How to Train a Labrador to Walk Beside You

How to Train a Labrador to Walk Beside You
Medium difficulty iconMedium
Time icon2-8 Weeks
General training category iconGeneral

Introduction

Nothing puts a smile on your face more than coming home to your Labrador after a long day of work. Their tail wags non-stop and you can almost see them smiling. However, when you head out the door, your beloved pup quickly turns from an angelic canine companion to a Labrador from hell. They pull you in every direction, desperate to sniff and investigate everything. You can’t blame them for this, they’re just naturally inquisitive, especially after spending most of the day stuck in the house. However, when you have kids and shopping to deal with too, a pulling Labrador becomes challenging.

That’s why training your Labrador to walk beside you calmly could save you considerable stress when you open that door. It also means you can go back to enjoying those relaxing strolls in the sun. This sort of training will also increase your control in other areas of their life, making it easier to stamp out other bad habits. 

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Defining Tasks

Training your Labrador to walk beside you isn’t always a walk in the park. As you would expect, most dogs are eager to get their grubby paws on everything around them. So training will require considerable patience on your behalf. You’ll also need to use strict obedience commands to bring them under control. Alongside training, treats, toys and any number of other incentives may be needed to help motivate your dog.

Your job will be easiest if your Labrador is just a puppy. They will be smaller so you can physically correct their behavior with less hassle. They should also be at their most receptive, so you could see results in just a couple of weeks. But if your Labrador is older and always had their own way, then you may need a couple of months. Continue with training to the end and leaving the house with your Lab will be stress-free from start to finish.

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Getting Started

You’ll need a few different bits for training. A short training leash will be the main requirement. You may also want to use a body harness. If your Labrador is big and strong then the body harness will increase your control while reducing the strain on their neck.

You will also need some mouth-watering treats or their favorite food broken into small chunks. You can train when you’re out on your daily walk, so you don’t need to set aside additional time. 

Once you have all of the above, just bring patience and some walking shoes, then work can begin!

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The ‘Heel’ Method

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1

Setting off

Secure your Labrador to a short leash and head out the door for your daily walk. Choose a side and set off with them firmly next to you. Try not to get your dog too worked up as you head out the door.

2

‘Heel’

As soon as your Labrador walks ahead and starts pulling, issue a firm ‘heel’. Don’t shout at them or scare them, but make sure they take notice. Also make sure you give the instruction just once. If you keep saying ‘heel’ then they will think they don’t have to respond to you first time.

3

Stop

As you give the command, stand still. Your dog may wander ahead for a few steps but the leash will run out and then they will stop and peer around. Once they’ve stood there looking confused for a while they’ll return to your side.

4

Reward

Once your Labrador walks back to your side, give them some brief verbal praise and a reward. You can use a treat or you can play with a toy for a minute. You want to show them you’re happy with them, but you don’t want them to get too excited and worked up.

5

Repeat

Now you simply need to follow the steps above whenever they pull. It does mean walks can be very frustrating with lots of starting and stopping to begin with, but Fido will soon catch on. So persevere, each time you let them wander you push back the end result.

The U-Turn Method

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Start line

Put Fido on a leash and begin your walk. Keep them on one side to begin with. For this method, you may also want to use a body harness. This will be beneficial for both of you when using this fast moving technique.

2

Turn

As soon as your Labrador pulls ahead and is no longer walking beside you, turn around sharply and start walking in the opposite direction. You don’t need to turn and say anything, simply focus on heading in the other direction.

3

Encouragement

As you turn, give the leash a quick pull to encourage the pup to turn around and follow you. Don’t pull so hard that you may hurt them, but give them a quick jolt. This fast change in direction will let them know they need to stay firmly by your side.

4

Persevere

Now all you need to do is practice this whenever you’re walking. It can be frustrating to start with when you’re constantly walking backwards and forwards, but Labradors are fast learners.

5

House rules

It’s also important you ensure anyone else that walks your doguses the same technique. If they’re allowed to pull and not walk next to other walkers then they will get confused and training will take longer to yield results.

The Lure Method

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Preparation

This technique requires a much-loved toy, treat, or another lure that will hold your Labrador’s attention. You can even play with a tennis ball each day for a few minutes to get them worked up by that.

