Training
August 30, 2023

Debunking Ruff Myths About Dog Walking

Is there a "right" way to walk your dog? Hear what an experienced dog trainer really thinks about leash walking as she busts the top dog walking myths and gives tips for better walks!

Bernese Mountain Dog holding leash in their mouth

Knowing what to believe about the ‘right’ way to train a dog is hard. Here are a few common myths about walking with dogs.

Dogs Should Always Walk On the Left

In obedience competitions, dogs must walk on the left. The two possible reasons are that many people are right-handed and would carry a gun for hunting in their right hand. The other is that horses are walked on the right side, leaving the left available for a dog. Regardless of the reason, your dog isn’t in a competition when they are out for a walk. They can walk either side or learn both.

From a training perspective, if you are walking with your dog right at your side in a busy environment, teaching dogs not to switch sides unless invited to switch is helpful. Many dogs are taught both sides, and many competition dogs will also learn both sides for casual walking.

Dogs Should Sit When We Stop

Again - this comes from competition. While dogs are required to automatically sit at heel in competition, no one is judging you in real life. Some dog owners choose to ask dogs to sit, but it’s not necessary and can create conflict. It’s perfectly fine for your dog to stand with you. As long as your dog is attentive and doesn’t pull you when you stop, there are no rules!

Short-haired dogs sometimes don’t like to sit on wet, cold, hot, or prickly (mulch, dry grass, etc.) surfaces. That’s understandable - we wouldn’t either! Training short-haired dogs to sit at stops works for some dogs, but other dogs are conflicted between doing the task as trained or standing to remain comfortable.

Long-haired dogs don’t usually mind the surface as much, but then the rain, snow, mud, leaves, pine needles, and extra dirt get in the dog’s hair and comes home with you. Having a long-haired dog stand instead will make clean-up easier for you.

Sitting could be uncomfortable for some dogs, even young dogs. Dogs with age-related arthritis or even a 6 month old puppy with hip dysplasia can find sitting to be uncomfortable. Having these dogs stand instead is a great compromise. 

Your Dog Should Always Walk At Your Side

Walking at your side will be easier and safer with a large or strong dog. You can more easily intervene if distractions appear. 

Depending on the size and strength of your dog, it may be appropriate to let your dog explore and sniff in certain circumstances. Having your dog walk close through a farmers market makes sense, but maybe it isn’t necessary in an empty field. 

It is often easier to be more strict early in a dog’s training and then relax over time. For now, having your dog walk at your side may be easier, but you can relax this requirement as your dog gains experience.

Your Dog Should Socialize on Walks

This is two myths in one! Socialization does not necessarily mean interaction. A dog can have a socialization experience that involves walking past other people without meeting anyone or settling at your feet while dogs walk past on a trail.  

You do not always have to let people pet your dog. If your dog doesn’t want to interact with someone - that’s ok - protect your dog and say, “Not today, but thank you!”  If your dog is over-excited and you know the greeting will result in your dog jumping - then pass; that’s ok. Many excited dogs benefit from not always being allowed to visit.

Do you have questions about walking training? If you’re looking for training help, take a look here, or we can help you and your dog develop a personalized walking training plan. If you have heard something and want to know if it’s a myth, reach out here, and we might include it in the future. We hope to see you soon!