How to Train Your Dog to Not Walk in Front of You

Easy
1-2 Days
Behavior

Introduction

Anyone who owns a dog knows that regular walks are a large source of enjoyment for both you and your pooch. Not only do walks enable you and your canine buddy to get a much-needed dose of fresh air and critical exercise, walks also strengthen the bond of friendship between pet and their human. Most dogs we’ve known can barely contain themselves when the word “walk” accidentally slips in a conversation and we won’t even mention what happens when the collar and leash come out.

Given the fun and beneficial nature of walks, it’s important that they remain productive and stress-free to both dog and owner. Teaching your dog to not lead the way in your daily walk is helpful for safety reasons, as well as useful for avoiding obstacles, allowing the human to control interactions with other dogs and establishing the owner as the pack leader who provides guidance as to route choice. Good thing for dog owners, teaching your dog not to walk in front of you is also a relatively simple training task!

Defining Tasks

Whenever you set out to teach your dog to “not” do something, owners should realize that dogs have a hard time understanding the word “no” without context. If you want to teach Fido to not walk in front of you, instead of making them stop the behavior, your goal should be to teach alternate behaviors instead. This positive reinforcement method is useful for cementing behaviors in your dog’s brain, teaching your dog how to learn generally and improving morale for both humans and canines by making training sessions more about fun and less about yelling “no” or “don’t do that” repeatedly.

Getting Started

Before setting out on your first walking and training adventure, you and your pooch are going to need a few basic supplies. A sturdy collar and leash are essential in any outdoors training activity, especially one involving walking. Even if you walk your dog off leash, you should teach new behaviors on leash to help avoid distractions. A flat buckle collar and appropriate length leash should work well for you and your pooch.

You will also want to acquire a treat pouch and fill it up with plenty of tasty, bite-sized treats. The pouch should fasten easily to your belt or waist to allow for easy access when you’re juggling the leash in your other hand. Treats should be no more than a bite to allow for quick eating and so that your dog doesn’t get filled up and uninterested before your walk is over. Once you’ve rounded up these items, it’s time to choose your method of teaching your dog to not walk ahead of you.

The Teaching Heel Method

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Step
1
Start out on the left foot
Teaching heel is a great behavior and keeps your dog positioned at your side during walks instead of out ahead of you. Start off with your dog sitting down on your left side. Hold a treat in your hand and start walking forward, luring your dog with the treat to follow.
Step
2
Praise and treat
Once your dog has followed for a few steps, release the treat and praise your dog.
Step
3
Repeat and add cue
Repeat holding a treat in your hand and having your dog follow until they are doing this reliably. At this point, add in the ‘heel’ command, saying ‘heel’ when you drop your hand with the treat and start out walking.
Step
4
Lengthen and strengthen
Begin to lengthen the amount of time your dog walks alongside you after the giving the heel command until you provide the treat. Start out with several paces and work up to 10, 15 and 30 seconds and then a whole minute. Very slowly, over multiple sessions, increase the time.
Step
5
Remove the lure
Once your dog is solidly staying by your side, remove the treat lure and use only the command. If need be, go back a step or shorten the time if your dog seems confused or regresses. Practice in varying locations and you’ll have a heel-tastic dog that doesn’t walk ahead of you in no time.
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The Red Light Green Light Method

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Step
1
Find the right walking spot
Start out training this behavior in a quiet, familiar area to help avoid distractions. The more your dog focuses on you, the easier it will be for them to learn and process your commands.
Step
2
Getting ahead of your pooch
While at a stop, throw a small treat on the ground as a distraction. When they’ve eaten it, start walking slowly in a direction that puts you in the lead ahead of your dog. Your pup will quickly follow behind you.
Step
3
Be a tree
Walk at a normal speed as long as your pooch is at your side or behind you. The moment they start walking ahead of you stop. Be careful not to pull back. You should aim to be a tree. Your dog may act frustrated at first, but eventually they will either come back to you or lose interest and sit or lay down.
Step
4
Move out
As soon as your dog is either still or by your side, start walking again. Keep walking slowly until they move ahead of you. Treat your dog occasionally if they stay by your side while walking and don’t forget to praise.
Step
5
Repeat, repeat, repeat
Repeat steps 1-4, slowly increasing distractions and length of time. If your dog seems to regress, don’t panic, simply move back to a calmer, more familiar environment. Your pooch will be a walking pro in no time.
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The Watch Me Method

