Yesterday I adopted a Husky from a family that could no longer take care of him.

He's a great dog but is terrible on leash, his nose is #1 he'll follow it anywhere. I've tried normal techniques such as walking with a treat in my hand and asking for heel, stopping when he pulls, changing directions... Nothing seems to work, the only way he walks well is if I sprint repeatedly on the grass with him and he starts to get tired. When he's tired he walks ok.

So how can you train a dog who does not respond to treats? I've tried numerous brands and types, the only food he's jumped through hoops for is steak and I don't think i'll be taking him for walks with a steak in my hand...

4 Answers 4


Treats aren't the only reward you can use, and some dogs can teach you a lot about motivation (such as huskies). If treats aren't working now, think about what he does love. Depending on the dog it can be anything from balls, tugs, chasing, running around, pets, praise, etc. I'm sure there's something that he loves (even if it's something "bad").

You can teach loose leash walking with toys, but it requires very careful reward placement and it helps if he has a good "leave it" / "get it" command.

Once you have something, you can begin using the premack principle to transfer his joy into other things or at least more appropriate things. This states that more probable behaviors increase the likelihood of less probable behaviors.

Practically, this means if he loves to chase squirrels and you give him a treat and then let him chase a squirrel, he'll start to love the treat too. Or giving him a lower value treat and then a piece of steak will eventually increase the value of the lower value treat.

As for other ways of increasing food motivation, I would recommend not free-feeding (if you are) and giving him a limited time to eat. If he comes to realize that food is a limited commodity, it will be become more valuable. You might also double check to see if he's getting the right amount of food. I'm not suggesting you starve him, but if he's full, you'll need to use something else like a toy for rewarding. (At least for a husky. Other breeds may always have room for more.)

You can also try using his meal as a reward. If he's hungry and expecting his meal, he may be more willing to work.

Finally, don't forget about simple boiled chicken, string cheese, or more exotic treats such as alligator.


First of all, congratulations on your new dog. Much of what is below will also contribute to a great relationship with your lovely companion.

This is a lengthy reply, but I hope there is something here that will be of use to you.

There is a youtube vid. on loose leash walking that is worth watching that you could practice in your house and then back yard (or basement or garage). It does use food, but this may be where your steak can come in. (It uses a clicker if you are familiar with the use of it.)


I adopted a small dog a few years back who was very fearful, even of me. I could not touch him nor would he take any food from me and he was quite reactive on leash. The one thing he had in common with your husky was (and still is) that he loved to smell things. When he wasn't reacting to something, he was sniffing.

So, using the premack principle mentioned by Jeffaudio above, you can create a desired behaviour (the one you want) by asking the dog to do it first before being able to do the second behaviour (the one your dog wants to do). It is Commerce built on Trade. (Eat your veggies all up and you then can eat that nice bowl of ice-cream).

Here is a great article: What’s Premack Got To Do With Dog Training? By Dana Scott www.dogsnaturallymagazine.com/premack-and-dog-training/

The first thing is to rate what your dog is really valuing while you are walking. You have already identified sniffing as a very high-level activity for him. What are his favourite things to smell? Fire hydrants? Trees? Posts?

Are there any other activities he loves? Does he enjoy meeting people while on leash? Does he play tug? Does he think jumping on and off benches is fun? Does he love bum scratches? Keep tabs on all of this information because these are the things that you can let him do and/or do with him in trade for not pulling you (referred to as "life rewards"). I say "do with him" because many dogs are very enamoured with being engaged with their people. (If you do jog, it is a great activity. Most dogs won't actively sniff the ground if they are moving at a faster pace).

2 other points that are worth mentioning IMHO: One is to create an activity that is all about pulling, if this is something he values. No greater joy have I seen than when a dog is doing something he was made to do. Teach him how to pull a wagon to help you transport things, research if there is a "skijoring" (a dog pulling a person who is on skis)group (if you live in a snowy area) or something else of your creation.

Two is to invest time inside your home teaching him behaviours he can perform for you while on a walk that he can trade for sniffing/bum scratches/greeting people/ jumping on a bench/whatever he likes.

