The Leadership Walk: The “Cure” for Pulling and So Much More!

by Camilla Gray-Nelson

Weekly I meet with anxious and frustrated dog owners on any number of behavioral issues – from pulling on the leash to aggression to chewing up shoes, general disobedience or jumping on guests.  Invariably, there is one exercise I recommend for all of them:  the Leadership Walk

The Leadership Walk – or as many call it, the “Wonder Walk” – addresses the underlying cause of most dog behavior issues: confusion over who make the rules and who’s running the show. 

You may be experiencing issues with your own canine pal.  Regardless of issue, you cannot proceed to improvement until you earn your dog’s respect.   Your dog must believe that you are a legitimate Leader in which he can put his trust and to whom he can safely defer his will.

The Leadership Walk immediately puts you in a natural “Leader” position, by imitating how dogs use positioning and line order to define their own status ladder.  The Leader leads.  Subordinates follow.  By claiming the “lead” position on walks and disallowing your dog to enter this space, you will not only stop leash-pulling, but set the stage for all future training and behavior improvements!  When you are seen as this Leader, your dog’s instinct will allow him to listen and obey.  He will:

  • Stop pulling on the leash
  • Become less leash aggressive
  • Be more polite in greeting new people
  • Be calmer, overall
  • Become more attentive to you

Rules of the Leadership Walk

  1. Dog is at your side (left is preferred, but right side can also work)
  2. Dog’s toes must stay behind your toes at all times unless expressly directed (whether you are standing still or moving)
  3. Dog walks when you walk; stops when you stop. (Your may need a trainer’s help to choose a more effective training collar to help enforce this new rule.)
  4. You must immediately STOP if your dog begins to rush or put his toes ahead of yours.  After stopping him, gently reposition him so that his toes are again behind yours before resuming the walk.
  5. No sniffing the ground unless expressly permitted to do so. (“Go sniff”)  We suggest no more than 2 sniffing sessions on the typical walk.  [You may stop at any appropriate spot on your walk to give your dog the opportunity to roam, stretch and sniff.  When you do, attach a long line (20 – 30’) to your dog’s collar and give him the full range of that line, but no more.  If you wish, you can practice your “Come” command during this play time, randomly calling your dog to you for a treat.  Use your long line to enforce your “Come” command.  Before you resume walking, reattach your regular leash and continue, following the rules of the Leadership Walk: your dog’s toes consistently behind yours.
  6. No leg-lifting or pottying  unless expressly requested/permitted to do so. (“Go potty”) We suggest stopping just 2 or 3 times on your walk for this, if needed.
  7. Stop frequently on your walks and be sure the dog stops immediately when you do. Random stops, requiring that the dog stop with you, will keep your dog on his toes, reminding him continually of your status.  Try walking no more than 6 successful steps at a time and then stopping, to test your dog’s attention.  (Remember, you will stop sooner than that if your dog forges ahead.)
  8. Absolutely NO contact-greeting with other dogs while on leash! If your dog enjoys socializing, an off-leash dog park or other enclosed area is the place for social contact.  During your Leadership Walk, it’s work time, not play time.

By consistently making the Leadership Walk your ONLY leash routine, you will be demonstrating to your dog that you are his natural and legitimate Leader – Nature’s way — and making this easy  for him to understand.  No yelling, no punishing, no intimidation – just rules and Nature’s boundaries.  It’s a beautiful thing!

Good luck on this, your first step to a calmer, better-behaved and obedient dog.  Call us at (707) 762-6111 with any questions or for further training assistance.  The Leadership Walk is our specialty!


About Camilla Gray-Nelson

When I started training dogs professionally, it was women who sought out my help. Responsibility for the family dog typically falls to them, after all. Their homes were in chaos; they were yelling at their dogs – and their kids – and couldn’t control either one. The life skills of personal power that I learned as a child (and assumed everyone else had, too), turned out to be rare among my clients. Since that time, it has been my personal goal to share Nature’s message of quiet power with women (and men) everywhere to help them become more effective not only with their dogs, but in their greater lives as well.

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