Leash Training a Dog – Why You Should Stay on One Side

I work with a lot of people to help them learn to make dog walking an enjoyable activity One of the first things I always ask is, "What side do you walk your dog on?" so that when I work with the dog I'm working on the correct side

So often, though, I get responses like, "Oh, he just goes back and forth," or "Well she just goes to whatever side she wants" Let me rephrase the question: WHAT SIDE ARE YOU GOING TO WALK YOUR DOG ON FROM NOW ON? [laughs] Ok that was a little creepy Ian here with Simpawtico Dog Training, and as I'm sure you're figuring out by now I for sure advocate picking a side for your dog and sticking with it This will yield several benefits for you The traditional wisdom was that you were supposed to train your dog to walk and/or heel on the left side

Back before sidewalks and such people walked against traffic, putting the dog on the inside There's also some historical evidence that using the left side had to do with keeping the right hand unimpeded for swords or pistolsbecause, bandits and highwaymen, I guess

Approximately 80% of the world has always been right-handed and left-handedness used to be frowned upon and even forcibly retaught to the right side So, consequently, dogs were traditionally on the left, always leaving the right hand free Now, it's the 21st century You can pick whatever side you want I usually recommend using your dominant hand, but some folks prefer their non-dominant side

Doesn't really matter, your dog doesn't care, just PICK ONE When you train your dog on one side, they come to know their position and will go there This frees you up to do other things, and just enjoy the stroll If you stop to answer your phone, or pick up a poop, or even just hang out on a park bench, getting back to the walking part becomes an effortless step because your dog's on autopilot in that respect Putting good behaviors on autopilot without having to cue them every time is the end goal for most dog training

It allows you to recover from mixups faster Also, not having to manage their position frees you up to work on your situational awareness like we talked about in our last video Plus, as you train yourself to work on that side, it's a much faster process than trying to be ambidextrous If you've read or learned about how dogs learn, you've no-doubt heard that dogs suck at generalization If you train your dog in the kitchen, you have a great kitchen dog, but they're anywhere between sloppy and terrible everywhere else

So we have to teach behaviors in lots of different situations and places so they connect the dots and have their lightbulb moment: it means the same everywhere! On the other side of the coin, dogs are AWESOME at discrimination, meaning that telling the difference between situations and environments, finding details they know and understand, and cataloguing those details is a skill they excel at In other words, if you practice routines and patterns, your dog will be ALL OVER THAT It makes sense to them, and they like it Capitalize on that strength and be consistent in your walking configuration Naturally then, heeling becomes a snap when you stick to one side

Can you imagine how much more difficult this would be if you had to communicate which side to heel on? Or worse, didn't specify anything and your dog had to guess? Forget that nonsense Train a side, the same side always, and you remove a ton of guesswork and time This sets you both up for success All of these benefits become even more evident when you have more than one dog Here's an example

My English Bulldog, Dexter, was trained on my left ever since he was a puppy I'm left-handed, so it made sense to put the big guy on my strong side My Boston Terrier, Bobo, I trained on my right side This was done on purpose so I could walk them together Later, when I met my wife and her dog became OUR dog, I had to figure out what to do

So my Jack Russell, Darwin, was trained on the right, since my wife is right-handed In the whole group, that puts Darwin right next to Bobo and I put them on a splitter when I walk them by myself The two of them have kind of figured out an equilibrium too: Darwin's always on the inside, and Bobo always moves to the outside The benefit of this, as I've said, is that when the four of us move together, the dogs know their place and immediately go into "formation" without me having to say anything or prompt them It's just how we've always done it

When we go on solo adventures, the dog still walks on their trained side, no matter what And they do it automatically And when my wife and I take them out together, one person takes Dexter and one of the little guys so there's freedom, but structure too It makes everything smooth and effortless So how do we manage that? How do we teach it? Easier than you think

First, remember that feedback is your #1 training tool You should be talking to your dog, giving them that running commentary on their performance and behavior Remember also that walking is a reward to your dog It's one of their favorite hobbies If they try to switch sides, we stop, take the walk away, and give them feedback

Guide them back to where they're supposed to be, and then praise and reward that by restarting the walk You're showing them that the walk only continues when it's done the way it's supposed to be This is an enforceable statement and I talk more about those in another video Remember: you're driving They're in the sidecar

Not the other way around Really, that's it Now admittedly there's more to teaching walking in general, but that's beyond the scope of this particular video If you're struggling with walking, this is only one small piece of the puzzle If you're interested I'll link to some of my walking resources in the description

But as far sticking to one side or the other, there's really not much more to it than consistency, and good feedback So what do you think guys? Have you been walking all willy-nilly? Do you have stories or questions about choosing a side to walk on? Share in the comments And if you learned something useful please subscribe to my channel so you never miss any videos, and shoot on over to the Simpawtico website for more goodies, or to set up training with me if you're in the Southern Tier area of upstate New York In the meantime, keep learning, keep practicing, and I'll see you soon CHEERS


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