Walking with A Happy Lead

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Skill #1- Identify Walking Position

Before your dog can make the choice to walk by your side, they need to know that is where you want them. Teach this easily by using a food lure to position them next to you facing the same direction and then providing a marker word before giving a few treats while they stay there. Then toss a treat away to reset them.

Repeat until a simple turn of your body leads them to drive right to where they've previously been lured.

Once you teach this, you may find your dog placing themselves into walking position to ask you for things.

Skill #2- Taking It on the Move

Once you've identified where your dog should walk, you have to teach them to do it while moving.

Only ask you dog for one step before marking then rewarding at first.

Increase the number of steps slowly and vary the directions you move.

Don't forget to include turns with your dog on the outside and inside (typically more difficult).

If your dog is forging ahead as soon as you step, take a pretend half step and start there.

Skill #3- Smelling the Roses on a Loose Leash

Now that your dog can take several steps before getting a reward,

wait to reward them until they've looked at something else and looked back at you.

Reward them every time they check back in with you, while enabling them to see and sniff things.

Do this consistently for a long time before only intermittently rewarding them for checking in.

Tips for Success

Always give a marker before providing a reward. A marker is anything that consistently happens when a dog gets it right that lets them know when exactly they earned the reward. Common markers are "YES," "GOOD DOG," and the sound of a clicker. This increases precision and gives you a moment to deliver the reward.


Start in a very low distraction environment. This may be your living room, back yard, front yard, driveway, etc. Work through all of the steps before changing location.


When you start in a new location, start at step one! You will advance through the steps more quickly each time you go through them. Once your dog is fluent, they will just need a quick warmup when they get to a new place.


Ensure your dog is in comfortable equipment. Ill-fitted harnesses, tight collars, tools intended to work by causing discomfort, etc. are an added distraction to the learning process.


If your dog forgets their skills and starts pulling, stop walking. Do not allow pulling to be reinforced by reaching new, interesting things.

If you've walked into a high distraction environment, increase your rate of reward to parallel how difficult the task is for your dog.