You just need this one simple step to improve your dog’s leash walking

Dog reaches to touch owner's hand
(Image credit: Getty)

If you've been trying to teach your dog to walk calmly beside you on the leash but feel like you're failing miserably, or like you have an untrainable dog, don't lose all hope. You might just be missing a very important but basic step that this expert dog trainer swears by.

Of course, having the best dog treats to hand will come in useful for most dog training lessons. Kat Heckert who runs JW Dog Training and Behavior Consulting carries doggy treats with her while dog walking but before getting to the training part she allows time for one very crucial step: meeting the dog's needs before expecting them to walk nicely.

Sounds pretty obvious, right? But it's easy to forget when you're in a rush or so used to just jumping straight into training mode with your excitable pooch. 

Heckert sums up in an Instagram caption why this doesn't work, "Picture this," she says, "It’s your dog’s first walk of the day. They’re all recharged from a full night’s rest and ready to go, full of energy. They also really have to poop! And we expect them to walk calmly next to us on a 6-foot leash? That feels frustrating for everyone!

Watch how JW Dog Training help this dog to walk better on the leash

What are the three things you should allow your dog time to do before working on his leash walking? According to Heckert, the three things are exercise, sniffing, and going to the toilet. 

She recommends focusing on different options for exercise rather than assuming that just the walk is the exercise. You could play fetch in your yard before heading for the walk, use a flirt pole, or play tug with one of the best dog toys. This way you are letting your dog burn off excess energy before putting him on a leash.

Heckert adds, "For well-rounded exercise we love pairing sniffing walks with other activities that let dogs stretch their legs and really get their blood flowing. Also, a reminder that sniffing is an important biological need for dogs, and allowing them to sniff as much as they want to comes with enormous benefits."

Bathroom time should always be a priority on any dog walk, training, or no training. Not only is it letting your dog relieve themselves while accident-proofing your nice carpets but it's also decreasing the number of things that could distract them while walking on the leash. 

Now you can get to leash training your pup. Heckert recommends rewarding 'the heck out of them' for staying near to your side and you can even practice this at home without the leash. The more you work on this the longer your dog should stay walking in a calm manner and close by you. This means you won't have to reward as frequently but the behavior stays consistent.

Jessica Downey
Staff Writer

With over a year of writing for PetsRadar, Jessica is a seasoned pet writer. She joined the team after writing for the sister site, Fit&Well for a year. Growing up with a lively rescue lurcher kindled her love for animal behavior and care. Jessica holds a journalism degree from Cardiff University and has authored articles for renowned publications, including LiveScience, Runner's World, The Evening Express, and Tom's Guide. Throughout her career in journalism she has forged connections with experts in the field, like behaviorists, trainers, and vets. Through her writing, Jessica aims to empower pet owners with accurate information to enhance their furry companions' lives.