For some dogs and owners, this seems simple and comes easily, but there are quite a few dogs that just don’t get it right away or are a bit stubborn. In these cases, we have to use some techniques to outsmart them, not because they are neat dog tricks – but because your dog needs to know that your orders are non-negotiable.

At Smart Dogs Training and Lodging in Downers Grove IL., we have trained hundreds of dogs using a proven training system. It all starts with clear communication, consistency and repetition. Here are 8 Steps to help you start training your dog to walk with you while on a leash.

1. Leashes

We find that the 4-5 foot, 1 inch wide nylon leashes work the best.  Choosing a shorter dog leash allows you to have more control.  They are flexible, strong and easy to manipulate.  The collar should be positioned at the very top of the neck to help you communicate more easily, guide, and correct your dog. If you need additional help, consider using different collars.

2. Walk in Front

If your dog controls you on the walk, he/she is acting as the pack leader. However, if you are the one in control on walks (which a dog views as a hunt), they will start to see you as the leader in everything else you ask your dog to do. If not, they can’t understand why you attempt to give them orders inside the house. In the wild, the leader on the hunt is the leader in the den.

3. Administering Corrections

As soon as your dog’s collar starts to pass your hip line give them a short, quick tug on the leash followed by an immediate release. This is called a correction. Never prolong a correction and always keep safety in mind when giving corrections. One firm but quick tug and immediate release for accountability is all that is required.  Your leash should be loose 99% of the time.  Try not to hold your dog in position with tension. Do not stop walking when you give a correction.  Stopping allows the dog to drive the situation.

4. Duration of the walk

Dogs need exercise.  We recommend 2-3 walks per day for 30-60 minutes each time. The specific needs of each dog will differ, so consult your vet and keep an eye on your dog’s behavior to see if his/her breed ‘s needs are being met.

5. Intensity during the Walk

For a healthy dog, a walk is not physically challenging.  The purpose of the walk is for mental stimulation, physical exercise and bonding time with you, the pack leader.

If you feel that your dog is not expending enough energy during your walks, try adding a back pack.  Your dog can hold water bottles or small items so they have a job to do.  This is also a great way to raise the intensity level without making it harder on you.

6. How to reward your dog during the walk.

When you first start out on the walk, give them the freedom to relieve themselves.  Then you can take the walk as a reward.  Break times during a walk should start and stop on your terms.  Ask them to sit and then wait for eye contact.  Once they look at you, then say OK.  Reward them by allowing them to go sniff and/or eliminate. Use the same technique to greet people and dogs.

7. Keep leading, even after the walk.

When you get home, don’t stop leading. Have your dog sit and stay patiently while you step inside first, make eye contact, pause and then invite the dog in.  This technique should be used anytime you are going through a door that is normally shut. For the first few days, go ahead and lead your dog around the house making sure he/she knows that you are the owner of the house, not them.  This helps to add some sense of structure to your dog’s behavior inside the home.

8. Reward your dog after the walk.

The best time to feed your dog is right after a walk.  Your dog has now earned his/her meal by walking around the block.  Dogs gain full confidence and mental balance when they know they are a working member of the pack. 

In summary, you should always be the first one out the door and the first one in, and your dog should be beside or behind you during the walk. Their legs should not pass your legs. If you let them pull you down the street, you are relinquishing control as pack leader.