Walking The Dog is a Nightmare

“Walking the dog is a nightmare!” He pulls like a freight train and when we finally get into a nice rhythm he’ll put on the brakes and smell everything and I mean everything!

I’m exhausted by the time we get back home and we still don’t get enough exercise. I’ve definitely heard that before.

Let’s look at your dog’s behavior just before you take him for a walk:

He gets very hyper when you get the leash out.
It takes a lot of work to get him to calm down just so you can leash him up before you even start the walk.
You’re tired and you haven’t even gotten outside yet.

Do you also feel that he has no good manners, little regard for rules, and knows little to no obedience commands?

Not being able to enjoy your out of control dog definitely puts a damper on all the cool stuff you could be doing with him that you both would enjoy. And, feeling like you can’t control your dog in public is, well, embarrassing.

If this is the case you should probably take a look at your relationship with your dog inside your home before we talk about controlling your dog outside when you walk the dog.

Ready to do that?


Walking The Dog


How does a walking nightmare start to begin with?

More than likely your dog hasn’t had enough structure. Here’s what I mean. Structure is simply rules that are clearly and consistently put into place that begin to set expectations for your dog. You should require that he should sit for his meals and sit for any petting he gets from any family member – just to name a few.

Not having nearly enough required structure inside begins to confirm his thinking about your relevance outside on a walk. The message you have sent inside now translates to him taking charge and doing exactly what he wants on the walk as well. You’re just that 2-legged critter at the other end of the leash slowing him down.

Desensitize your dog to “walking cues.”

Desensitizing your dog to walking cues is easy.

If you do this consistently, you’ll find that it will begin to “set the tone” for walking.

This is what you do when you get ready for a walk.

If the first thing you do when you prepare for a walk is to go to the place where you keep the leash, go there multiple times. BUT, don’t pick up the leash, just simply return to your seat and do something else.

It helps if this is done around walking time. Repeat this exercise until your dog no longer gets excited about you going over to where you keep the leash. Got that?

Now, your next step is to repeat this exercise but this time pick up your leash, put it back down and then return to your seat and do something else. Repeat this exercise until your dog no longer gets excited about you going over and picking up your leash. Now, you’ve really got him wondering!

Now I suppose you might be thinking, “Why don’t I just teach him to do a sit/stay while I put the leash on him? Why make all the trips to the leash?” You could teach a sit stay but think about this:

If your dog is acting out as much as I have described, he doesn’t have any patience and he’s pushy. He wants things right now and that’s probably true with more things in his life than a walk.

A more important lesson is teaching patience, tolerance and politeness. He needs to learn that patience and politeness leads to doing fun things with you – like a walk.

Once he learns this important life-lesson from you as you desensitize him to you getting the leash, you then begin working on the sit/stay so that you can leash him up. Teaching your dog this important lesson can be done quickly in a non-confrontational, non-physical way that exhibits your strong leadership qualities.

Your dog will learn that pushy, obnoxious and being rude gets him nothing. Patience, tolerance and politeness gives him access to food, toys, games and walks with you. These lessons are easier for some dogs to learn than others. Patience and politeness comes naturally for some dogs while others struggle with this lesson and get frustrated in the process.  Have patience.

I have always said that your dog is your teacher so also look for the lesson he is teaching you. Dogs have a way of causing you to reflect on your own problems if you take the time to look. It could be that your dog is trying to teach you patience.

Now let’s go outside.

The first thing you want to do is to make sure that you have a good 6’ leash and equipment that will help you get better control your dog on a walk.

This could be a gentle leader, head halti or a walking-type harness that allows you to attach your leash to the front chest area for optimum control NOT the top at the back which would maximize your dog’s control.

The bottom line is to use effective, humane tools and kind methods for teaching your dog to walk politely on a leash. No special collars, no beating up on your dog, no gimmicks.
How to structure your dog’s walk.

Once you are outside its best to allow your dog to pee/poop and relieve himself. Once he’s done this have him sit, then begin walking. Here’s how I recommend you structure walking your dog. I break it down into thirds.

The first 1/3 and last 1/3 of the walk he walks by your side at a brisk pace. You exercise your dog, yourself and your leadership skills. Your dog should sit before you start each of “your 1/3.” For the time being, controlling 2/3’s of the walk is important as it helps to keep him mindful of who’s in charge and you do this using an activity that has intrinsic value to him.

