How to Train Your Dog to Stay by Your Side

Hard
2-4 Months
General

Introduction

Training your dog to stay by your side is an imperative command when you are out and about on leash or off-leash. Having your dog run from you because of a distraction or over-excitement can be quite scary and dangerous. If you are at a dog park or even just on a neighborhood walk where other animals may come across your dog, you want to your dog to remain safe and close to you so you can help protect him. Dogs who walk off-leash often need to know how to stay by their owner's side. Dogs who hike with their owners in public spaces off leash or dogs who go to restaurants or walk around town off-leash are the dogs who are expected to be well-behaved and next to their owners at all times. Training their dogs to remain by their side is the only way these owners can have their dogs completely off-leash.

Defining Tasks

Training your dog to be off leash and by your side will start with training your dog to be on-leash and by your side. You will want to teach your dog to heel. Whether your goal is for your dog to be on-leash or off-leash all of the time, you're going to need to train your dog to avoid distractions and keep his attention on you. If you move, your expectation should be that he moves with you. If you sit still, your expectation should be that he sits still with you. Though this can be taught at any age, it's often easier to teach puppies and younger dogs from the start how to stay by your side.

Getting Started

Training your dog to stay by your side will require daily small sessions of training. You will want to be consistent in your rules and how you decide to train your dog to stay by your side. You may need a leash to start even if your plan is to have your dog off leash once he is fully trained. High-value treats will help entice your dog to stay with you as well as to reward good behavior. Be patient and build daily training sessions into your days.

The Heel with Wall Method

Most Recommended
2 Votes
Step
1
Left side
Put your dog on your left side with a wall on his left side.
Step
2
Leash walk
With a leash on your dog, walk with him along the wall.
Step
3
Attention grabber
To grab his attention and keep him close to you, offer him a treat every few feet.
Step
4
Heel command
As you walk further, begin to use the ‘heel’ command.
Step
5
Reward
Be sure to reward your dog as he paces you by your side.
Step
6
Off-leash
To get your dog comfortable with staying by your side, you will have to eventually take him off the leash and ask him to heel off leash.
Step
7
Away from wall
As your dog gets used to the 'heel' command, move away from the wall. Begin to practice the 'heel' command on daily walks on and off leash.
Step
8
Practice
Continue to practice these steps until your dog stays at your side whether you are standing or sitting when you use the command heel.
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The Walk at Attention Method

Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Watch me
Teach your dog the ‘watch me’ command and use this command as you are walking or sitting together to keep his attention and stay by your side.
Step
2
Noise
Get your dog’s attention by making a noise. Give him a treat once you have his attention. Practice this for several minutes a few times a day.
Step
3
Watch me
Once your dog is familiar with looking at you and giving you his attention, add the command, ‘watch me.’ Plan to use this command as your command each time you’d like your dog’s attention.
Step
4
Practice
Repeat these steps and practice this command in various places and positions before taking your dog for a walk using this command.
Step
5
On-leash
With your dog on a leash, use the 'watch me' command as you both slowly walk together. He should remain by your side. Every few moments, use the command ‘watch me,’ and give your dog a treat once he gives you his attention.
Step
6
Off-leash
If you plan for your dog to be off leash and by your side, use the 'watch me' command while walking off leash as well. Keep his attention by using the command often and providing treats when he listens and obeys.
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The Start Young Method

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0 Votes
Step
1
Off-leash
If you have a puppy you are training even the most basic obedience commands, do so off leash. This will give your puppy confidence in his training as well as teach him early to obey your command and stay by your side as he trains.
Step
2
Play time
Fit in off leash play time with your dog either in open space, a dog park, or your backyard. During this time, you can challenge him to run from you to fetch a ball or catch a Frisbee, but always bring him back to your side by calling his name.
Step
3
Reinforecement
Build an excitement with your dog by rewarding him with positive reinforcement and verbal praise. When he comes to your side, be enthusiastic and say the word, ‘yes!’
Step
4
Redirection
If your dog gets away from your side, call him back and engage with him so he wants to stay by your side.
Step
5
Recall
Recall your dog to you by saying his name once. If he doesn’t come to your side, walk to him as you say his name. This will teach him that when you say his name, you want to be next to him. Over time, when he hears his name he should come back to your side. If you recall him several times, he will expect to hear his name several times before returning to you.
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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
Cocoa
German Shorthaired Pointer Labrador mix
3 Years
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Question
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Cocoa
German Shorthaired Pointer Labrador mix
3 Years

