3 Things You MUST Do For A More Enjoyable Walk With Your Dog

Have you ever wished that your walks with your dog felt less like being dragged down the street and more like going for a relaxing stroll with a good friend? A walk that leaves both you and your dog feeling fulfilled, with less stress than you started with? Good news… it’s more possible than you may think!

Let’s face it, walks are an important part of your dog’s physical and mental health. It’s their chance to explore the world, use their nose, and expend some pent-up energy. But when your dog pulling you on the leash becomes the norm, walks can quickly morph into a stressful and not-so-fun experience.

Don’t panic - teaching your dog good leash manners is absolutely achievable. What if I told you that there are three things you can start right away to help get you on your way to a more enjoyable walk? I’m sure you’re beyond ready to fix this problem, so let’s jump right in.

#1. Pay Attention To Your Dog

Seems simple, right? However, it’s not uncommon for many of us to end up in our own little world when we take our dogs for a walk, listening to a podcast or music on our headphones, having a phone conversation, or scrolling through social media as we walk. 

Let me ask you this: If you’re going to ignore your dog, why should they pay attention to you? Dogs are masters at reading our body language, so they know when we aren’t paying attention. In a world full of interesting smells, fast-moving squirrels, and other dogs… you’re in constant competition for your dog’s attention.

So, how do we turn things around? Here’s how to make walks more engaging for your dog:

  • Put your phone away. Silence your notifications, and resist the urge to check your smartwatch. Commit yourself to focusing on your dog for the duration of your walk. If you absolutely must check your phone, move off to the side and take a break while you do so, encouraging your dog to sniff the grass. When you go back to walking, bring your attention back to your dog and invite them to continue as part of a team. 
  • Bring high-value treats like freeze-dried liver or cut-up cheese. These shouldn’t be treats they get all day long, but you’ll want to bring your A-game to the competition for their attention. This won't last forever, but we want to work to build a habit of sticking by your side. 
  • Let them know when they’re doing well. We often only focus on what our dogs are doing that drives us crazy. Pay attention to when they’re doing well and reward them for it. 
  • Choose a new and exciting route. You don’t necessarily need to go somewhere new but think about how boring and predictable it must be for your dog to walk the same route every day. Head in new directions, stop in different places, and even randomize your walking patterns by suddenly changing directions or walking faster or slower.

#2. Creating Calm: The Power Of The Pre-Walk Zen

Picture this: As you put on your shoes and head for the door, your dog starts to perk up with interest. You look at your dog and say “Do you want to go for a walk?” in that higher-pitched voice we all use when we say this, and your dog starts pacing around in anticipation.  When you grab their leash, they burst with excitement and begin jumping, running to the door, and hardly sit still long enough for you to clip the leash on their collar. 

The energy your dog starts a walk with sets the tone for your walk, and the walk starts before you even step foot out the door

Here’s how you can set your dog up for success from the very start:

Teach your dog to sit politely while you put on their gear. Whether you need to put a harness on, or just clip the leash to their collar, work on training them to sit patiently while you put on their gear. 

No more rushing out the door. If you want your dog to have enough control to ignore the passing bikes or leave the rabbits alone, then you’ll want to start by teaching them to have enough impulse control to not run out the door as soon as it opens. You can do this either by teaching your dog to sit (and stay seated) while you open the door or by teaching them that they can’t approach the door until you give them permission to exit.

Have your dog reorient back to you once they walk out of the door. Instead of running out the door and dragging you down the front steps, teach your dog to turn back towards you and check in once they’ve exited the house. This will allow you to close and lock the door behind you and begin to build their focus on you instead of all the distractions. 

By teaching your dog to wait calmly by the door before heading out, you’re setting your dog up for success right from the get-go. 

#3. Do A Warm Up Before Setting Off

Just like us, dogs can benefit from a little warm-up before getting started.

A quick pre-walk exercise session can help burn off some initial energy, taking the edge off of a dog that’s been waiting for the opportunity to run all day.

Some dogs may also benefit from a mental warm-up to get them in the right headspace to pay attention to you on a walk. 

Here are some pre-walk exercises to get your dog’s focus and energy flowing in the right direction: 

  • Start with a short training session. Spend 5-10 minutes practicing basic obedience commands like “sit”, “place”, or “heel”. You can do this inside or out in your driveway, and it will help your dog get in a training mindset where they’re ready to work with you. 
  • A quick game to expend some physical energy. This could be a game of fetch, tug, or chasing the flirt pole. If your dog isn’t into toys but loves food, you can create games using food. One of my favorites is playing doggy ping-pong, where two or more people space out and take turns calling the dog to them excitedly so that the dog runs between each person, rewarding them for coming to you, of course. 
  • Sniffari in the yard. Before heading out, take a couple of minutes to let your dog sniff around the front yard. This allows them to fulfill their natural desire to sniff and expend some mental energy before asking them to stay by your side. 

Remember: Customize the pre-walk exercise to your dog’s age, fitness level, interests, and any limitations.


What if my dog won’t take treats on walks?

There may be a few reasons why your dog isn't interested in taking treats on your walk. They may be overwhelmed, frightened, or too distracted. Maybe they don’t like the treats you brought, or maybe they know the treats you’re offering are something they can get throughout the day and figure they’ll get some later. 

If there’s something specific your dog is interested in, like another dog, try to add some distance between your dog and the distraction so they can calm down enough to be in a learning mindset. If your dog just seems uninterested in your treats, try to experiment with different textures and flavors. You can also use your dog’s favorite toy as a reward (like a quick game of tug) if they prefer to play rather than take food.

At what age can you start loose leash walking?

You can start teaching your puppy to walk nicely on a leash as soon as you bring them home!

However, I like to focus on socialization and basic leash skills before teaching a formal heel command. If you’d like some extra help, you can download my free puppy socialization guide here!

How long does it take to loose leash train?

This will depend on your dog, how consistent you are, and whether or not they already have a habit of pulling on the leash.

Even if they’ve been pulling for years, it’s always possible to teach them how to walk nicely, but it’ll take a little longer than a puppy who learns to not pull from early on.

Should you let your dog sniff while walking?

Letting your dog sniff while walking can be a great form of mental enrichment, but we also want to teach them to stay close and walk in a heel when we need them to. You’ll want to find a healthy balance that allows you to tell your dog when sniffing is, and is not, appropriate.

Now, Go Get Started!

Beginning with these three things - engaging with your dog, working on calmly walking out of the house, and warm-up exercises - will help build a foundation for successful leash training. Of course, we always want to build our obedience on walks as well, but I find that starting here at the foundations often leads to greater success. 

Ready for walks with your dog to be fun again? 

Here at Cape Canine Academy, I understand the importance of finding training techniques that allow you and your dog to live your best lives together. I offer in-home dog training programs customized just for you and your dog’s specific needs. 

Subscribe to my email list below for more dog training tips and tricks! I’ll share valuable information on everything from basic obedience to addressing your most frustrating behavioral challenge

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