If you’re struggling to walk your dog when you’re on the go, rest assured you’re not alone. From tugging on their leash to wanting to jump in and say hello to everyone they meet, many pet parents find daily walks with their canine companion to be more stressful than relaxing.
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 that teaching simple behavior-based cues 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 tip to teach that can make walking with your dog a little easier. You can check out the clip in its entirety below or keep reading for a recap of the key points.
“The signal is called ‘with me’ and it just means join me in that direction,” says DeWillems. “It’s information for your dog that you are moving or changing direction and that you would like him to come with you.”
DeWillems says it’s important to define the behavior you’re looking for, so his criteria for the “with me” signal is simple: move with me in the direction I’m going.
“For us, ‘with me’ is not an indication of prolonged heel behavior,” she explains. “It’s meant to indicate when we want our dogs to start walking with us – either after stopping or when changing direction.”
As for the benefits of the “with me” signal, DeWillems says one of the biggest benefits is less frustrating walking.
“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” signal, DeWillems suggests the following 11-step process:
Home without distraction: we drop a treat on the floor and start walking away while the dog eats the treat
The moment our dog finishes the treat and starts following us, we mark with a click or “yes!”
When they catch us, we give ’em the treat we just promised with the click
Repeat 1-3 until the dog runs to catch up with us after finishing his treat
Start saying the verbal cue “with me” as the dog finishes the treat on the floor
After indicating “with me”, we mark when the dog begins to catch up with us
Give the treat when they do it to us
Practice until our dog runs to join us when he hears “with me”
Practice on a leash
Practice on walks around low distractions
Practice around walks around harder distractions
“As with all behaviors, reinforcement is needed to maintain that behavior, especially if we’re asking our dog to walk away from something he’d rather be doing instead,” DeWillems says. “It’s important to teach our dogs that ‘with me’ reliably predicts a tasty little treat for them. That’s why we always keep a handful of treats in our pocket for walks.”
Teaching your dog to walk well when you’re on the go takes time, patience, and consistency. If you don’t see the positive changes you are looking for after several months, we recommend contacting an expert dog trainer for professional advice and support.
Do you have a dog that doesn’t like to walk so much? So be sure to check’my dog doesn’t like long walks‘ where a pet parent shares how they use brain games to tire their pup.