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You might think that training your dog to follow you off-leash might be more than a little challenging. To be sure, it will take a little hard work from both of you. However, if you have taken the time to establish yourself as the "Alpha" leader of the pack, this type of behavior should come naturally to your pup. Dogs have a tendency to look to their pack leaders for guidance, including what direction they should travel and how fast they should be moving.
Because of this natural pack instinct, you need to be sure your pup sees you as the Alpha at all times, even when you are not going for a walk. Teaching your dog to stay close and follow you can help keep him safe whenever you might be in a dangerous situation, such as a crowded area or when there is a lot of traffic nearby.
The actual command you prefer is up to you. You can use 'come', 'follow', or even 'heel' if you prefer. Teaching your dog to follow shouldn't take more than a few weeks, as long as you have the patience and a quiet place to work at first. This behavior can typically be taught to any dog who has already mastered the basic commands, no matter his age. However, you need to start out working with your pup in a quiet space such as a fenced in backyard or maybe an open field where there are no other dogs, people, or traffic.
The intent of the command is that your dog should be able to follow you and assume the heel position at a single command. He should also remain in this position during the entire walk unless and until you release him. This ensures that he stays in a safe position without any need for continuous reminders, making going out for walks more enjoyable for both of you, as well as anyone else around you.
One of the most important things you must remember when training your pup to follow you is it should be done using positive rewards such as verbal praise and treats. Training your dog to follow should never be done using punishment when he gets things wrong. Making mistakes is only natural in the beginning phase of training, positive reinforcement will make the training go faster and be far more successful.
- Leash: You need
a leash to go for walks in the earliest stages of this training.
- Treats: You need
some way to let your dog know he is doing a good job.
- A quiet place to work: If you want your training to be successful, you need a quiet place to work, free of distractions, in order to be successful
- Patience: Any type
of training is going to require a significant amount of patience while your pup
learns to get things right.
The most important part of any training program is time. You need time to practice this new command two or three times a day, every day of the week, or it could take months for your pup to master this new skill.
The Backyard Method
Take a break
Take your pup out in the backyard and let him follow you around (most puppies love to follow their owners around. Take advantage of this natural instinct, encourage it, and reward him for doing so with his favorite treats.
Pick the side you want your pup to follow you on and stick to it. Tap your leg, say follow, and start walking again. Reward him with a treat when he does what you want. Repeat this frequently until he automatically gets up and follows you every time you go for a walk in the backyard.
It's time to take this training outside of the safety of the backyard into the neighborhood during a time when it's relatively quiet. Have him follow you and reward him when he does.
Extend the walks
Start out with short walks at first to get him used to following close on your heels. Gradually extend the walks using the 'follow' command and reward him generously.
Add the distractions
Start taking your walks when there is more traffic or people around to distract him. As he follows you, be sure to reward him with lots of praise and treats. Repeat this process until he will follow you no matter where you go or what is going on around you.
The Be Near Me Method
Create a bond
If you want your dog to follow you, you need to form a strong bond with him. Spend time with him, play with him, be the one to feed him, and spend time brushing him, petting him, and letting him know you love him.
Any time your pup starts to follow you on his own, be sure to let him know he is a "Good Boy!" and give him a treat. This helps him see that he gets a reward for following you.
Get some exercise
Try going for a jog, a hike, or just a long walk. Let him run behind you on the leash, giving him practice at following you. Be sure to give him lots of treats when he does.
Hide and seek
If you are trying to train a puppy, try playing a little hide and seek with him. Your pup wants to be close to you, so if he starts wandering off instead of following you, hide. This will make him seek you out. When he does, give him a treat.
Relax and have fun
The most important step in this training is to remember to relax and have fun. The more fun you make training your dog to follow you, the more he positively he will respond and the faster the training will go.
The Follow My Treats Method
Choose a quiet place
Start by choosing a quiet place for your initial training sessions, an enclosed backyard is the best place. If you don't have a fenced in backyard, try to choose a quiet time of the day.
Pockets of food
Place a handful of your pup's favorite treats loose in your pocket and walk around with them. If your pup follows you, give him a treat, if not, show him the treats and step off again.
Start follow training
Stand by your dog, give him the "follow" command, and walk away, but don’t look back or stop. If he follows you, be sure to give him a treat for doing what you expect him to do.
As you walk, change speeds and directions. If he slows down, speed up to make him catch up with you. If he tries to run ahead, turn and walk the other way. If he goes to one side, go the other way.
Continue working with your pup, following these instructions every day, in fact, try to go for walks like this several times a day if you can. It can take from weeks to months before you can count on your dog to follow you no matter what. Just don't forget the treats and praise when he gets things right.
By PB Getz
Published: 10/19/2017, edited: 01/08/2021