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Step
1
The set up
‘Watch me’ is a great command to help teach your dog not to walk ahead of you since they’ll have to turn around to watch. Dogs will naturally fall to your side and not head out on their own. Start by finding a quiet spot to train and gather plenty of treats.
Step
2
The lure
Show your dog a treat and slowly bring it up to your face until it is between your eyes. Hold the treat there until your dog makes eye contact. Immediately praise and treat.
Step
3
Work in the cue
Repeat step two, bringing the treat up in between your eyes until your dog is reliably making eye contact to get the treat. At this point, add in your cue word, “watch.”
Step
4
Solidify the cue word
Repeat using the cue word and the lure. Eventually, begin to remove the lure and use the cue word sporadically on its own. Continue doing this until your dog is reliably making eye contact when you say watch.
Step
5
Prectice
Repeat using the cue word, interspersed with the lure, in multiple locations to strengthen your dog’s response. Start working in the watch command when you’re walking with your dog by your side to keep them engaged and interested in you and not out ahead.
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Written by Amy Caldwell

Published: 10/17/2017, edited: 01/08/2021

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Mac, Mitzi
terrier mix, schnauzer mix
5 Years
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Question
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Mac, Mitzi
terrier mix, schnauzer mix
5 Years

How do I show both of my dogs who the leader is in leash training? They both seem to want to walk ahead of me, no matter what. The youngest is a 3 month old female Schnauzer/Australian Healer Mix, she becomes very distracted and wants to play with the other dog while walking. The other is a male 5 year old terrier mix, he wants to pull from side to side to pee.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
780 Dog owners recommended

Hello Rebecca, Check out the turns method from the article linked below. Practice with each dog separately - especially your older dog, until pups can follow well individually, then add them together and practice more in a spacious location, before working on straight normal walks together. The younger puppy likely just doesn't know how to walk and like you said is playing. That is likely more about pup just learning how to walk nicely on leash, opposed to your older dog wanting to lead the walk. Turns method - this method's turns and speed changes require pup to actually pay attention rather than assume that they know where you are headed, and to stay a bit behind because of the 90 degree turns in front of pup: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Jackson
Puggle
6 Years
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Question
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Jackson
Puggle
6 Years

He tries to eat everything and when I try calling him he won’t listen and he continues to eat whatever he is eating in the backyard. As well as when we’re on walks. Sometimes I have to do a slight tug to get him away but it gets tiring having to stop every 10 feet to tug him away from something.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
780 Dog owners recommended

Hello Tristan, First I suggest teaching Come and Leave It, and a couple of commands. Leave It method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Out - which means leave the area: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ Come - Reel In method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-whippet-to-recall Heel - Turns method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel Practice the above commands until pup does well while on leash. When pup can do well, use a no-pull type collar, and practice having pup heel past distractions you have put on the ground. Practice having pup recall away from distractions while on a long leash as well. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=23zEy-e6Khg Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Boi
Husky
7 Years
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Question
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Boi
Husky
7 Years

Hello! I have a husky,he listens and behaves inside but when we go outside he pulls the leash is distracted doesn’t make eye contact with me and is indifferent to the treats. I’ve tried the tree method and I see a small progress but he still walks ahead me and pulls the leash sometimes. He’s so stubborn and I can’t use the treats outside to try to train him. What do you suggest? Looking forward to your response. Thank you in advance!

