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Nothing is more frustrating than trying to take your dog for a walk and all he does is pull on the leash, circle around you, and do everything besides walk beside you where he belongs. This can lead to your pup not getting the exercise he needs, which at the same time means you aren't getting yours either. Training your dog to walk beside you is one of the easier skills to teach your dog and more importantly, it could save his life.
The only thing that makes this skill challenging for your pup, is that all he wants to do is sniff absolutely everything along the way. He is not likely to be very happy with you keeping him on a leash that prevents him from doing so. However, once he gets used to being by your side, you can both enjoy long, calm, relaxing walks.
In many ways, this is a lot like the "heel" command, but the behavior you want from your pup is not quite as restrictive. Instead of sticking to within a couple of inches of your leg, your pup will have a little more latitude in how much he can move around. While you can give him a little space, you should never let your pup pull on his leash.
Keep in mind that during the time you are training your pup to walk beside you, every walk you take should be considered a training session. At the same time, be sure to make the first few training sessions relatively short until he becomes comfortable walking at your side. Be patient and have plenty of his favorite treats on hand to reward him every time he gets it right.
In order to train your dog to walk at your side, there are few supplies you need to lay in. Thankfully, other than a few nice days, you don't need much. Here is a short list of things that might come in handy:
- Collar: A comfortable collar that fits your pup properly.
- Leash: Use a standard-length leash for these training sessions for maximum control.
- Treats: Keep a healthy supply handy to reward your pup for doing a good job.
- A quiet place: Try to pick a quiet place to go for walks as the fewer distractions there are, the faster he will learn.
- Patience: You need an endless supply of this, you should never yell at your pup for getting things wrong.
- Time: You need to practice this as often as you can, the more you reinforce the concept the faster he will learn.
The At My Side Method
Pick a side
If you want your dog to walk by your side, you have to decide which side it will be before you start and stick to it. The left side is traditional, but if you prefer, you can always use the right side.
Use a standard leash
For the first stages of training your pup to walk beside you, use a standard-length leash. This will give you more control. Just don't let your pup drag you along and give him a little room to maneuver.
Lure him in
Using one of his favorite treats, call your pup to your side using the treat as a lure. When he moves into position, be sure to praise him and give him a treat.
Work it on out
Using a healthy supply of treats, keep practicing this, adding in your choice of command. You could use "side" or simply "walkies". In time, it will become second nature for him to step to your side each time you get the leash.
Stepping on out
It's now time to go out for the first walk. Grab the leash, give your command, and your pup should step right up. Hook him up and head out for a walk. If he behaves on the walk, give him lots of praise and a treat or two. Keep extending the walks until you can go anywhere with him without the need for any kind of treats.
The Take Off Method
Hook your pup to his leash, call his name, and start walking away briskly without looking back. Your pup should follow you and try to catch up with you on the side you have the leash held. If he does, give him a treat.
When he doesn't
If he doesn't come to your side, slow down, call his name, and use a treat to lure him to your side.
Move along again
Now that he is in position, start walking again, using your choice of command to bring him to your side.
Once he seems to be comfortable walking by your side in straight lines, start changing directions, zig-zagging, and making him prove his new skills. This also helps to reinforce the concept that he needs to be by your side at all times.
Practice makes perfect
It takes lots of practice to curb your pup's natural desire to wander and sniff at absolutely everything, from the smallest blade of grass to the spot where the last dog to pass by marked his territory.
The Meet Your Collar Method
Introductions all round
By now, your pup should be used to wearing a collar. If not, spend a few days letting him get used to wearing one before you try to take him for a walk on his leash. Then introduce him to his leash. Clip it on his collar and let him drag it around the house for a little while each day for a few days in a row. Be sure to give him a few treats along the way.
Create your cue word
Now it's time for you to choose your command words, try "walkies" or " time for a walk". Give your pup the command each time you attach the leash and give him a treat to reinforce the association between the command and the action.
Life on the inside
Now it's time to start walking with him on a leash indoors. This will help him to learn to walk on a leash. Once he is comfortable with this, you can use a treat to lure him to your side. Tap your leg to indicate where you want him, and when he arrives at your side, give him a treat and plenty of praise.
Movin' on out
Practice this indoors for a few days and then it's time for you and your pup to take on the outside world. Start out with short walks, and be prepared for him to play up a little at first. It will take him a bit of time to get used to being outside. But, by calling his name and tapping your leg, he should fall back into the routine quickly. Be patient, use lots of praise, and give him lots of treats.
Keep working it
Keep practicing with your pup, extending the length of the walks until you can go anywhere for a walk with your pup, knowing he will stay by your side and behave himself. Now go have fun!
By PB Getz
Published: 11/03/2017, edited: 01/08/2021