Let’s Talk About: Kikopup’s (New!) No Pulling Leash Training Video!

While I DO NOT recommend going to YouTube for dog training tips in general – please don’t trust just anyone who happens to call themselves a dog trainer to give you humane, effective and non-fatal dog training advice – Kikopup is a happy exception to that rule!

Kikopup videos are posted on Youtube for free by Emily Larlham, a dog trainer based out of San Diego, CA, USA who believes positive reinforcement-based dog training advice should be free and accessible to all. The reason that I feel that Kikopup videos are humane, effective and note-worthy can be found in Larlham’s positive reinforcement manifesto. Her dog training methods incorporate psychological, scientific and welfare considerations into compassionate, consequence-based leadership by owners. The effectiveness of this training style is clear in her advanced behaviors and tricks videos!

Today, Kikopup released a new No Pulling! leash training video. (Larlham also has an entire playlist about loose leash walking, covering everything from basic advice to equipment and how to handle reactive or shy dogs on leash.) This new video is particularly great, in my opinion! Here are just a few reasons why I like it so much:

1. Larlham makes a great point about not assuming a dog has any idea of what you want them to do when you attach a strip of nylon to their harness. Loose leash walking is maybe the least intuitive behavior we expect from our pups. Thus, dogs require clear, consistent leadership and positive reinforcement to learn what loose leash walking entails!

2. Even for a dog that isn’t normally shy or reactive, it can be difficult for her to concentrate on their leash manners in a noisy, smell, car-, pedestrian- and other dog-filled environment. In the video, Larlham begins loose leash walking training in a non-intimidating environment so the pup can concentrate on learning. 

3. Despite practicing in a calm environment, some dogs aren’t going to be calm enough to take treats when you’re trying to positively enforce their loose leash manners out in the “real world”. Larlham uses “penalty yards” in the situation where a dog is too nervous to take treats: when the dog pulls the leash, she directs the dog to walk away from whatever the dog was pulling towards.

4. “Penalty yards” doesn’t mean yanking the dog back when it pulls on the leash. The goal of directing the dog away from what they were pulling towards is to teach the pup that pulling doesn’t get her where she wants to go. By encouraging the dog with positive verbal instructions or patting your leg, as Larlham says, and rewarding the dog when she chooses to come towards you, she’s (humanely) learning that she needs to follow her walker’s leadership while on leash.

5. Finally, my favorite part of the this video: Sniffing is as important as the walking during a walk. Larlham makes the great point that walking should provide both exercise and mental stimulation for a dog. As long as the leash is loose, it is perfectly appropriate for a dog to smell all the smells! Teaching your dog, “Let’s go!” after they have had a little sniff and rewarding them for following you is an important part of loose leash skills.



To Leash or Not to Leash: Risk vs. Reward

When I see an off-leash dog walking next to her owner, I think, “Wow, I would never do that – that is so risky.” When I an off-leash dog sprinting towards me and my dogs while her owner A) is totally oblivious or B) trailing along yards and yards behind the dog, vainly yelling the dog’s name, I think, “I’m going to kick this dog in the face with an almighty passion if he tries to bite me or my dogs.” I love and respect dogs so I don’t particularly enjoy contemplating physical violence against a dog, especially when this situation is so easy preventable.

If you haven’t guessed already, I’m not a proponent of dogs being allowed off-leash in public areas that aren’t fenced in and purpose-built for off-leash dog play. For me, off-leash play is a question about risk versus reward.


Risk #1: Your dog causes injury

A loose dog can cause car accidents, fight with other dogs, bite an adult or child, or injure or kill livestock, among other injurious scenarios.

“Not my dog!”, you might say – but you’d be wrong.

Any living dog can and will bite in the right – or wrong – circumstances. The first recommendation from the ASPCA to prevent dog bites is to acknowledge that any dog can bite. Any dog of any size or temperament can be provoked, and as humans, we don’t always notice the provocation or warnings signs until its too late.

“But my dog is so friendly!”, you might say – but that’s not always the case.

Just because you dog tolerates your children, or some children, doesn’t mean she “likes” kids or that your dog will tolerate or like all children. The same goes so other dogs and adults alike!

Risk #2: Your dog is injured

An off-leash dog is relatively or completely unsupervised and unprotected. Your dog could be injured or killed by a fearful or malevolent human, attacked by another dog or cause injury or illness to herself by ingesting something toxic, rotting or inedible.

Risk #3: Your dog gets lost

No dog is 100% predictable and 100% obedient because dogs are not robots. While you dog may respond just fine to a recall command, you just can’t guarantee she’ll come when called regardless any distraction that comes her way. You love your dog, and you’d be devastated if she got lost. You do the math – an $8 leash is way cheaper than spending $35,000 recovering your dog!

Risk #4: Your off-leash dog makes public areas unpleasant for many people 

People have just as much of a right to expect dogs to be on-leash where leashes are required as they do to expect cars to stop at red lights. Some people are afraid of dogs, some people have dogs who are afraid of or aggressive towards other dogs and many people would rather your dog didn’t sprint at their children. These folks deserve to have fear-free access to public spaces where leashes are required! Finally, I know that this bad behavior befalls leashed-dog walkers too, but I frequently see owners of off-leash dogs turn a blind eye to their dog’s bathroom breaks. Dog feces are a public health and environmental hazard, people – CLEAN IT UP!



The rewards of being off-leash – namely, enrichment and exercise – can be gained in ways that substantially reduce the probability of these risks.

  1. Owners can utilize fenced-in dogs parks, fenced-in yards and secluded open areas.
  2. Owners can teach their dog a distraction-proof recall and other safety measures, such as “Stay” or “Down” at a distance
  3. Owners can socialize their dogs with other dogs, people (adults and children) and other distractions, like loud noises, skateboards, wheelchairs, etc.


The Bottom Line

It’s unfair for owners to ignore the risks off-leash activity in public area poses to their own dog as well as other people and pets, and disrespectful to others who use those public spaces.