Darlene Stott
Darlene Stott
Dog Trainer and Groomer
104 Dog owners recommended

Hello, I would work on training Boi to heel as you walk. The methods here are all excellent but I think he may do well with the Turns Method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel. Practice this on every walk - Bio has a clever mind and will likely do really well as he concentrates on the task at hand. As well, ask Boi for a "sit" before every event: before getting his meals, before the leash is put on to go out, before a treat, before playtime etc. This will instill respect and will also get him used to listening to you and paying attention. Also to sharpen the listening skills, take a look at this guide in its entirety. There are excellent tips:https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-doberman-to-listen-to-you. Good luck and have fun!

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Question
Rosie
Miniature jack Russell
7 Months
0 found helpful
Question
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Rosie
Miniature jack Russell
7 Months

Hi, I’m 17 and a first time owner and I have a Jack Russell with a mind of her own. She’s really smart and learns fast but my mum wants nothing to do with training as she never wanted a dog but I promised to do everything myself and I’ve stuck to that, obviously my mum loves Rosie to peices but she doesn’t want to participate in any training which I get a little bit angry about because I’m not asking her much but just a thing or two but anyway, Rosie is partly lead trained I’d say she CAN walk nicely BUT she persists to pull if I stop for a second or when does walk nicely I give her a treat then straight after she eats it she’ll pull again!! The only way she doesn’t pull is if I walk at her speed which is pretty fast and I don’t enjoy it one but I just want stress free and peaceful walks at a decent pase not rushing just to avoid pain in my hand from the lead squeezing my hand :( she walks so fast I can’t get her to slow down! How do I fix this once and for all??? She also can be stubborn and ONLY do tricks if I show her the treat in my hand, because I know she can’t walk on a lead that well it’s stopping me from teaching her recall which is also bad as she ignores me completely and when she sees a bird or a cat she won’t give up pulling to it and I just had enough I love Rosie but I’m struggling and I don’t want her to be a year old and not trained what do I it’s stressing me out

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
214 Dog owners recommended

Hello! If you are overpowered by your dog’s pulling and cannot start the teaching process for fear of being pulled over, then there are humane equipment solutions to help modify the pulling while you teach your dog to walk appropriately. A chest-led harness is a perfect training aid, as it takes pressure off a dog’s sensitive neck by distributing the pressure more evenly around the body. When the leash is attached to a ring located on the chest strap and your dog pulls, the harness will turn his body around rather than allowing him to go forward. I recommend this kind of harness for anyone who needs extra help, as safety has to come first. Leash pulling is often successful for the dog because the person inadvertently reinforces the pulling by allowing their dog to get to where he wants to go when he pulls. But you can change this picture by changing the consequence for your dog. When he pulls, immediately stop and stand completely still until the leash relaxes, either by your dog taking a step back or turning around to give you focus. When the leash is nicely relaxed, proceed on your walk. Repeat this as necessary. If you find this technique too slow you can try the reverse direction method. When your dog pulls, issue a 'Let’s Go' cue, turn away from him and walk off in the other direction, without jerking on the leash. You can avoid yanking by motivating your dog to follow you with an excited voice to get his attention. When he is following you and the leash is relaxed, turn back and continue on your way. It might take a few turns but your vocal cues and body language will make it clear that pulling will not be reinforced with forward movement, but walking calmly by your side or even slightly in front of you on a loose leash will allow your dog to get to where he wants to go. You can also reinforce your dog’s decision to walk close to you by giving him a motivating reward when he is by your side. Once your dog is listening to you more, you can vary the picture even more by becoming unpredictable yourself. This means your dog has to listen to you at all times because he never knows when you are going to turn or where you are going to go next. Instead of turning away from him when you give the let’s go cue, reverse direction by turning towards him. You can turn in a circle or do a figure of eight. Any of these variations will get your dog’s attention. Do not forget to praise him for complying, because the better you make him feel walking close to you, the more he will chose to do so.

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