2

Walk time

Once you have something your dog will do anything for, secure them to a leash and begin your normal walk. However, hold the lure to one side at your waist height. Make sure your Labrador knows it’s there but can’t actually get it out of your hand.

3

Start small

Now walk about 10 yards with the dog at your side as they try to follow the ball. Once you have done that, stop and give them the reward. Also shower them in verbal praise.

4

Increase the distance

Start walking again, but this time walk 15 yards before you stop and give them the reward. Continue gradually increasing the distance until you can walk for 20 minutes or so with your Labrador calmly by your side. At this point you can stop using a lure, your pup will be in the habit of walking calmly next to you.

5

Tackling distraction

If they get distracted before you’ve walked the 10 yards, try walking just a few yards to begin with. If that doesn’t work, then try using a different lure. Some smelly food, such as cheese, often does the job.

Written by James Barra

Veterinary reviewed by:

Published: 05/01/2018, edited: 01/08/2021

Training Questions

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Training Questions and Answers

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Peper

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Black Lab

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Eight Years

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Question

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He knows sits he knows lie down he knows a couple of handful tricks but he doesn't know how to stay and do stay he can't keep out of the sink and he breaks up trash cans and he has panic attacks when I'm not home I just want to know how to do better at least control and just tips and tricks to help me out of managing him hes all around a good boy but it's justt I don't know some help would be nice

March 16, 2023

Peper's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello, For Stay, check out the article I have linked below. Down-Stay: https://www.thelabradorsite.com/train-your-labrador-to-lie-down-and-stay/ As far as the sink and trashcan, I recommend teaching leave it, practicing that with him while you are home, and then booby trapping the sink counter area and trashcan so that he is surprised when he jumps up even when you aren't around, once he has learned from you that he is not supposed to bother those area due to the Leave It practice. For booby trapping the sink area, there are devices such as scat mats that are unpleasant when pup puts their paws on it. Depending on your sink, this would often be set up on the counter away from any water in the sink. There are also fake mouse traps that will pop up but not snap shut on a dog's paws, just surprise the dog with movement and noise. A remote training collar can also be used to surprise pup if you set up a camera to spy on pup, go outside or in another room, then correct remotely with the right timing. You need to ensure you choose a high quality brand, spend time learning how to training correctly with it, use good timing when correcting, and pick the level that's best for your specific dog, called a "Working level" if you use that tool however. For the trashcan, also practice Leave It as mentioned, but you can booby trap by either using a pet barrier device to create a small area around the can that pup isn't allowed to enter, to get pup to avoid the can all together. This device will correct pup via a collar they were like an electric fence when pup gets too close to the source - the barrier device, which could be hidden behind a trashcan. Another option is to use a remote training collar and camera to spy on pup and correct while out of the room. A third idea would be to use a magnet based door alarm on the inside and lid of the trashcan, so that whenever pup noses the lid open, the alarm sounds until the lid closes back. You would obviously want to turn that off when you are using the can though while home and use it mostly for training sessions and when you leave the home. There are additional ways to booby trap a can as well. Whatever you choose, make sure that it's safe, even if unpleasant. Leave It section: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-train-dog-stay-off-couch/ Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

March 16, 2023

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Molly

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Labrador Retriever

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2 Years

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Walking is a struggle, general commands, she can be aggressive

Jan. 5, 2021

Molly's Owner

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Darlene Stott - Dog Trainer and Groomer

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104 Dog owners recommended

Hello, start with training Molly to heel on walks. She is a keen and smart breed who loves a job to do. She'll do well learning to heel: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel. Work on her basic obedience daily (start with 5-10 minutes a day): https://wagwalking.com/training/obedience-train-a-whippet. Use rewards for incentive and to give Molly the desire to succeed. Is she aggressive to you? Or to dogs? To teach her respect with you, have her "sit" before every event. Sit before meals, sit before she gets her leash on for a walk, sit before a treat, sit before playtime, etc. For aggression toward dogs, use the Passing Approach Method here as a start: https://wagwalking.com/training/greet-other-dogs. Enroll her in obedience classes (it will further help her to respect you) for socialization with people and dogs. Good luck!

Jan. 8, 2021


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