Trainer shares the secret to getting your dog to focus on you when you’re on a walk — and it’s really effective!

Man taking his dog for a walk by a lake
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Does your dog focus on everything but you when you're on a walk? If so, we know how frustrating it can be — and you're far from alone!

While the best dog treats are enough to get some dogs to pay attention, for others what's going on in their environment when they're out and about is far more interesting than food or focusing on you. 

The good news is that this is completely normal and according to expert trainer and pet behavior expert Alex Sessa, there's a simple exercise you can do to capture your dog's attention when you're out and about.

Read on as she reveals all in a recent Instagram post.

First things first, it's completely natural for your dog to want to check out the most interesting things on a walk — like squirrels, other dogs, and new smells.

But there are also lots of ways you can have more fun with your dog on walks and increase the amount of time your dog chooses to focus on you. Here's one example:

"Start with your dog on a long line in a secure area without a ton of distractions," says Sessa.

"Walk around and capture the moments your dog naturally ends up at your side. The easiest way to do this is to mark the behavior with the word 'yes!' and then reward with food.

With practice, your dog is going to start offering this behavior more and more, and you can decrease the frequency of rewards."

According to Sessa, doing this exercise with your dog is a great way to teach your pup that it pays to choose you over the environment. 

"This exercise is an excellent starting point for dogs that are especially challenging to get focus from on walks. These dogs are often too excited or overstimulated to take food or make eye contact during walks, so finding a way to get that initial focus in the real world can be a challenge — which is why this exercise makes for such a helpful starting point," explains Sessa. 

It's worth remembering that training any new skill takes time, patience, and consistency — and it often needs to be practiced many times in a quiet environment before it can be practiced in the real world.

If you feel you and your dog would benefit from some extra support, here's how to spot dog trainer red flags to ensure you're working with a qualified professional.

Or, if you're happy to fly solo, here's 27 practical tips for training your dog on your own. 

Pupford Beef Liver Training Freeze-Dried Dog Treats 
$16.89 from Chewy

Pupford Beef Liver Training Freeze-Dried Dog Treats
$16.89 from Chewy
We gave these to our tester Isaiah for his dog Hayes to try. He reports back that they're his new favorite treat and are a suitable size for training. "He could and would eat the whole bag if allowed!"

Kathryn Williams
Freelance writer

Kathryn is a freelance writer who has been a member of the PetsRadar family since it launched in 2020. Highly experienced in her field, she's driven by a desire to provide pet parents with accurate, timely, and informative content that enables them to provide their fur friends with everything they need to thrive. Kathryn works closely with vets and trainers to ensure all articles offer the most up-to-date information across a range of pet-related fields, from insights into health and behavior issues to tips on products and training. When she’s not busy crafting the perfect sentence for her features, buying guides and news pieces, she can be found hanging out with her family (which includes one super sassy cat), drinking copious amounts of Jasmine tea and reading all the books.