Can he sit beside you for 3 seconds (yay...now "go sniff") can he do a spin (yay...now let's go say Hi to our friend) can he weave between posts (or your legs) (Yay...now we can play in this puddle). The more he realizes how much fun you are, the more likely he will be to check in with you a little more often while walking. He can't look at you and pull at the same time.

Eventually, he will be looking to you, waiting to do something you ask so that he can earn some sniffing time.

As for the eating thing...my little guy would not eat a thing from my hand. I hand fed him all his meals in the house, one kibble at a time (mixed with chicken for some extra motivation). If he did not take any, I just put the bowl away and tried again 20 minutes later. (This was after 2 weeks of throwing bits of chicken to him any time he looked at me until he eventually was brave enough to eat some from my hand).

Eventually we worked up to his being able to eat his supper (and chicken) from my hand while my kids moved about slowly, then we graduated to while he was on leash in the house, then when the back door was open and he could see some distractions. From there we went to being able to eat kibble while sitting on the front porch (we still had to go into the house if another dog went by as he would get over stimulated and to be able to eat). We then asked a neighbour if we could use their front porch and so on. He now LOVES getting his meals while out on a walk (and earning the pleasure of "go sniff").

Lastly, there are some great walking aids such as a head halter (much like a horse wears) "Gentle Leader" is one such product. Also front-clip harnesses "Easy Walk" would be an example. You can find ways to help your dog acclimatize to both of these on the web. Both are super in helping a dog to not pull.

I hope this lengthy reply has a gem or two that may help.

Best of luck and have a lot of fun learning with him.

  • Lengthy answer BUT WORTH reading. To anyone who stops at the beginning or midway, KEEP READING. Good answer @Coco65 and welcome to the PetsStack community!
    – Christy B.
    Commented Oct 5, 2017 at 20:57

Jeffaudios answer is really good, just want to add a few things.

Firstly for walking, we've a tiny 4 month old Sheltie who will never be able to pull either myself or my husband where he wants to go... He's just too small. However the advice from our puppy classes for big dogs was really good.

You've tried getting him to walk to food which we didn't get to work either, we use a circle / stop technique when he pulls too much. Circling takes them out of focus for what they are pulling for and our pup will slow down after this now, it takes time but it can sink in.

Another point was when we had Blaze on a collar with his lead he pulled a lot more than a harness he often sounded like he was choking - he was instantly better on harness, and the type of harness you use us important. Our instructor has a mastiff, and he uses a harness with a front and rear clip, which essentially allows him to steer his dog in the directions he wants him to go without pulling back on the dog.

For general training, if Blaze won't sit, stay etc for a treat (eg, he's had too many, just eaten, too many puppies around him etc etc) then we'll use a toy or a rawhide to motivate him, like Jeff stated. Our instructor states often that your payment to a dog has to be high enough that he'll want to do what you ask, and that a hungry dog is more willing to work.

  • Get your dog to sit for his breakfast and dinner.
  • Don't give him all his dinner in a bowl, ask him to work for some of it.
  • Associate play and treats, if he drops the ball offer him a treat - he may not eat it every time but it's a process and dogs join dots.

I don't have an answer but wanted to dump a bunch of advice:

  • Your dog can be still be motivated with treats - if the treats are smelly! Dogs have preferences, too. Whatever you're using isn't working, so ditch it. When I train I have different treat bags, like smelly bacon treats, chicken, canned tuna, and smelly cheese. I have to vary the treats up because the dog becomes bored of one.

  • Don't demand too much. When your dog gets tired, give it a rest (unless its leash training, then stay consistent, finish the walk, but maybe take a shorter walk next time)

  • SMILE. BIG PRAISES. When your dog does good, immediately grin at him and praise him a lot. Like he won the lottery. Dogs read human faces, and this helps a ton.

  • If you are using your body weight to control the dog on the leash, it's time to invest in a better collar or leash that won't require you to weigh 300 lbs to control him. Something like choker collars, pinch collars, or the other one by Caesar Millan's ex-wife that goes around the head and neck. Remember to be consistent. A walk is about walking, not stopping to smell, and should be a calm, enjoyable thing. Be consistent, consistent, consistent. It might take around a week, but you should be seeing radical improvements day 3 and on.

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