggy park. Collies have an exceptional episodic memory and remember exactly where places are and how close they are to them so pulling frantically on the lead is your collie’s way of trying to go faster to get to their favorite place quicker.

2: they think they are the alpha

Your collie may pull on the lead because they think they are the alpha. They see you as second in command and as such, they pull in the lead to show you where they want to go.

If your collie is constantly straining to walk in certain directions and is setting the pace of the walk with their incessant leash pulling, the chances are your collie may not see you as their leader but view themselves as the boss who dictates the pace and direction of the walk.

3: they are scared

Scared collies have a natural reaction to fight or flight. If your collie suddenly and abruptly begins to pull on their lead the likelihood is something has spooked them and they have entered flight mode.

Collies are spooked easily by loud noises or sudden, unexpected movements so your collie may pull frantically on their lead out a walk as they are constantly on high alert.

You may notice your collie pulling more if they are in a busy area with lots going on. In reality, all the business can be overwhelming for your collie and they may be pulling on the lead to try and remove themselves from their surroundings faster.

4: You are using an extendable lead

Collies thrive on consistency and there is nothing less consistent than an extendable lead. Sometimes they can go 15 feet ahead of their owners, other times they are restricted to only a few feet.

This is very confusing for your collie who will be unable to decipher how far ahead of you they can walk without choking themselves. As a result, collies who use extendable leads tend to pull more as they simply have no idea how close to their owner they are expected to walk.

Sometimes Luna likes to extend as far as possible…those sniffs need smelled people!

How to stop your collie from pulling on the lead

Stopping your collie from pulling on the lead is pretty simple however it will not be a quick fix as once your collie has learned a bad habit, it will take a lot of time and patience to rectify their behavior. 

You can stop your collie pulling on their lead by pausing when they pull, so that they learn pulling doesn’t get them there any faster, by training them to stay close with treats and positive reinforcement training, or by using a physical training aide like a head-collar or a non-pull harness.

It’s better to get started on this type of fundamental training when your collie is still a puppy, but it’s never too late to start new training.

Let’s explore how to do this below:

1: Treats, treats, and more treats!

Collies are not known for being treat obsessed however, it does depend on the treat available. I have yet to meet a collie who will turn down cooked chicken or hot dogs! So how can treats help prevent pulling on the lead?

As you walk with your collie, randomly release high-value treats. You can choose to drop them next to you or hold them in your hand to feed your collie at random intervals. This teaches your collie not to walk too far ahead, and positively rewards them when they stay close.

Collies are not daft and will soon realize that if they stay close to their owner instead of pulling away from them they are rewarded with tasty treats. This training technique teaches your collie using positive reinforcement as they get randomly rewarded for staying close and not straining on their lead.

Luna is an expert at walking to heel…especially if there are hot dogs on offer!

2: use a head collar

A head collar has an extra band that goes around your collie’s nose. This means that anytime your collie pulls forward, their head is pulled downwards to look at the ground. The idea behind this is that your collie’s attention will be diverted downwards any time they get overexcited and start pulling.

Head collars are not cruel and do not hurt your collie, they are a good way to get rid of your collie’s pulling behaviors during the early stages of training as it gives you more control over your collie while they are out walking.

Make sure that the head collar you purchase fits well to avoid unnecessary straining.

3: teach your collie the ‘heel’ command

Teaching your collie to walk to heel is an important step in very collie’s training. Once you have mastered the ‘heel’ command, you can use it to prevent your collie from pulling too far ahead. Every time your collie starts pulling, use the ‘heel’ command to bring them back beside you and they will soon learn how they are supposed to walk.

Tips on learning the heel command:

  1. As soon as your collie pulls on the lead, use a clear, calm, and firm voice to say ‘heel’ to get your collie’s attention.
  2. When your collie is looking at you with a slack lead, reward them with a treat.
  3. Continue to practice the heel command in a variety of different settings until your collie can confidently walk by your side in the heel position.

The heel command is not difficult to teach, however, it will require patience and persistence from the owner. This command is truly worth the effort and will make your collie’s lead-pulling behavior a thing of the past.

Luna patiently waiting to cross the road. Good Girl
Luna patiently waiting to cross the road. Good Girl

4: stop walking while they pull (‘Stop’ command)

As soon as your collie pulls on their lead, stop walking immediately and firmly tell them “stop”. This will teach your collie that pulling does not result in them getting there any faster, and teach them the stop command. Be prepared to only walk a few paces before you need to stop, especially if your collie is a serial lead puller.

Always combine this training with positive reinforcement training when your collie behaves in a manner in accordance with your expectations.

This process may earn you a few funny looks from passersby as you may only be able to take a few steps at a time before needing to stop. However, do not be disheartened. Your effort and persistence will be worth every strange stare when your collie has mastered the ‘stop’ command and walks without pulling on their lead.

5: invest in a non-pull dog harness

Harnesses generally won’t help a collie who is pulling on the lead, since all a harness does is allow your collie to pull using all their body weight.

Instead, purchase a special non-pull harness, which is designed to redirect your collie’s energy when they pull forward. These harnesses are a great way to train your collie to stop pulling naturally, although it should be used in conjunction with another method to ensure they don’t pull when using a regular collar either.

About the author:

About the author:

Hollie and Border Collie

 Stuart MacPherson

Colliepedia Editor

 Stuart MacPherson

Colliepedia Editor

I'm an experienced collie owner from Scotland. I started Colliepedia to share everything I know about collies. All the pictures you see on colliepedia are of my beloved collie Luna

Learn More about me and Luna's story on the about page!