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

How to Train Your Dog to Not Walk in Front of You
Easy difficulty iconEasy
Time icon1-2 Days
Behavior training category iconBehavior

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!

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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.

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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.

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The Teaching Heel Method

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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.

2

Praise and treat

Once your dog has followed for a few steps, release the treat and praise your dog.

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.

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.

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.

The Watch Me Method

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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.

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.

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.”

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.

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.

The Red Light Green Light Method

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

By Amy Caldwell

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

Training Questions

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Training Questions and Answers

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Hera

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Border Collie

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1 Year

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Question

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She keeps trying to walk in front of me, and no amount of stopping, changing direction, rewarding at my side has helped. I'm at the end of my wits with this, resource guarding (other dogs), and her anxious whining whenever we move away 5 steps from her in a new surrounding - sometimes she screams so much that people might think she's being slaughtered!😓 I've been training with her and working on her fears (not socialised at all until I took her away from a backyard "breeder" at her almost 3 months of age) since the day one I brought her home. It has been really stressful, and when she got around 6 months old, my life circumstances changed for worse and with my mental health issues, I just couldn't handle so much stress anymore and I lashed out at her during that period. I know it's horrible, and I feel like the worst person in the world because of it, but knowing it and being able to self-regulate under so much stress are, unfortunately, two separate things for me. I'm at a bit better place mentally now (not too much, but less stressed out enough to be able to control myself when feeling helpless during her training), but I worry that our relationship can't be repaired.☹️ It's even more of a hit for me when she completely ignores me when my spouse is around, who didn't want to have anything to do with her or her training (bringing her had put a serious strain on my relationship with him) for a long time, but would just play with her 2 mins per day tops. She friggin'adores him so much that every time he takes off from us when in the forest, she'd try to rush after him. Two days ago she injured my ankle (long line got around it and she tried to run off after some guy she thought was him... it was/is like Greek fire spilled on my ankle), and I'm pregnant and can't afford to fall (she did trip me twice now, while pregnant, once I fell but luckily baby was unharmed). And I can't even adopt her away to someone better because in my country there aren't too many people who bother to learn that dogs are more than toys and that they have different needs, and border collies especially are high-maintenance.

July 5, 2022

Hera's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello Vesna, Check out the video channels I have linked below. The first trainer is a great resource for obedience training, even with high drive dogs who have livetock chasing/killing issues, and focus is hard for them. The second trainer handles a lot of behavior issues like reactivity. https://www.youtube.com/c/JamiePenrithDogTraining https://www.youtube.com/user/AmericasCanineED Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

July 6, 2022

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Luna

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Rottweiler

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6 Months

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How to get her to walk behind on a leash or to the side and to also avoid any distraction that may interfere with her focus on me and to get a better bond with her

June 29, 2022

Luna's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello Luna, Check out the turns method from the article I have linked below. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

June 30, 2022


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