How to teach your dog polite leash walking

pet dog

A pet dog being taken for a walk along the Central and Western District Promenade in Hong Kong.


Photo credit: Bertha Wang | AFP

Having your dog walk next to you without them gagging and choking on their leash is a skill. When you see a dog that keeps pulling on its leash on one side, jerking and dragging its human who is holding the leash tightly on the other end, that is a sign of an untrained dog.

Dogs need to be trained to walk at a slow human pace. Human paces are unnatural behaviour for your dog and that speed only works for them if they are tired, old, unwell, obese, tense, or want to sniff around.

Happy Participation

The key to having your dog walk next to you is to be involved. That means you should not be texting, talking on the phone or chatting with the person you are with and ignoring your dog. That done, teaching your dog polite leash walking will need high rate reinforcement and a variety of training techniques to have the dog engaged with you while you walk.

Start the training by making sure the leash stays loose and only giving treats when the leash is not taut. When they lunge forward and pull on the leash, maintain gentle pressure on the leash and don’t pull the leash towards you such that it looks like a tug of war.

When the dog stops and looks at you, mark that behaviour with a word like “yes” and give a treat with the hand that is not holding the leash. Make sure they provide the treat next to your knee, which you want them to be walking beside.

If they don’t look at you when you stop, invite them to you by calling them a kissy noise or a happy voice, give them a treat, and start walking again. Keep repeating this until you get complete obedience.

Low distraction environment

Dog behaviour experts advise holding the leash with the hand on the same side as the dog and giving treats with the other hand. This means the hand with the treat will always cross your body so that the dog will see the treats as a reward.

Also, when your first train on leash walking, make sure to do it in a low distraction environment like your compound, not a trail outside.

Also, always remember to keep the leash loose, take steps, and say a happy “yes “, and give a treat as long as the dog is still right by your side, say a happy “yes” and give a treat. Keep praising and keep your voice happy and increasing the number of steps you take before saying “yes” and giving a treat with time.

Break the training with fun activities like tug or fetch, then resume after some time.

The epitome of polite walking is to have the dog walk or jog next to you without their leash. It is achievable, and like all training, they take time.

Maryanne is a pet owner. [email protected]