How to Train Your Dog to Walk Beside You

Medium
3-6 Weeks
Behavior

Introduction

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. 

Defining Tasks

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. 

Getting Started

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

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1 Vote
Step
1
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.
Step
2
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.
Step
3
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.
Step
4
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.
Step
5
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.
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The Take Off Method

Effective
1 Vote
Step
1
Taking off
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.
Step
2
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.
Step
3
Move along again
Now that he is in position, start walking again, using your choice of command to bring him to your side.
Step
4
Change directions
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.
Step
5
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.
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The Meet Your Collar Method

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Step
1
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.
Step
2
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.
Step
3
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.
Step
4
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.
Step
5
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!
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Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers and Success Stories

Question
Korra
Mix
2 Years
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Question
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Korra
Mix
2 Years

Korra often walks ahead of me more often than not. I've been consistent with treating her every time she looks up and walks besides me. I've got her to the point to do so with the cue "heel," but I'm only successful about 40% of the time. I also use the turn-around method, where I turn around everytime she walks ahead of me. Still, she hasn't consistently walked beside me the whole walk. What should I do?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
706 Dog owners recommended

Hello Jeremiah, Check out the article below. Follow the "Turns" method and focus specifically on turning directly in front of her at a ninety degree angle as soon as her head starts to move past your knee. To be able to do so you must turn in front of her right when she begins to move ahead or she will be too far ahead of you for you to do so. Pick up your space to get in front of her for the turn if you need to. When she does get too far ahead, then turn completely around, but turning in front of her will not only teach her the position better, and teach her to follow you better, it will also build respect for you and for following and paying attention to you in general during a walk. You will likely bump into her the first few times when you do this. That is okay, just try not to step on her paws. She needs to learn to pay attention to your movements and should learn to pay better attention in the future and adjust her movements when you move. You can practice this on longer walks by using open spaces like driveways and culdesacs. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Maya
American Akita
4 Months
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Maya
American Akita
4 Months

In the future, when I teach my dog to walk by my side, I also want to teach him to leave my side and have the freedom to wander and not say besides me during the WHOLE time, just on command. How do I teach both ways? Is it even possible?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
706 Dog owners recommended

Hello Eda, Yes, I commonly teach my dogs exactly that so that later they can heel off leash and run on trails within sight at other times. First, just focus on teaching heel. When you get done with your walk, when you go to unclip the leash, tell pup "Okay" or "Free". Each time you end a heeling session, give pup their release word so he begins learning that that word means that the heel command is over. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Maya
Golden Retriever
1 Year
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Maya
Golden Retriever
1 Year

How can i learn her walking beside me and wach me during walking?

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

Very cute! To have Maya walk beside you and focus on you is easily taught with this heel command. First, work on the Turns Method to get her used to heeling. Then, use the Treats Lure Method so she looks at you and focuses. They both work well! https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel. Good luck and have fun!

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Question
Sky
German Shepherd
2 Years
0 found helpful
Question
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Sky
German Shepherd
2 Years

I need a trainer for basic behavior

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

Hi there! Your best bet for locating a trainer in your area is to either get online and read some reviews or local trainers, or ask for recommendations from your veterinarian or any other pet care service provider.

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Question
Smoky
pitbull
3 Months
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Question
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Smoky
pitbull
3 Months

My puppy is starting to show small signs of aggression. She snaps everyone and a while and not the normal puppy bite. Any advice of how to solve it? She is a mix of pitbull husky and blue heeler

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

Hello! Here is some information on nipping/biting. Nipping: Puppies may nip for a number of reasons. Nipping can be a means of energy release, getting attention, interacting and exploring their environment or it could be a habit that helps with teething. Whatever the cause, nipping can still be painful for the receiver, and it’s an action that pet parents want to curb. Some ways to stop biting before it becomes a real problem include: Using teething toys. Distracting with and redirecting your dog’s biting to safe and durable chew toys is one way to keep them from focusing their mouthy energies to an approved location and teach them what biting habits are acceptable. Making sure your dog is getting the proper amount of exercise. Exercise is huge. Different dogs have different exercise needs based on their breed and size, so check with your veterinarian to make sure that yours is getting the exercise they need. Dogs—and especially puppies—use their playtime to get out extra energy. With too much pent-up energy, your pup may resort to play biting. Having them expel their energy in positive ways - including both physical and mental exercise - will help mitigate extra nips. Being consistent. Training your dog takes patience, practice and consistency. With the right training techniques and commitment, your dog will learn what is preferred behavior. While sometimes it may be easier to let a little nipping activity go, be sure to remain consistent in your cues and redirection. That way, boundaries are clear to your dog. Using positive reinforcement. To establish preferred behaviors, use positive reinforcement when your dog exhibits the correct behavior. For instance, praise and treat your puppy when they listen to your cue to stop unwanted biting as well as when they choose an appropriate teething toy on their own. Saying “Ouch!” The next time your puppy becomes too exuberant and nips you, say “OUCH!” in a very shocked tone and immediately stop playing with them. Your puppy should learn - just as they did with their littermates - that their form of play has become unwanted. When they stop, ensure that you follow up with positive reinforcement by offering praise, treat and/or resuming play. Letting every interaction with your puppy be a learning opportunity. While there are moments of dedicated training time, every interaction with your dog can be used as a potential teaching moment.

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