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When you walk down the street, does your dog zig and zag, in every direction--on the sidewalk, onto the street, onto your neighbor's lawn? The problem is that your neighbor may not appreciate your dog on their lawn, especially if that is where your dog chooses to relieve himself, and the street can be dangerous if a car is coming down the road. Teaching your dog to walk next to you and stay on the sidewalk can be difficult, as there are so many great things your dog wants to smell and investigate on either side of the sidewalk, but teaching him to stay on the sidewalk makes walking with your dog much more pleasant, safe, and popular with your neighbors.
You may not require your dog to heel, but getting your dog to walk on a loose leash and stay on the sidewalk, without veering off onto lawns or the street, can be taught to keep your dog safe and your walks more pleasant. A dog that constantly walks onto private property may be unpopular in your neighborhood, and there are hazards present on other people's property. If your neighbor treated their lawn with chemicals, your dog could pick this up on his paws. Also, other organic hazards such as garbage and other animal waste can be present in people's yards which could make your dog sick. On the other side of the sidewalk, cars and traffic present a hazard if your dog wanders onto the street.
Keeping your dog on the sidewalk is an important behavior to keep your dog safe and training your dog to stay on the sidewalk can be started when your dog is just a puppy. You will also want to teach your dog to stop at the curb when you need to cross a street, so that he knows that stepping off the sidewalk is something he does only when asked to.
You will need lots of treats to reinforce good sidewalk walking behavior. You can also use a clicker if your dog is used to being reinforced with a clicker. While walking your dog on the sidewalk, make sure you have a good leash and collar or harness that fits well. Using a long lead to practice having your dog walk with you may be useful for some methods. Make sure you have time to work with your dog on walks, do not be in a rush or lose patience with your dog and create a negative association with walking, which should be a fun time for you and your dog.
The Walk With Handler Method
Tire your dog
Exercise first with off-leash play time in a yard so your dog is tired out.
Start in enclosed area
Start in a controlled area, like a fenced in yard. Use a long lead, 10-20 feet in length. Start walking your dog on the long lead. When he comes near you and walks with you, give him a treat. This encourages your dog to walk with you.
Short lead on sidewalk
Put your dog on a shorter leash and walk down the sidewalk.
Recall and treat
When your dog moves off the sidewalk, call him back and provide a treat from your hand.
Increase lead length
Gradually loosen the lead to give your dog more room. Continue to call him back and provide a treat for returning to walk beside you. You can capture this behavior with a clicker to provide extra reinforcement if your dog is familiar with clicker training.
The Curb Training Method
Stop at curbs
Take your dog out on a leash in a relatively quiet neighborhood with little traffic. Whenever you come to a curb, stop.
Sit and wait at curbs
Tell your dog to sit at the curb, wait for your dog to sit and to look at you. Give your dog a treat for stopping, sitting, and waiting.
Add command to proceed
When it is safe to do so, give the command to proceed onto the roadway, such as “Let’s go”.
Practice stopping and going
Step off the curb and cross the road. Repeat this exercise multiple times over several days. Gradually move to areas with higher traffic. This will help your dog become aware that a street is different from a sidewalk, and that they should only go on the road when commanded to do so.
Ask dog to wait at curb
Start having your dog wait at the curb, do not give the 'let's go' command, instead tell your dog to 'wait' or 'stay' while you step out onto the street. Do this while there is no traffic around.
Practice staying on sidewalk
Cross the street, and then return, reward your dog, then give the command "Let's go". If your dog steps out on the street without being commanded, say “no” and take him back to the curb and start again. This teaches your dog that they are not to go out on the road unless they receive the command, even if you are across the road.
The Leave It Method
Hold a treat in your closed fist out to your dog. When your dog sniffs your hand, say “leave it”.
Reward 'leave it'
Wait until the dog stops investigating, and trying to reach the treat and retreats from your closed hand. Say “yes” and open your hand to offer the treat.
Start putting the treats on the floor, and giving the 'leave It' command. Use a plain piece of kibble or a biscuit, and when your dog obeys the 'leave it' command, reward her with a much better treat, like a piece of hot dog or chicken.
Move the game around the house or outside, leaving bait in strategic places. When your dog discovers them, give them the 'leave it' command, reward with a treat, then start replacing the treat reward with praise and attention.
Apply 'leave it' on walks
Once well established over a period of weeks, use the 'leave it' command when your dog investigates your neighbor's lawn or checks out a scent on the street to direct your dog to stay on the sidewalk.
Reward staying on sidewalk
When your dog obeys and stays on the sidewalk, give him a treat.
Gradually reduce how often you give treats but still continue providing a treat occasionally to reinforce staying on the sidewalk behavior.
By Laurie Haggart
Published: 10/27/2017, edited: 01/08/2021