How to Train Your Dog to Stay Beside You

Hard
2-4 Months
General

Introduction

Training your dog to stay beside you whether you are on walks together or whether you are lounging around the coffee shop is a great trick to teach your dog. Dogs who often get the most attention out in public are the dogs who are the most well-behaved. Many people will comment on how well-behaved the dogs are and notice how they avoid distractions. Dogs who stay beside their owners have been trained to do so. They have been trained not only to obey their owners but also to respect them enough to stay with them no matter where they go and no matter what happens around them. If your dog is trained to stay beside you whether you were walking or relaxing, he will not be distracted by other animals or people around. This is an ideal situation whether you are walking through the neighborhood on a leash, at a dog park, or out downtown in dog-friendly restaurants.

Defining Tasks

Having your dog stay beside you starts with building confidence in your dog. He wants to please you, so he will work hard to do so. You are your dog's favorite person, so he wants to be near you. Dogs also thrive when owners set real boundaries. Setting a boundary with your dog of not allowing him to leave your side when you are out and about or when you were walking together will give him the confidence to be your best friend. You can use different keywords to let him know when it's time to leave together such as 'let's go' or 'come,' but ultimately you want to train your dog to stay with you whether you are walking or sitting. Though it's easier to teach puppies how to stay with you, older dogs can be taught as well. It just may take more time and repetition for your adult dog to understand.

Getting Started

To train your dog to stay beside you, your dog will need to start with a leash. Be sure to have lots of high-value tasty treats to keep your dog's attention as well, to reward him for a job well done. This is going to require a lot of repetitive training, so be prepared to set aside some time each day to train in short training sessions.

The Leash Start Method

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Step
1
Long leash
Attach a long non-retractable leash to your dog. Walk side by side with him.
Step
2
Treat
Keep him by your side as you walk with high-value treats. Every few steps, offer him a treat and verbal praise.
Step
3
Challenge
Loosen the leash and use the command to 'heel' with your dog. The distance between you two will open, but when talking to him, like when you say "heel" or "let’s go," he should respond by coming to you. When he does, give him a treat.
Step
4
Continue
Build more challenges by increasing the space you allow your dog to get away from you by loosening his leash. You can also take your dog off leash if he can be trusted to be near you while training or as long as you are in your yard.
Step
5
Entice
As you walk along, use the ‘let’s go’ or ‘heel’ command to call your dog to your side. Over time, this command will be one he will expect to hear when you need him to be by your side should he venture away. Entice your dog with treats to keep his attention with you as you use these commands.
Step
6
Practice
Keeping building the confidence in your dog by enticing him with high-value treats such as hot dogs or cheese. Keep him by your side using the command he’s learned and the treats he wants to earn.
Recommend training method?

The Lead Method

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Step
1
Start walkng
Put your dog on a short leash and start walking.
Step
2
Follow
Your dog will follow you because he wants to please you and be near you. If he doesn't, use a treat to lure him along.
Step
3
Treat
As soon as your dog catches up, offer him a reward.
Step
4
Key word
Use a key word or phrase such as "let’s go" and walk.
Step
5
Reward
Keep your dog close and continue to reward him for staying with you. Practice this several times before lengthening the leash. The short leash will give him the position you expect as he is training.
Step
6
Challenge
As he continues to learn to stay by your side, you can loosen the leash, giving him room to move away from you. Your expectation will still be for him to stay beside you, but you can begin to give him the freedom to move.
Step
7
Entice
Keep him close to you by enticing him with high-value treats and verbal praise. Keep this enticement up as he learns to be away from you on a loose leash as well as off leash.
Step
8
Keep it up
Keep him by your side until he fully understands it is always the expectation by using these high-value treats. As he learns this is where he needs to be, you can offer him treats less often, but still reward him for good behavior and good choices.
Recommend training method?

The Sit Stay Heel Method

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Step
1
Sit
Train your dog to sit and have him sit next to you or in front of you.
Step
2
Stay
Train the 'stay' command and have him stay as you walk away. If your dog does not already know these two basic obedience commands, work on them before training your dog to heel and stay beside you.
Step
3
Call
Walk a few steps away from your dog and call him with a whistle or by using his name. Do this only once. If he doesn’t come your direction, go to him.
Step
4
Treat
When you meet with him, either if he comes when called or if you have to go to him, give him a treat.
Step
5
Heel
Once you and your dog are side by side, ask him to heel and take a few steps forward. If he doesn’t follow, entice him with a good treat.
Step
6
Continue
Keep walking, and continue to use the 'heel' command giving your dog a treat every few steps he stays at your pace and by your side.
Step
7
Stay beside
While on walks have your dog stay beside you by calling him by name or by whistle and asking him to heel. If you re not walking, use the sit and stay commands to keep him in place.
Recommend training method?
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Written by Stephanie Plummer

