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

Finally, let’s not forget that “is well exercised” is also a euphemism for “has emptied her bladder and bowels.” It’s tough to teach anybody anything when they’re dying for a pee, and that includes your Dogalini.

2. Train When Your Dog is Hungry

In the early months of his life, my dog Juniper earned almost every bite of his breakfast on his morning walk with me. I took advantage of mealtime by using his food to reward him for keeping the leash slack between us and paying attention to me as we walked. When our walk was done, he had had not only his breakfast but also another pleasant round of learning a lifelong habit of polite behavior on leash.

3. Be Generous

You’re teaching your dog to do something completely unnatural and, frankly, not nearly as much fun as nosing the shrubbery and trotting in big loops around you. Pay off. You caught what I said about my puppy getting his entire breakfast on walks? When we first started training, that meant a piece of kibble at almost every step we took together. And if dry dog food doesn’t cut it for your Zippy, then improve the menu: Sprinkle the food with freeze-dried liver powder, or grated Parmesan cheese. Mix in bits of leftover pasta or roast chicken. Do whatever it takes.

Cut the treats out of your dog’s daily ration, and between that and the regular exercise you’re giving him, he’ll keep trim and fit.

4. Have a Clear Mental Picture of the Result You Want

This applies to any training, really, but it’s especially important when you’re working on something that could be a little amorphous: Where, exactly, do you want your dog to walk in relation to you? Draw an invisible ring around the space at your side and reward your dog whenever she’s in it. By being consistent in this way, you can “explain” to your dog what behavior you’re looking for.


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).