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 pistols…because, 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.

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

  1. I just found your chanel.I like it! I was wondering, what if walking a dog and they get stubborn and won't move? if I don't let my 5 month Doberman go into someone yards sometimes she sits down and won't move. a minute later she will get up. notvsure if I'm suppose to not let her do this because doesn't it teach specifically this breed to do what the want? I use a harness. Last question is I've been doing basic sit, down and stand. she will do it only with food. also down is only good in sit position can't get her to go down in a standing position. so I keep going back to sit to do the other 2 commands
    been about 3 weeks now doing this. also can you do a tutorial on human food and dry food? I use can and chicken roll that is at Wal-Mart but… sometimes I give her 93%ground hamburger or ground turkey meat in her dry food. broccoli, peas, and carrots. some times salmon. I figured a dog has yo get bored esting just can food and dry food every single day 2-3 times a day.

  2. I just got a dog and she's really good and not pulling, but my problem is she just stops walking. If I call her and try to get her excited to come to me she just lays down and whines?

  3. Ok, so I have a question regarding walking my dog. He does really well walking, stopping, going etc. what I wanted to know, is he likes to sniff everything!!!! Basically during our walks he sniffs every patch on the road and tries to pull over to the grass and sniff like crazy. Sometimes he pulls a little too hard to go sniff something juicy. I don't know if that's something natural I should let him do, or teach him to keep walking and not stop at every little thing to sniff? I'd love your input. I'd like to enjoy the walk too.

  4. My Shiloh Shepherd walks on my right side. But when there are cars coming, noises or bicycles, he puts his body crossways in front of me and stops. What does that mean in your experience as a trainer?

  5. What about a dog that still pulls with a front clip harness on? She pulls regardless of praise, stopping the walk, backing up to make her start over again, turning in the other direction. She's so into the smells and sights around her that she doesn't even accept high value treats that are offered when she's not pulling. I've tried a gentle leader and she does the same thing.

  6. Thanks Ian! I have two big dogs and I wanted to ask how do you manage to keep the sides after one of your dogs poops. I mean, you can't carry the poop bag and hold a leash on the same hand, can you? Assuming the garbage can is a bit far. Thank you 🙂

  7. Hi! I been watching a bunch of your training videos. Many are very useful as we've implemented. However, I have yet to find any advice on our one main issue. Our 5yo bulldog suddenly started to bite aggressively at her leash making it now absolutely impossible to walk her. It's been months and we've tried everything 🙁 For her breed, as you know, exercise is of optimal importance. Any suggestions? Videos? Referrals? Anyyytthiinngg… Please.

  8. "Putting good behaviours on autopilot without having to cue them every time is the end goal for most training." 2:11 Another simple & profound insight.

  9. can you do a tutorial on how to train a dog this? Do you just stop when the dog walks ahead and crosses to the other side? if so that happens a lot with my 6 month old doberman.

  10. I'm so glad I found your youtube channel! I have had 3 wonderful male dogs and never had a problem training them. Walking was mostly a pleasure and they were for the most part well behaved. After our Lucky passed away a few years ago (14.5) we got our first rescue dog Elizabeth (now 3) who had no manners what so ever. We had an older dog Teddy who recently passed away at almost 18.5 years old and we got another rescue puppy Daisy who was 15 weeks old. Daisy is now 7 months old and I wish I saw your videos before we got her. My son did most of the training with our boy dogs, but now he is grown up and on his own and It's up to us to train them. I don't remember it being so hard, but I am willing to put the time in. I loved your ideas on Kong toys and now have several in the freezer ready to go. We are working on Take it & Leave it now and will move on to drop it soon. How long do you spend teaching each topic? Thanks again!

  11. I do the left side because I am right handed. My dog is trained to heal but when she wants to walk on my left side, leaning on my leg with her head bent in front of me. Needless to,say I have stepped on her and I have tripped. I have a spinal cord injury and my left leg is very painful. Is there a way to stop her from leaning into my leg inside? Of course not having her want to stalk me would be nice.

  12. Lol, I didn't even realize it, but I've already been permanently walking my puppy on the left side XD. Because I'm still training her and I'm right-handed, so I usually give her the treats with my right hand, making me use my left hand to carry both the leash and the treats. And also cause I basically wrap the leash on my left arm all the time so there's really no switching sides when we walk XD

  13. Ian I love your videos!!!!! I have just adopted a 3 1/2 yr.old greyhound. Coach is blind in left eye. His head is on a swivel when we walk. I walk him on the left side. What would you advise? He is a retired greyhound that met up with a cat in his first foster home. They didn’t want him after the eye was removed.

