Trainer explains why you should ‘employ’ your dog on a walk for better behavior

Couple taking dog for a walk
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Your dog can’t wait for their walk, but as soon as you’re out of the house they just won’t listen or pay attention to you. Not even if you’ve got the best dog treats to hand.

It’s a scenario many dog parents can relate to. And from your dog’s perspective, it’s understandable. After being inside, they’re greeted with open space and a whole load of distractions. When you can chase a bird or a cat, sniff around the grass, look around for potential new friends, or do those other weird things dogs do that are completely normal, why would you listen to the person trying to get you to stop?

Something you can try is ‘employing’ your dog, explained Lisa Burton of Listen Dog Training in a recent Instagram post – and it makes perfect sense. 

“It’s time to take everything the environment has to offer, and make it work for YOU and your training,” she says in the caption, before explaining the benefits to employing your dog. You’ll find that your dog is less hypervigilant and reactive and less distracted yet more focused, more engaged, and more flexible in new environments.

Employing your dog entails giving them tasks to work on in their immediate environment, all in close proximity to each other. Teach your dog to go around objects like trees and rocks – teach the cue first at home if you need to! Or, for high-energy dogs, get them to jump over objects if it’s safe for them to do so.

Another task you could get them to do is to place their front paws on an object. “If you don’t have this behavior on cue,” says Lisa, “You can lure your dog into position, then mark and reward the correct one”.

By doing so, you’re encouraging your dog to focus on and engage with you – you aren’t in battle with the environment. And at the same time, you’ll be having plenty of fun!

There are many other clever ways to have more fun with your dog on walks, however. Why not play hide-and-seek with your pup, making sure to keep some treats on hand for when they find you, or practice some scent work with your dog?

Or, why not hide doggy toys or treats in the grass or in a pile of leaves, or simply explore a new route together as you continue to employ your pup?

If you want to hear a success story on employing a dog, you’ll want to read this owner’s very own experience: I gave my working dog a job and it transformed our relationship

Adam England
Freelance Writer

Adam is a freelance journalist covering pets, lifestyle, health and culture, and he has six years' experience in journalism. He was senior editor at, and has written for The Independent, GoodToKnow and Healthline

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.