Written by Nat Smith, Rover.com community member. Rover is the nation’s largest network of 5-star pet sitters and dog walkers.
“Look at that dog walking its human,” my friend used to say when he observed a dog walking ahead of its owner. Walk training can be used as a cornerstone for developing reliable, excellent behavior in your dog. It may sound impossible to get your dog to trot easily by your side, never pull, and ignore distractions completely—but this behavior is well within your reach.
Standard advice for walk training can backfire, because punishing your dog for mistakes is typically far less effective than rewarding her for doing what you want. Dogs want to please you, especially for a reward. Use that to your advantage, and try these tips from Rover.com:
- Bring a big bag of treats along on every walk when you’re starting out. Every time the dog trots at your side—not ahead or behind—give her a treat. At first, she may dive ahead, come back to you for a treat, then surge forward again. As long as she’s walking next to you, continue to feed her treats (try Bully Training Treats!). Praise her consistently for walking with you.
- Be sure to have a designated spot outside of your walk route for potty stops. Walk time and potty time should be separate—and the better your dog is walk trained, the better you’ll be able to get her to go potty on command. Give your dog treats and praise every time she goes in a designated potty stop, but do not acknowledge potties done on a walk.
- Give treats whenever your dog responds well to a distraction, like a car, stranger, dog or squirrel. Your goal is to get your dog to listen to you and focus on you exclusively when outside.
- The more consistently you give treats for best behavior, the quicker you’ll see improvement. Keep rewarding great behavior on every walk, attaching behavior to specific commands like “Next to me,” “Go potty,” and “Ignore it.” Don’t diminish the frequency of the treats until your dog understands exactly what you want and follows the associated commands consistently.
- Hire a dog-walker through Rover.com to make sure your dog gets training walks while you’re at work. The site also has top-notch dog-sitters who can apply walk training whenever you travel, so you don’t have to start from scratch on your return!
If something’s not working, make an adjustment. Set your dog up for success; for example, you may need a weighted backpack for particularly energetic dogs to slow down enough to walk with you. Your well-behaved dog will be the talk of the town in no time!