If you struggle to get your dog to walk well when you're out and about, rest assured, you're not alone. From pulling on their leash to wanting to jump up and say hello to everyone they meet, many pet parents find daily walks with their canine companion's more stress-inducing than stress-relieving.
While the best dog treats can certainly help motivate your pup to stay on track and reward them for good behavior, expert dog trainer Julianna DeWillems says teaching simple cues based on what behavior you want to see from your pup on a walk can be a real game changer.
In a video shared to Instagram, DeWillems shares her favorite cue to teach that can make walking with your dog a little easier. You can check out the clip in full below or keep reading for a summary of the key points.
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"The cue is called 'with me' and it simply means join me in this direction," DeWillems explains. "It's information to your dog that maybe you're moving or you're switching directions and you'd like them to come with you."
DeWillems says that it's important to define the behavior you're looking for, so her criteria for the cue 'with me' is simple: move with me in the direction that I'm going.
"To us, 'with me' is not a cue for a prolonged heel behavior," she explains. "It’s meant to cue when we want our dogs to start walking with us – either after stopping or when switching directions."
When it comes to the benefits of the 'with me' cue, DeWillems says that one of the biggest payoffs is less frustrating walks.
"We like to make movement cues something our dogs know, understand, and associate with a positive reward because these cues can prevent a stressful pulling struggle."
To introduce the 'with me' cue, DeWillems suggests the following 11-step process:
- At home with no distractions: we drop a treat on the ground and start to walk away while the dog eats the treat
- The moment our dog finishes the treat and starts to follow us, we mark with a click or “yes!”
- When they catch up to us, we give them the treat that we just promised with the click
- Repeat 1-3 until the dog is running to catch up to us after they finish their treat
- Start saying the verbal cue “with me” as the dog is finishing the treat on the ground
- After we cue “with me,” we mark when the dog initiates catching up with us
- Give the treat when they make it to us
- Practice until our dog runs to join us when they hear “with me”
- Practice on leash
- Practice on walks around low distractions
- Practice around walks around harder distractions
"As with all behaviors, reinforcement is needed to maintain this behavior – especially if we are asking our dog to move away from something they would prefer to do instead," says DeWillems. "It’s important to teach our dogs that “with me” reliably predicts a small tasty treat for them. This is why we always stash a handful of treats in our pocket for walks."
Training your dog to walk well when you're out and about takes time, patience and consistency. If you don't see the positive changes you're looking for after several months, we recommend reaching out to an expert dog trainer for some professional advice and support.
Do you have a dog that's not so keen on walking? Then be sure to check out 'my dog doesn't like long walks' where a pet parents shares how she uses brain games to tire out her pup.
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Kathryn is a freelance writer who has spent the past three years dividing her writing time between her two great loves - pets and health and wellness. When she’s not busy crafting the perfect sentence for her features, buying guides and news pieces, she can be found hanging out with a very mischievous Cocker Spaniel and a super sassy cat, drinking copious amounts of Jasmine tea and reading all the books.