How Do I Teach My Dog Not to Stop in Front of Me on Walks?

Man walking dog on leash
To teach your dog to slow down while you walk, train him to stop on command by saying "whoa" when you want him to pause his walking.

Q. When I stop on walks my dog always circles in front of me. It’s annoying and I’m afraid he will trip me. I would prefer that he stay by my side, even when we’re standing still. What can I do to correct this behavior?

A. Your question reminds me of a doggy client of mine named Chief. Chief walked nicely on leash and would sit when his human stopped walking. But instead of sitting at his person’s side, he consistently moved out in front to face the person before coming to a stop. His owners would frequently forget that he was right there under foot and walk straight into him. This created a constant tripping hazard for Chief’s people — and put him in danger as well.

There are a few reasons why even a well-trained dog will veer around instead of remaining at your side when you stop. Your dog may want to continue following a scent trail when you stop walking, or he may be anxious to keep walking when you stop. In Chief’s case, his people had been using rewards to train him, and he was placing himself in front of them because that’s where he thought he needed to be to get his treat when he was asked to sit. If your dog is used to facing you to receive his reward in other situations, he will be likely to do so on a walk as well — just like Chief.

Teach Your Dog to Follow Your Lead

Fortunately, you don’t have to put up with a dog who wanders in front of you or under your feet. Start by teaching your dog to walk nicely on leash. A front clip harness or head halter can be helpful; both enable you to manage your dog’s lateral and forward movement in a kind and effective manner. Work with your dog both on loose leash walking and on heeling. A loose leash allows your dog to explore his surroundings in a safe, controlled way, while heel enables closer contact and control when necessary. In both situations, teach your dog to remain on the same side, either to your right or left, all the time. Alternatively, you can teach your dog to always walk in the same position in relation to the street, such as taking the inside edge closer to the grass or buildings while you walk closer to the curb.


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