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Is It OK for Your Dog to Lead You On Walks?

Updated: Jul 29, 2021

In reality, there’s no right or wrong way to walk your dog. If anything, the only rule is that the leash should always have some slack, meaning your dog shouldn’t be pulling the leash as you’re walking. Now, where your dog walks – at your side, in front of you, slightly behind, or somewhere in between – depends on so many things, different situations, and the type of walk you’re doing with your dog.

When Should You Let Your Dog Lead

First of all, think about what your dog’s mindset is when it’s walking. Dogs pull to get where they’re going. They want to engage with the environment and explore their surroundings. Humans can be relatively slow to dogs, so it’s common for them to lead or pull on the leash a bit to continue their exploration.

For many dogs, “leaning in” comes naturally as they feel the pressure of their collar and the leash.

By nature, your dog is wired to smell its surroundings and follow traces. After all, dogs have 300 million scent receptors in their noses – we have only five to six million. When you don’t let your dog lead, you’re preventing it from taking in everything around him and diminishing the sensory and mental stimulation walks provide to them.

Why Heel Is Important

While it’s important to let your dog lead and explore its surroundings, it’s essential to do so in a controlled manner. Depending on the situation, say you’re walking in a crowded park, teaching your dog to walk in a heel position on a loose leash can provide some relief from the tension and still let them explore.

Of course, some dogs will also stay in a heel position for preference. They want to be close to you, and they’re more followers than leaders. In this case, you still want to encourage them to stop and smell their surroundings to give them mental stimulation.

Teaching your dog to heel is essential, as it makes walks safer for you and it. Having a reliable heel command makes it easier to stay away from distractions like joggers, other dogs, or bikers. This is particularly important if they’re fearful or reactive.

Leash Training Tips to Consider

Regardless of whatever method you use to walk your dog – head collars, collars, or harnesses – learning how to handle the leash is the most important practice. Ideally, you’ll want to be in a position that you and your dob both feel comfortable on walks.

Here are some leash training tips to get started:

  • If they pull: stand very still and refuse to move until your dog comes back to you. Don’t yank or jerk the leash or drag your dog along with you.

  • If they lunge: redirect their attention with a treat before they even have the chance to lunge. Redirect their attention to something else.

Regular leash walks can help with mental stimulation, so you need to make sure you can train them to get into a stress-free leash walk, so even when they lead, they do so with a loose leash.


Geraldine Orentas is a writer from Happy Writers, Co. in partnership with backpack carrier, K9 Sport Sack.

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