Polite Leash Walking, Part 1

Set yourself up for success in teaching your dog to walk on leash without pulling. Learn why it’s so unnatural for dogs to walk this way, and how you can help your dog get it right.

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA
5-minute read
Episode #139

There are good reasons why most young, healthy dogs pull on leash so much of the time, and why most humans find it hard to teach their dogs to walk politely on leash instead. This week (and next), I’ll explain some of those reasons and tell you how to make leash walks pleasanter for both you and your Dogalini.

Bring a human friend along on an off-leash hike with your dog, and you’ll see right away why polite leash walking is so hard to teach. As long as the path is wide enough, you and your human friend walk side by side; the social norm is that you adjust your pace to match each other. What does your dog do? She trots and sniffs and runs loops around you. Every so often she comes and checks in with you. Occasionally maybe she takes a few steps parallel to you, right at your side. In general, the doggy way of “going for a walk with a friend” is not the human way. Your gaits don’t match and your priorities differ.

But you can teach your dog polite leash walking, even though it comes so unnaturally to her. This week, 5 pointers to set you and Dogalini up for success.

1. Make Sure Your Dog is Well Exercised

Even the bounciest dog walks more slowly when she’s tired. A dog who’s walking more slowly is more likely to find herself next to you, so you can reward her for being there. (And the more often she’s rewarded for being there, the more likely it is that she’ll choose to walk there.)

A well-exercised dog is also more relaxed and less prone to suddenly getting all excited about that upcoming bunch of shrubbery. Now that she’s “filled up” on running around and sniffing, the big wide world – so fascinating when she first stepped outside – faces some stiff competition in the form of your food rewards.


About the Author

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA

Jolanta holds professional certifications in both training and behavior counseling and belongs to the Association of Professional Dog Trainers and the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She also volunteered with Pet Help Partners, a program of the Humane Society of the United States that works to prevent pet relinquishment. Her approach is generally behaviorist (Pavlovian, Skinnerian and post-Skinnerian learning theory) with a big helping of ethology (animal behavior as observed in non-experimental settings).