The middle 1/3 is your dog’s free time to pee, poop, sniff, etc. The message you want to be consistently clear to your dog is, “You still get your free-time but it is on my schedule not yours.” Later on you can give more free-times to your dog as he gets better at walking with you.

As you begin training your dog, just remember the lesson he may be teaching you and ask yourself, “Am I a good student?” Also think about this: Instead of spending time focusing on the end result, discover the benefit of being in the process – learning is in the doing – not always necessarily the outcome.

So, what do you think?  Ready to give it a try?  Let me know below if you have questions.

We’re always learning and there’s a bunch of you out there we are grateful to be able to serve and learn from.  

I’m really interested in your thoughts and opinions on this.  I’m here to help.

“Together, We Can Raise a Happy and Obedient Dog”

Jim Burwell, professional dog trainer for 25+ years, serving 8700+ clients, has a profound understanding of dog behavior and the many things, we as humans, do that influence that behavior – good or bad.  Jim has the ability to not only steer dogs and puppies down the right path but to also train the owners to understand their part in having a great dog.

His Ground Rules for Great Dogs is the culmination of these years of training into an easy, step-by-step process so that your dog understands what you expect of him, you empower him to be able to give you the behavior you want and you empower him to be successful at living in a human home.

5 replies
  1. Effie
    Effie says:

    HI – just found your website and it’s really helpful! Now if you could point me in some direction would be very much appreciated.

    I adopted my dog from my local spca just a month ago. She is 4 years old – according to them – a border terrier mix and the only thing we know is that she was found somewhere in the open and that she was very fearful of people. It took them three days to even get near her when she first came to them. But once she gets to know you she is very friendly. What troubles me is that in the house she is very peaceful. she won’t bark for any reason. She touches nothing in the house unless you let her so we don’t kennel her since she behaves so well when we are gone. When people came over she’ll bark not growl and quickly go them for a sniff. After she makes sure they are not a threat to her she goes back to being a perfect dog.

    BUT my problem begins when we walk out the door. She will not listen to me whatsoever. Once she focus on something that’s it. And she barks at anything moving! she used to bark at cars now she’s fine with them but once she spots a person no matter how far that person is she’ll pull on the lease and want to chase them. Same with dogs she’ll try to get them and wont stop barking. At times I do hear her growling, the low kind growl and no matter what I do she keeps on barking. I’ve tried to change directions once I spot something but she’ll keep turning back at them. I would like to be able to take her to walks without having to worry if my neighbours are out or their kids. I would eventually love to take her to the off leash parks so she can run as much as she wants but with a behaviour like that is seems impossible. I have considered taking her to doggie daycare so she can get used to dogs but I’m afraid that they’re gonna turn me down because of her excessive barking. I don’t want her to be in the house all the time because of this. Any advice would help tremendously.

  2. Cheryl
    Cheryl says:

    Hi – i am a SPCA volunteer. I walk dogs at Perkiomon SPCA every Saturday with my bilnd- mental retarded son (24 yrs old). My desire is to give the lost and surrenders dogs enrichment (time out of kennl, pee-poo out of kennel, smelling the wind and deer/dog who walk in field before them, smell/see the SPCA horses/ chichens/ peacocks) before they find their ‘forever homes’. All dogs are anxious to be out of the SPCA kennel. Some dogs are pullers (sometimes are strong enough to hurt). Do I attempt to employ your advice of sitting prior to walking or 2/3s control with these dogs?

    PLEASE EMAIL me directly – I don’t do internet much.

    Your advise would be appreciated.

  3. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:

    Patricia. You’ll do great. Just remember to be patient, don’t get frustrated since your dog will sense that. Also look into the Gentle Leader or Easy Walk Harnass both
    are great for dogs that tend to pull. Totally non-aversive.

  4. Patricia
    Patricia says:

    Thanks for the information! I have a really great 1 year old miniature australian shepherd who has just joined our family but his walking manners and social skills are almost non-existent. The previous owner didn’t have time to teach anything but kennel training. 🙁 I have been working 15 minutes a day on sit, stay, down and have just started on heel. This pooch is a puller and a zig-zag in front of you kind of dog. I’m going to employ your methods because he goes beserk anytime you pick up the leash… Wish me luck!

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.