Want to enjoy happy, stress-free walks with your dog? Then you need this trainer’s one clever cue

Close up of Saint Bernard Puppy on a walk
(Image credit: Getty Images)

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.

"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:

  1. At home with no distractions: we drop a treat on the ground and start to walk away while the dog eats the treat
  2. The moment our dog finishes the treat and starts to follow us, we mark with a click or “yes!” 
  3. When they catch up to us, we give them the treat that we just promised with the click
  4. Repeat 1-3 until the dog is running to catch up to us after they finish their treat 
  5. Start saying the verbal cue “with me” as the dog is finishing the treat on the ground
  6. After we cue “with me,” we mark when the dog initiates catching up with us
  7. Give the treat when they make it to us
  8. Practice until our dog runs to join us when they hear “with me” 
  9. Practice on leash
  10. Practice on walks around low distractions
  11. 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. 

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.