Hello. I received Cocoa from a friend earlier this year. She's nearly a perfect dog but I have some problems I'm looking for advice on.
1. She bolts when off leash and will not come back when called. I have to follow her and wait for her to stop on her own and catch her. She bolts out the door, and likes to chase distractions. I've
2. She is very excited to meet people and runs full-force at them to greet them. This scares a close friend of mine to the point that she is scared of cocoa due to an injured leg that she fears cocoa will bump into.
3. And finally,my landlady owns multiple cats. I enjoy cats and would like to have a kitten of my own someday, however cocoa loves to chase small animals. Cats included. This worries me and my landlady. I do not know what she would do if she caught a cat. But she only seems curious unless the cat hisses or reacts negatively, then she retaliates by chasing.
I'm looking for non-violent, positive advice. I love this dog, but I do not enjoy having to follow her across multiple yards when she gets loose, keeping her away from cats and my close friend, and her pulling really strongly on leash.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
906 Dog owners recommended

Hello, First, check out the article on teaching come. Pay special attention to the sections of using a long leash to proof Come around distractions and using the PreMack Principle to improve Come. https://www.petful.com/behaviors/train-dog-to-come-when-called/ Reel In method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-whippet-to-recall Second, I suggest working on a high level Place command with pup. Practice teaching her to go to Place, then gradually work up to her being able to stay on Place while you leave the room. Work up to her being able to stay on place for up to 30 minutes, then have a friend or family member practice knocking on the door and herd pup back to place each time she gets off when she gets excited. This will take a lot of repetition. You should be like a soccer goalie using your body to block her from leaving the area and guiding her back to the Place. Keep a drag leash on her to stop her form bolting if she manages to get past you. Practice Place this way until she can stay on Place when someone rings the doorbell/knocks, you leave the room, and a new person enters with you. This is entirely possible but will take a lot of practice from you both. This routine is a great routine for practicing impulse control and calmness for her in general. https://www.petful.com/behaviors/what-tricks-can-i-train-my-dog/ Third, use Place and Heel to teach her to pay attention to you around the cats and ignore them. Check out the video linked below. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IWF2Ohik8iM Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Baby
Chiwawa
2 Years
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Question
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Baby
Chiwawa
2 Years

It’s very hard to get my dog to heel because We bought her from an abusive owner and she feels very uncomfortable being on a leash. She can do “sit” and “stay” but just not heel or would ever follow me by my side. Help?

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

Hello, why not try the Treat Lure Method as described here, in the guide for learning to heel without a leash: https://wagwalking.com/training/heel-without-a-leash. It describes steps with a leash, but go ahead and work on it without. To help her accept the leash, be patient, and try the Drag Method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-your-puppy-to-accept-leash. For her safety, she'll need the leash to go on walks and adventures, something that will be therapeutic and enjoyable for her. Good luck and all the best to Baby!

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Scout
Maltipoo
9 Months
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Scout
Maltipoo
9 Months

I would rlly like him to be an off lead dog so he can have some freedom however sometimes it is difficult to call him back or get him to stay by me as he gets very excited as still young, how can I improve this to make him an off the lead dog

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
906 Dog owners recommended

Hello Chloe, Check out the articles linked below on teaching an off-leash recall - which starts with a long leash and for you specifically will involve going places like the park to practice recalls around other dogs who are passing by - or you can get together with friends' and their dogs and practice the PreMack principle - allowing pup to go up to another dog only after he has come first - then greeting the other dog becomes the reward itself after checking in with you. Come and the PreMack Principle: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/train-dog-to-come-when-called/ Reel In method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-whippet-to-recall An off-leash heel is generally started just like a normal leashed heel, then as pup improves you practice the heel on a long leash so that pup is following because they are paying attention to you and not dependent on the leash - but you can use the leash to guide back when needed and prevent pup from disobeying and having inconsistent training. Once pup can heel in places like your neighborhood on the long leash, then also go places where other dogs are walking around and practice the long leash heel around other dogs - with pup learning to ignore other dogs unless told to "Say Hi". I personally prefer starting with a normal weight long training leash - like what you see online and in most set stores, then going to an extremely light weight but strong one when pup is almost ready for complete off-leash work. The light weight helps the training transfer to off-leash better since pup is less aware of a leash being on them prior to taking it off completely. Whenever pup starts not coming or heeling again well, snap the leash back on for a month and do a refresher training course to deal with any issues - the refresher shouldn't take nearly as long as the initial training but at some point most dogs will test ignoring you again and need the refresher. Heel article - The turns method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel James Penrith from Take the Lead Dog Training also has a lot of great videos on Off-leash training. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCoxuNKpmUs390K7x_rvgjcg Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Bobby
Cavachon
5 Years
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Question
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Bobby
Cavachon
5 Years

Hey so I have a 5 yr old cavachon called Bobby and everytime I take him to the park he doesn't wanna walk round he just wants to go out the back gate and sniff around in the bushes near there. But when I put him on the lead to bring him away from there he will just pull or lay down and won't walk. So why does what do this and what can I do about it cos he doesn't listen to me he just goes the opposite way to which I'm walking and I want him to stay with me?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
906 Dog owners recommended

