Trainer explains how to use positive reinforcement outside to build real-life skills — even if you live in the city!

Woman walking her three dogs in the city
(Image credit: Getty Images)

No matter where you live, you can use your surroundings to train your dog. Whether you live somewhere with lots of green space and parks — and maybe a huge yard too — or you live in the middle of a busy city in a built-up area, you can use your environment to your advantage. 

In a new Instagram post, expert dog trainer and founder of JW Dog Training & Behavior Juliana DeWillems has offered some great advice on training your pup on walks when you live in a city. It’s not as complicated as you might think — simply put one of the best dog leashes on your pup and get out there…

“In this busy city neighborhood, this dog knows to stop at any crosswalk or curb she comes across. This impressive safety skill developed through what’s called a ‘cue transfer,’” DeWillems begins in the video. 

Essentially, the dog’s parents gave her a cue to sit at crosswalks so often that she would anticipate the cue and sit whenever she saw one — before even being given the cue. Every time she sits, she gets rewarded with a treat, and getting to keep walking wherever possible. Here’s how to teach a puppy to sit, if you think it might be a good idea to go back to basics first. 

DeWillems continues, “This consistent sequence turned the crosswalks themselves into the cue for her behavior. This is yet another powerful application of using positive application in the real world.”

As she explains in the caption, “Everything in the environment can be a cue for your dog’s behavior: a curb, a person, another dog, a squirrel. The options are endless!”

She outlines the cue transfer sequence as being new cue, then old cue, then behavior. For the dog in the video, the sequence goes from walking up to the crosswalk, to saying “sit,” to the dog sitting, But, over time, the middle cue will begin to fade away – in this scenario, the dog will walk up to the crosswalk, and sit without being reminded. 

Living in a city with a dog can come with challenges you might not find if you’re based in a town or out in the country, but that’s no reason why you can’t make the most of your environment. Even if you live in an apartment, you could decide on one of the sixteen best dogs for apartment living, and show them what city life is like. 

Chai's Choice Premium Outdoor Adventure Padded 3M Polyester Reflective Dog Leash
$16.95 at Chewy

Chai's Choice Premium Outdoor Adventure Padded 3M Polyester Reflective Dog Leash
$16.95 at Chewy
Keep your dog safe and secure while you're out ad about with this reflective dog leash featuring soft mesh padding and an ergonomic handle for maximum comfort. Ideal for short walks in your neighborhood or longer walks on your favorite hiking trail. 

Adam England
Freelance Writer

Adam is a freelance journalist covering lifestyle, health, culture, and pets, and he has five years' experience in journalism. He's also spent the last few years studying towards undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in journalism. While a cat person at heart, he's often visiting his parents' Golden Retriever, and when he's not writing about everything pets he's probably drinking coffee, visiting a cat cafe, or listening to live music.