  14. How long does it actually take a puppy to learn loose leash walking in general? Best case senario and worst case senario if you train daily? Thanks.

  15. I walk my dog on both the right and the left sides. I always keep my dog away from the private yards, always closest to the street side. I do this in case of potty breaks, she will go on city grass not on my neighbors yard. I believe she is on auto pilot knowing which side to go on, she simply goes to the street side. Thoughts?

  16. My problem is that I learned to heal (ok, we are trained, too) on the left, but when I enrolled my current GSD in a Big Box Pet Store they taught it on the right and definitely not a heal. I sent so many conflicting messages to my poor pup that I know that not all her problems are her fault. I need to decide on a side and stick with it, and not use food to lure her into position like the store trainer said. Just try what your video shows, a sit time out, then walk again as reward. It is a plan that I think I can carry out.

  17. It's difficult to walk one sided where I live as there are no pavements, so if I walk my dog one sided they may be on the inside of me going there but going back home they'll be closer to the cars. I don't like letting my dogs walk close to the cars as I feel they'll walk out in front of a car. Is there any way I could still do this?

  18. Most knowledgeable videos on YouTube about training dogs…you are the best trainer…….and for learning behaviour Ceaser Milan..thanks to both of you guys. Hats off

  19. We just shared this video on our fbk page Pookie and Friends we love your smile and your training tips of course! Keep up the great work Ive also been reccomending you to all the new puppy owners . Thanks

  20. live in the British countryside and we either have sidewalks only wide enough for one person or non at all so i still have to keep my right hand free for bandits also it means while on the sidewalk my dog has to walk infront of me to stay off the road so we kind have a few different walking methods depending what im walking on sidewalk in front of me. on the road hes to my right coz we drive the right way everywhere else hes off lead as its all just open countryside i have taught him to not cross the kirb unless i do that was very important due to how narrow the sidewalk is but it is just doing the same thing eveytime we go out routine now on the road he stays rite up against me as we walk on the sidewalk he walks in front everytime tho i am awarethat anything could startle him and its only one step onto the road and its a worry

  21. Wow I trained my dog to walk on my right from day one I just made a decision and naturally stuck with it. Interestingly I'm Left handed

  22. The problem I’m having is that my puppy is such a spaz that she just spins in circles and picks up leafs ever few seconds.

  23. Your videos are great! I watch them over and over and every time learn something new.
    But i have question. I have a mini bulterrier puppy (3,5 month), she is very stubborn. When we go out (we live in city center), she likes to walk only when she can follow some strangers. She wants them to pet her. And 1 street we go 10x back and forth, always after people.
    How I can stop stalking everybody? How can we start to walk nicely? Tried to lure her in right direction with treats- do not work, pulling neither.
    Do You have suggestions?

  24. What about a pair of dogs? Better to walk them on same side or opposite or does it matter more to just have them on their side?

  25. I walk my mini Australian Shepherd, Penny Lane, on the right hand side. 1- That is my dominant hand, it is stronger and a little easier to hold her with. 2- I like her walking on the asphalt as I walk on the grass, to file down her claws. Since there are no sidewalks, so we go in the opposite direction as traffic. She has learned from teaching as a puppy, to sit when there is a car driving on either side.

  26. Why do you use a flexi to walk? How did you convey what a nice walk is without the feedback of a hanging clasp? My dog walks faster than your bulldog, so maybe that's the difference?

  27. What happens is you and your spouse are opposite in dominate hands? I'm right, husband is left. How should be handle this???

  28. Thank you for all of your videos they are so helpful! We recently adopted a puppy who loves to go walk in the park but when we try to walk her at our house she gets so scared and refuses to move. Treats and praise have done nothing to help her or motivate her to move, any advice on what to do?

  29. I have a 12 week old pitbull. I would like to start working with him on walking next to me. Should I wait until he's a little older? Any suggestions on how to start training him on my one side? I feel like he doesn't have the attention span and I'm always pulling him back to me. I don't think I'm doing it right.

  30. I’d like my two dogs to walk on one side. The right side. Should I train them separately (they still pull so bad) and then let them work out who’s on the inside and outside of my right side on a dual walk?