Published: 10/26/2017, edited: 01/08/2021

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Tilly
Shih Tzu
7 Years
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Question
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Tilly
Shih Tzu
7 Years

How can I stop my dog barking at other dogs when we go out?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
841 Dog owners recommended

Hello Holly, First, check out the article linked below and the Quiet method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark How does pup do with the dogs up-close. Is pup excited, fearful of them, aggressive? If pup is fearful, you will want to desensitize and build confidence around other dogs by rewarding pup for calmness at a distance where pup can stay calm, and gradually decreasing that distance as pup improves. Practicing obedience commands like Heel while doing this can also help to take pup's mind off the dogs and stay calmer, so that you can reward. If the issue is excitement, you can work on the same desensitization exercise for fear, but incorporate a whole lot of obedience to get pup into a working mindset so that they are focused on you and the dogs in the background become boring. Practicing the Passing Approach from the article linked below and only rewarded when pup is focused on you and calm, can also help - passing the other dog over and over again until they are boring can help with calmness when done right. Passing Approach: https://wagwalking.com/training/greet-other-dogs If the issue is aggression, the above exercises can help, but I also suggest working on building pup's respect for you in general, and working with a trainer or aggression specific class, like G.R.O.W.L class to address the underlying issues with other dogs. Respect building methods - Working, Consistency and Obedience tend to work best in combination with each other: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-doberman-to-listen-to-you Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Spaz
American Pit Bull Terrier
9 Years
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Spaz
American Pit Bull Terrier
9 Years

Hey I’m trying to teach my dog how to stay beside me and on walk and just in general what command should I try to use I have treats? Thanks!

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Question
Neive
English Springer Spaniel
5 Months
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Question
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Neive
English Springer Spaniel
5 Months

She keeps running to far away from me. How do I keep her near me on walks? She gets a scent then she is off

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

Hello, I assume you are training Neive off-leash? Remember she is pretty young and does not have her recall down pat, so do be careful that she cannot run into traffic. This guide has excellent tips and methods for off-leash work: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-whippet-off-leash. Read the entire guide - I expect it will be very helpful. The Reliable Recall Method as described in the guide is something you can practice in a safely enclosed area. First, make sure that Neive knows her 'sit' and 'stay' commands so that she'll sit and wait in a situation where you need her to. I see she has an ID tag, and microchipping may be wise, too. All the best and happy training!

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Rae
Husky
4 Years
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Rae
Husky
4 Years

I have a project I am working on that is a little different. I am an emt attempting a kind of experiment to train my dog to act as a “partner” in volunteer rescue work. She is adults that a family had to rehome due to a hurricane taking out their house. Rather than search, she is basically being trained to stay by my side, and do a handful of tasks beyond basic obedience training. The first two are pretty straightforward. I know that the last two are trying something totally new and in uncharted territory .
She has to:
1. stay with me at all times off of the leash
2. kneel and stay put on command
3. possibly differentiate between a handful of items ( maybe 5 or 6 at most)
4. identify those items and hand to me off the ground
If it works, is there some classification she can be registered under? I also have seizures (controlled) which is why only volunteer and don’t work EMS professionally anymore. There is typically there’s only a breakthrough seizure every 3 or 4 years. I don’t know if that could be an avenue I could go to register her. Any information would be helpful.

(My dog and example of type of vest attached)

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
841 Dog owners recommended

Hello Matthew, If pup was taught a behavior that directly helped in the event of a seizure, like going to get help during one, pup could likely become a service dog since you have a medical condition that would likely qualify and it sounds like your goal is to train pup well enough for to meet the public access requirements. Additional commands could be taught on top of the qualifying service dog skill. In the US there is not an official certification for qualifying as a service dog, rather you must have a qualifying medical condition (a doctor's note may be required some places like planes and housing), pup must be trained to perform at least one task that directly helps with your condition, and they must be thoroughly trained for public access without any behavior issues that would cause a public disturbance. It can help access to have a copy of your doctor's note, necessitating the use of a service dog, a laminated copy of ADA law which explains the laws regarding service animals, and a vest that says pup is a service dog (often patches with service dog are added to whichever vest is most practical for your needs). https://www.ada.gov/service_animals_2010.htm https://www.ada.gov/regs2010/service_animal_qa.html Pup could also be trained as a therapy dog - which is what dogs who visit hospitals generally have certification in - that wouldn't allow pup as much access as a service dog with you outside of hospital settings personally, but it is more generally recognized for hospital patient visitations, and involves a testing and certification process. It sounds like pursing both service dog training and therapy certification with pup might be worth your time. https://www.tdi-dog.org/HowToJoin.aspx?Page=Testing+Requirements Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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