How to Train a Dog to Walk Beside You Without a Leash

Dogs are innately curious, which is why it seems impossible to take your dog outside for a walk without a leash and expect it to behave. If you wish to be able to take a walk with your dog off-leash without getting stressed out, know that even the most stubborn dogs can be transformed into calm and obedient dogs through effective training methods. 

In this article, we will provide a step-by-step guide on how to train a dog to walk beside you without a leash.

Step 1: Start training with a leash. 

Although the goal of this training is to teach your dog how to walk without a leash, you need to start with a leash to keep it under control. It is recommended to secure a flat, 6-foot training leash and flat, buckle collar. Although choke collars and chains look nice, they can harm your dog when not used properly.

Step 2: Teach the “Watch Me” command.

The “watch me” command trains your dog to keep its focus on your face and watch your eyes. This is crucial in keeping its attention when you take your training to the next level by training it off-leash.

All you need to do is to call its name and hold a treat close to its nose. When you successfully capture its attention, say the “watch me” command, and hold the treat toward your eyes. Once your dog looks up and keeps its focus on your face, hand it the treat. 

Some expert dog trainers will also say “yes” or click a clicker to mark the desired behavior as they give the reward. During the training sessions, say the “watch me” command frequently until it maintains eye contact with you every time it hears the command.

Step 3: Teach it to sit.

While standing, keep your dog on your side and ask it to sit. You can start by holding a treat in one hand, and then raising it over your dog’s head while saying the “sit” command. When it successfully performs the command, give your dog the reward.

This skill is important when training it to walk with or without a leash. By teaching it to sit, you are teaching the dog to stop forward momentum and keep the proper heeling position whenever you stop. Continue training it to improve how your dog sits, how quickly it performs the desired behavior, and how precisely it holds its heel position– keeping its shoulder next to your one knee and its eyes remaining focused on you.

Step 4: Take baby steps.

Start small and walk forward a few steps first, using the prospect of a treat to encourage your dog to move with you. Whenever you want to, come to a stop, and ask your dog to “sit” again. When its hindquarters are firmly on the ground, you can reward it with a tasty treat. Do this simple exercise over time until your dog sits quickly without you saying a command whenever you stop.

Step 5: Encourage your dog close by your side.

While keeping a treat in your one hand, tell your dog to “heel” or “walk,” and step off, taking a few brisk steps forward. 

Every time you say a command, keep an upbeat tone and hold the treat close enough for your dog to smell but far enough for it to reach it. When you ease to a stop, reward your dog when it sits and praise it for staying in position. 

Keep doing this exercise and it moves with you each time you say the command “heel”. You know you’re successful with the training when your dog is focused on you, moving with you seamlessly, and following what you tell it to do.

Step 6: Start training your dog without a leash.

Repeat all the exercises you perform with your dog while on a leash, but this time start training it off-leash until it manages to execute the commands flawlessly and walk beside you calmly.

Even though you reach the point where you feel your dog is obedient and well-behaved enough, always take a leash with you during your training sessions or even you’re just taking a walk outside with your dog. Be alert and always know when you should snap the leash onto your dog’s collar if the need arises.

The Most Trusted Dog Training Experts

Each dog learns at a different pace and depending on various factors. However, generally, training a dog to walk beside you leash-free can take weeks or even months. With this, you need to have patience, consistency, and dedication to complete the training process.

If you want to spare yourself from all the trouble and are looking for professional dog trainers in New York who can perform obedience training, get in touch with Delaware K9 Academy today. We do not only offer private lessons, but also 2-week bootcamps and puppy training sessions.

Get in touch with us today and let us help you explore your options!