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You might think your pup should automatically know how to walk with you on his leash. At least until the first time you try it. This is when you suddenly find out that your pup has no idea how to behave himself on a leash, as he tries to pull your arm out. The good news is that this is one of the easier skills for you to teach your pooch and one that could save his life. The hardest part of the whole experience is that your dog is bound to be excited about being outdoors and want to sniff absolutely everything. Being on a leash and made to walk beside you tends to restrict his movement. This is something he is not going to be happy about.
Your dog should never, let me repeat that, never pull on his leash when he is going for a walk. At the same time, you should never let him pull, you must remain consistent and keep him under control at all times for the safety of both of you. Worth noting is that until your pooch has learned to behave himself fully while out for a walk on his leash, you should consider every walk as a training session. Keep your training sessions fun and short in the beginning, you can work your way up to longer walks as your dog learns to behave on the leash. Training your pup to walk beside you on a leash will require a large supply of his favorite treats, soft ones he can eat quickly so that you can get on with the training session.
Before you get started training your pup to walk beside you, there are a few supplies needed to ensure your success. Among these are:
- A standard-length leash: You can't go for a walk without a leash.
- A collar: Find one that fits him well.
- Treats: Use soft treats, preferably ones he really likes and does not get very often.
- Time: You need time to take your pup for several short walks a day.
- Patience: It takes a lot of patience to teach your pup this skill.
- A quiet place: Your pup will learn faster going for walks where there are few distractions.
The Introduction Method
Meet your leash and collar
If your pup is not already used to wearing a collar, now is the perfect time to let him get used to it. Put it on him and give him a couple of days to get used to it. Try letting him get used to his leash around the house while he is playing. Give him treats while you are playing with him, this will help him come to associate the collar and leash with fun and treats.
Give him the cue
Now you need to teach your pup a cue such as "Let's go for a walk" or more simply, "walkies". He will learn to associate this with getting treats. Practice this in a quiet area of your home with his leash on. Use the command word and every time he turns to you, praise him and give him a treat. In time he will not only look to you for a treat when he has his leash attached, he will start coming over to you after a few short sessions.
Come to me
With his collar and leash still on, back off a few paces and then call your dog to come to you. Reward him when he does. Keep moving back a few paces at a time until your pup comes over and starts to walk with you. Again, keep these sessions short, as most pups have a short attention span.
Inside walks first
Now that your pup has put two and two together, it's time to start practicing going for a walk together indoors. This way there aren't any distractions as he gets used to the idea of walking on a leash and collar, which is already a big challenge. Use plenty of treats and praise as he gets better at walking beside you.
Taking it to the streets
Now that your pup seems to be behaving on the leash indoors, it's time to take it outdoors. Here he will have to deal with plenty of distractions: sights, sounds, smells, other people, strange dogs, and traffic. Take your time, keep the walks short at first and extend them as he gets better.
If your pup starts to pull or looks like he might try to, use your command word ('walk with me' is a popular one) and then move a few steps away. If he follows, give him a treat. It will take a while for him to figure out what is expected, but once he does…. the sky's the limit and walks will be far more fun.
The By My Side Method
Choose a side
The first step in teaching your dog to walk beside you is to choose which side you want your dog to stay on when he is walking with you. The left side is considered to be traditional, but you can go with the right side if it works better for you.
Short leash first
In the beginning, you need to keep his leash short, as this will give you more control. But don't make it so short that you are dragging your pup along with you. He does need a little room to maneuver.
Using the lure
This is a good time to make use of your pup's favorite treats to lure him to the position where you want him to walk. Be sure you praise him for getting it right, as well as giving him the treats.
Work with him
Keep working with him, using treats to get him to assume the position until he will do so every time you ask him to, without the need for treats.
Now it's time to go for a walk, keep them short at first. You should not have to use treats at this point, simply use your command word. While you shouldn’t be using treats to get him to "assume the position" beside you, you can certainly reward him when he does.
Increase the distance
Continue working with him, increasing the distance until the two of you can go anywhere your heart desires together, giving him a little bit more leash and freedom on the walks. This way both of you can enjoy plenty of fresh air together.
The Be a Tree Method
With your pup on his leash, call his name and say, "Let's go" and briskly start walking away from him. Pay no attention to where your pup is as long as the leash remains slack. As long as it remains slack, keep walking.
When things get tense
At the first indication of tension, stop and start backing up towards your pup. Keep a good hold on the leash at waist level and call your dog to come to you. Pat your leg and your pup should start walking towards you. When he does, start walking forward again. As long as there is slack in the leash, keep praising him and give him a treat or two.
If he stops in his tracks
If your pup stops in his tracks, come to a complete halt and act like a tree. In other words, don't move a muscle. Wait until he starts moving again before you start to walk again.
Make direction changes
Another option, when your pup starts to put tension on the leash, is to radically change directions. This will teach him that it is his job to walk with you wherever you go, not to go where he pleases. Each time he does this, call him back and reward him with a treat when he obeys.
Keep practicing the above steps until your pup willingly walks by your side without pulling or attempting to go in a different direction. Be sure to use lots of praise when he is behaving and give him a few treats along the way. It won't take long before he will walk by your side anywhere you need to go.
By PB Getz
Published: 11/03/2017, edited: 01/08/2021