  31. Instructions unclear, dog's leash burst into flames.
    No, but in all seriousness I love your video, I just wish you would have explained a little more about how you're supposed to get your puppy to stay walking on one side!

  32. I LOVE how you break down and really explain these techniques. Thank you for all the help! These are an absolute must for any dog owner 🙂 Good Work @Ian Stone

  33. So, what if you train your dog on the right, but you are walking in a place where the right side is somewhat dangerous or just less interesting for them? How do you give your dog permission to sniff and investigate things on the off side?

  34. My dog is a 10 week old french bulldog and she likes to walk right behind my feet and it's hard to avoid stepping on her! If she's not under my feet, she is walking about 2 feet behind me, even when we're walking slow. How do I get her to be more enthusiastic about walking?

  35. I am truly amazed at how much smoother our next
    walk with our 7 month old boxer was after implementing the tips from this video and your “Loose Leash Walking 101” blog post! Small fixes — like looking straight ahead, keeping my arms down and elbows relaxed (reformedchickenwinger), and using gentle tension to keep the walk going rather than allowing snoopin’ and poopin’ every 10 seconds — made a significant difference. We’ve taken several walks since then, and l’m so glad we found these resources. Looking forward to sharing with others!

  36. I’ve been watching your videos to train my pup and all I gotta say is THANK YOU SO MUCH. They have been an absolute lifesaver

  37. I live on a farm and the walks are done through paddocks, on the leash when we go through the farm animals. I cannot use your method of stopping when on the wrong side / correct / reward by walking again as a stop is actually a reward: so much to sniff and explore (and taste…). Any idea?

  38. I have a beagle. Is not mental stimulation in smelling all sorts of stuff one of the points in a walk? If so, should I let my dog occasionally just follow a smell?

  39. Help! I'm having a hard time getting my pup to go for walks, even very short ones ~5mins. She will sit or lay down and cannot be encouraged to move with treats or vocal encouragement. If she feels me pull her even slightly she will resist even more. If I use a toy in front of her she will run forward after it and when we get inside she runs all around like a crazy girl so I know it's not that she doesn't have the energy. She is only 10 weeks old so I'm curious if this is age related or if it's a problem with her harness or leash or something else. I'd like to train her the right way from the start but I'm at a total loss. All other dogs I've had can't wait to get out for walks. I'm an outdoor enthusiast so it's really important to me to get her to embrace walking outside with me. Any advice would be welcomed and appreciated!

  40. I’ve been walking our new rescue collie on my right side pretty consistently when I walk by myself. However, if my husband or anyone else walks with us, he can’t pick a side and is constantly darting back and forth, and even stops in front of us. Any suggestions?

  41. I usually do right bc that’s what I’m used to when leading horses bc you’re supposed to be on their left for some reason. ??‍♀️

  42. How do you get a new puppy to walk and not stop and sniff everything? He’s also stops in his tracks when he hears something or someone. Haha
    Basically takes a long time to go one block

  43. I knew before I got my puppy I wanted him to walk on the right side because here in USA our bike paths reflect our roadways and this keeps the puppy out of bike traffic…when he gets old enough to run a few miles I intend to have him run along a bike. I heard he should be about two years before he starts 'pounding' the earth (when his bones are fully developed) and wonder what you think? He is a collie shepard.

  44. im a left handed, and im traing my puppy on the left side. but ive got a 5 year old niece, so when i walking on a road i put her on the left to. so how can i walk with them both on the left??

  45. Any advice for a pup who barks at strangers on walks? We worked hard to socialize him, but have only started walking him since he got all of his vaccinations.

  46. Another good video and useful tips. I'm right handed and the treats are usually kept on my right side. It makes sense to to train my dog to walk on my left side (though he still has other ideas of his own!)
    By the way, when he is off the leash he is happy to regualrly cross my path, sometimes forcing me to bump into him or causing me to stumble. Any reasons for this behaviour and any tips to correct this?

  47. I have a bird dog who has a strong drive for scenting and chasing small animals. Walks are nearly impossible. What would be a good way to break that habit on walks?

  48. I got a puppy last week – my first dog ever. Your videos are SO helpful, and he's already starting to learn so much! Thank you!!

  49. I've also found myself binge watching these videos. They're not like anything else I've seen so far on youtube dog training channels. The videos are high quality, your pacing is superb — not too fast; so everything sinks in and not too slow; so one is never bored,— and the information you give is just the right amount and depth. When it's all "in-practice-this-works," it's an opportunity to understand dogs better wasted but when it's supported by a little science and theory as your videos are, one can understand why dogs do what they do much more easily. I also appreciate the fact that you embed short clips exemplifying what you are talking about and that you link everything you mention in the video descriptions below. Well done and thank you very much.