Hello Lucy, It sounds like the area he is sniffing is likely an area where another animal, like a rabbit, cat, dog, mole, ect...either lives or visits frequently. If pup isn't used to walk on a leash, first spend time getting pup used to leash pressure in general if pup's not familiar with coming forward toward you when there is a leash tug. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-your-puppy-to-accept-leash Next, if pup still won't walk, take some small treats or pup's dog food pieces in a small ziplock bag in your pocket or a favorite toy. Every time pup takes a couple of steps the direction you want them to, give a treat or toss the toy a step forward or let pup give the toy a tug. Keep your energy excited and confident. When pup stops, tell pup "Let's Go" in a calm and business-like tone of voice (it's not a question, it's a confident, calm command), then tug and release the leash several times in a row until pup takes a couple more steps - at which point give another treat or play. The leash tugs should stop as soon as pup starts moving. Repetitive tugs and patient persistence is the goal, not continuous or hard pulls. Keep your walking goals short at first. If pup won't leave your yard - your first goal is just to leave the yard. When pup reaches that goal - go home as an additional reward for pup following you - even if a lot of leash tugs were involved. When pup will go to the end of the yard easily then walk to the next house. Gradually increase your walk distance overtime. If you make your goal something huge like the whole neighborhood at first you are less likely to succeed - work up to distance overtime. Do not continuously pull pup on the leash. Doing so can harm pup's neck, but also dogs have a natural tendency to pull away from something - so if you pull pup in one direction, he will just pull back in the other direction, budging even less. This is why you do the quick tug and releases so that not following is uncomfortable with the tugs but not a continuous pull. You want pup to choose to walk to get away from the annoying tugs and to receive treats. Depending on what tool you are using to walk pup, you may also want to choose something different. If you are using a back clip harness for instance, I suggest switching to a secure front clip one, since back clip harnesses make it easy for pup to pull against you and can actually encourage more pulling - think sled dogs. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Harvey
Border Collie
10 Years
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Harvey
Border Collie
10 Years

Drove 5hrs (one way!) to collect this adorable boy at the tender age of 6 months old from an RAF base. I was told he was fully trained but in truth he was not.
He ran away, was food aggressive, chewed everything in sight including the walls and got over excited meeting new people. So I invested all my time into training him to be more obedient and calm.
I did not know if he had ever been around other animals so I simply left him in the house with 2 cats....he was perfectly happy in there company.
I took 2 full weeks teaching him to roll over which he mastered, he allows me to put my hand in his food bowl whilst he’s eating, I can ask him to wait infront if a bowl of food/treat and walk fully out of the room (even for 5+ mins) and return before I allow him to eat, he knows lay down, sit, both paws, recall, does the S shape between my legs (like dog/owner dance).
My boy was absolutely petrified of water/swimming when I brought him back home so I took him to the lakes everyday and got in with him....he used to wrap his legs tightly around mine and shake with fear. Gradually he let go and would watch me swim a short distance out and then he would swim with me whilst I lengthened the distance between us everytime. Now when we go to the lakes he will wait for me at the waters edge before enjoying a good swim.

He loves nothing more than a nice warm bubble bath, shampoo, conditioner and then blow dry with a good brush (yep he’s a princess!)

My boy is 10 years old this month and an adored treasured sweetheart, loved deeply by everyone he meets and wanted by everyone that has the pleasure to know him, his previous owners missed the opportunity to be the master of such a gorgeous big hearted boy but I’m forever grateful they allowed me the chance to love him.

I am no trainer but I am proud of what he grew into and how behaved he became, patience is a virtue and anyone can train there dog, enjoy every moment & love them with every piece of your heart because it goes so so fast.

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

Wow that's amazing! Yes you are very correct, everyone can train their own dogs and do it to the level you did. It is a commitment that I don't think some folks understand. The internet is full of very valuable resources. Patience is key as you know!

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bella
Pomeranian
5 Months
0 found helpful
Question
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bella
Pomeranian
5 Months

dog is running away and when i call for her she won’t come back. I don’t know what to do because she almost got attacked by a dog when she could’ve easily came to us

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
906 Dog owners recommended

Hello Camila, Check out the Reel In method from the article I have linked below. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-whippet-to-recall In an emergency you can also sometimes get pup to get sooner by sounding as happy and excited as you can (the think hi pitched best party you have been to), wave your arms in the air, then run AWAY from puppy to get them to chase after you like it's a game. Teaching a proactive come is vital too though. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Marchie
Golden Shepherd
1 Year
0 found helpful
Question
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Marchie
Golden Shepherd
1 Year

She’s very smart, but she chooses when to listen. I work with her, but others in my house don’t listen to the rules I have in place for her. What can I do to ensure she listens to me, just me even?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
906 Dog owners recommended

Hello Alexia, Check out this article. I recommend the Obedience and the Consistency methods both, especially. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-doberman-to-listen-to-you Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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