  50. Thank you for these videos. We have our first puppy and his people need some serious training. 🙂 Question for you about chosing a side. We have three daughters. Two are blind in the right eye. One is blind in the left eye. So we need to be able to train the dog to walk on alternating sides depending on the need of our girls. Any brilliant suggestions?

  51. Any help with walking a puppy that is scared to leave the house ? She wasn’t always like this but I missed 3 days of walking and now she’s fearful again

  52. Thank you. I am a "Puppy Raiser" for a guide dog organization. I appreciate your videos. Sometimes hearing somebody elses view or facts make the light switch turn on. Subscribed and notification on! Thank you for the extra tips in all your videos even if I know them or not.

  53. Hey! Just wanted to thank you for the fantastic videos. My wife and I will be getting a puppy in a couple of weeks, and we've already done the following

    1) Establish a possible Routine
    2) Built a puppy den
    3) Bought the right toys for her
    4) Planned out walking routes
    5) Training schedule and plan

    Thanks for all the help!

  54. If I carry a firearm and carry it on the left or right side then I'm thinking in that scenario my dog goes opposite side of the firearm. In that situation left and right side matters. And yes I carry to protect me and my dog! Any howl another awesome video!

  55. I’ve always tried to keep the dogs on the inside away from the road when we walk. Sometimes that is on my left, and sometimes on my right. Is this also confusing for them?

  56. I'd walk so that I am between them and the traffic, so I think, for me, that means they should be on my right.

  57. Where are u located? Do u ever do seminars or workshops? I am a trainer and I still go to classes/workshops/seminars given by some of the best trainers out there. I love learning different/new methods.

  58. My dog has to be on the left if they're at a barrel race or rodeo. Horses are led on the right. Should I have to lead both (not probable, but possible), the dog isn't going to wind up under the horse.

  59. Left hand is the devils hand that was why so many church controlled schools would force left handed student to use their right hand my uncle hahad a life long stutter from this

  60. I made the mistake of training my pom to walk on the standard left side (we went to a competitive obedience school for his CGC test and Rally training). We are in a neighborhood with lots of foot and dog traffic. My Pomeranian would end up in the middle of the sidewalk and thus in the way of passing pedestrians. I was always dragging him to the grass, etc. This was also rewarded because if he put himself in their path, they would stop and say hello. Our new pup will be walking on the right!

  61. Walking on the left always when walking on roads without sidewalks you walk against traffic so you see the cars closest coming from in front of you. Always keep your dog on the inside away from the road. Except in countries like the UK, I guess.

  62. Great video and lots to try. My 9 year old cavoodle walks awesome on my right side but our new German shepherd pup constantly plays up when we are out together but on his own he walks really well. I will move him to the left on a short lead and stop each time he plays up until he gets the message. It may be a long short walk tomorrow.

  63. My dog accelerates when I praise her for walking next to me – so that she isn’t walking next to me anymore and pulls the leash. Feedback in this case seems to have the opposite effect because it gets her excited and I want her walking calmly.

  64. Regarding "picking a side". I would eventually like to run my dog with my bicycle. On a bike it makes sense to have the dog on the right so that it is away from traffic. However when walking on muti-use paths, the left side makes more sense because pedestrians are supposed to keep left, and having the dog to my left would keep the dog away from any passing foot or wheeled traffic. So my question is: Since dogs don't generalize, do you think I could teach it to be on the right of the bicycle but on my left when on foot?

  65. My cattle dog walks on the left side. She knows that's her side and always goes to it. I trained her on the left, due to me riding horse and mounting and dismounting on the left. I know where she is and the horse won't step on her. ???

  66. An interesting topic. I've generally followed the traditional rule of walking my dog on the left. And, since it is not uncommon to be walking a roadway without a sidewalk, I find the traditional "keep my pet away from traffic" makes me, at least, more comfortable. The challenge, though, is the increase in greenway spaces which do not have auto traffic, but do have bicycles, not all of which are particularly aware of managing their space. Here, the rule for pedestrians is to walk on the right. And here, for the same reason I noted on the roadway, I prefer my dog away from traffic, which means on the right. I'll agree, though, that it's confusing to my dog!

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