Your pooch is begging to go for a walk…
They jump up and down excitedly.
You put on their leash and off you go!
They start walking in front of you.
Ever wonder why dogs do this?
Should you be worried about this behavior?
Read on to learn:
- 9 reasons why your dog walks in front of you.
- Whether or not this behavior should concern you.
- What you need to know about dominance in dogs.
- 7 tips on how to stop your dog from doing this.
- And so much more…
Why does my dog walk in front of me?
Your dog walks in front of you because they walk faster than you or are trying to explore their surroundings. Dogs with high energy also tend to do this and are eager to walk in front of you towards the location they expect you to go. Another reason your dog for this is that you encourage the behavior.
9 reasons why your dog walks in front of you
#1: They’re faster than you
“Baby, wait for meeeee!”
How often have you had to lightly pull your pooch back to you whenever you’re out for walks?
Or maybe they’re the ones who always pull you around?
Whatever the situation is, you can bet that you are not alone.
It can be fun to try and catch up with your pooch while walking.
But, oh boy, sometimes it can be tiring!
Not everyone is as athletic as their dog. So it may be a challenge to keep up with them.
Sometimes your canine makes you wonder if they have a Ferrari engine inside them!
That’s the car they would be considering how fast they’re going.
Kidding aside, dogs are naturally faster than humans.
Notice how your dog is walking. They’re using their toes.
Didn’t catch that? Try calling them and see how they walk.
They do that because dogs are digitigrades.
This means dogs walk on their digits.
Humans on the other hand are plantigrades.
Which simply means we walk using the soles of our feet. The toes are utilized for balance.
Because dogs are quicker and more nimble on their feet, they sometimes go faster than us.
#2: They found something interesting
Dogs are naturally curious beings and love to explore the world surrounding them.
In dog parks, especially if your dog is highly sociable, they try to get near and know everyone.
They do this by smelling other dogs and humans.
This is also true during walks.
Butterflies, insects, leaves… you name it.
If they see it moving, making a sound, or it is just generally attractive to them, you can always bet they’d go up to it and investigate.
*sniff sniff* “Hmmm… this is definitely an interesting rock, hooman!”
It’s like having your own Sherlock Holmes.
Except they’re four-legged and way cuter than Benedict Cumberbatch.
You can call them Doglock Holmes!
#3: They’re clueless about what you want
Dogs are highly intelligent beings.
We have been training them for different purposes. Such as herding, hunting, and even assistance in daily household chores.
Just look at this pup helping out and zooming around their hooman’s house:
However, if dogs are left untrained and you let them do whatever they want, they would never know how you like certain things.
Take, for example, walking with them.
If they don’t know how you want them to walk when they’re with you, they’ll be all over the place.
“What do you mean?”
They could be nudging you from behind.
Some dogs walk in between their hooman’s feet.
Others walk in front of their owners.
Look, if you fully harness the intelligence of your dogs, it’ll be much better for you.
If there are fur babies who are trained and compete in obstacle course contests, then your pooch is capable of following simple instructions.
#4: They see the need to protect you
Building a healthy and loving relationship with your dogs is highly beneficial for you.
Aside from having a cute and loyal companion, you’d also have your own bodyguard.
Dogs are closely related to wolves, and as part of their instinct, they’re inclined to protect everyone in their pack.
Guarding someone they think is in danger is natural to them.
They’ve developed this behavior back when they used to hunt, eat, and survive together in the wild.
Much like their wolf cousins.
They always look out for the best of their pack. And tend to members who might need caring for.
Dr. Horwitz notes that during times when resources are scarce, wolves always prioritize feeding the younger members first.
While you are probably not in grave danger in most cases, dogs just love being there for you.
Walking ahead of you with eyes always on the lookout. This is just one of their ways of saying, “Hooman, whatever comes, I got you”.
#5: They’re natural adventurers
They might not be like Jack Sparrow who roamed the world aboard his Black Pearl, but your pooch is a close second.
Loving the outdoors is in their DNA.
This is why some dogs would make awesome trail companions.
Some of these dog breeds are as follows:
- Siberian Husky.
- Australian Shepherd.
- Australian Cattle Dog.
- German Shorthaired Pointer.
These dog breeds have been known to love exploring the outdoors.
Pro tip: If you are looking for a companion for your daily runs, these dog breeds will be able to keep up with you.
You can also bring them for when you’re going trail riding on your mountain bike.
Not only will you have a loyal companion by your side, you will also be giving them their much-needed activity level for the day.
Generally, active dog breeds like these need around 2 hours of activity daily.
I mean, fetch and walks will soon be too boring for you, won’t they?
#6: They think you like it when they do that
“Uhh, I’d want them to walk beside me and not pull on the leash.”
I hear ya!
And this is how I’d wanna walk with my pooch, too!
But sometimes, a doggie’s behavior is reinforced by their hoomans.
Dr. Debra Horwitz says that dogs respond best to positive reinforcement.
Yes, this is in huge contrast to some people’s beliefs.
You might have heard about the training method of “establishing the alpha”.
This training system is where you punish and force your way into making your fur babies follow you.
There has been no evidence supporting the claims that wolves and dogs operate and learn in such a way.
However, with hugs, petting, and praises plus treats dogs learn quickly.
This is better in altering their behavior…
…and accidentally encouraging ones that you don’t want.
Such as walking in front of you!
Every time you give rewards to your dog when they walk ahead of you, they are more likely to do the behavior often.
This is how you could have been unconsciously training your fur babies to walk in front of you.
#7: Your dog’s leash slack is excessive
Dogs are like kites.
‘Huh? What do you mean by that?”
Not that they fly when the wind is picking up.
Although that’d be awesome, right?
Anyway, dogs have similar characteristics to kites in that the more slack you give them, the farther they go.
If you give your dogs a lot of space to move around, it’s natural for them to roam that space.
Especially if you haven’t trained them to just walk beside you.
You’ll notice that your pooch will either be too far back, still sniffing the bug they found
…or too far ahead wanting to pull on you so they can go a little beyond your leash’s reach.
Also, having more slack could give your dog ideas that they are free to go wherever they want.
#8: There’s an overflow of energy in their system
After deciding you’d go for a walk, you get up to get your dog’s leash.
The second you pick up the leash, its metal parts ring.
I think most fur parents already know what’s going to happen next.
Your pooch then zooms past everything and jumps up and down next to you.
They get sooo excited waiting for when you’d put their leash on to go out for the much-awaited walk.
Phew! That dog just has a lot of energy.
You sometimes wonder, “Boy, how am I keeping up with this cute furry ball of energy?”
Because of their excitement, they’d run out into the world and drag you along with them.
After hundreds of leash pull, you take a rest. And think of ways you could at least calm them down.
One possible reason why your dog oozes with energy is because they come from an active breed.
These types of dogs require daily exercises and physical and mental stimulation.
Working dog breeds are the most common type of canines that have this need.
But what happens if you don’t give them their much-needed exercise? They’d be too excited.
Hence, the pulling and dragging of their leash and along with it, you.
You might also want to know: Why does my dog jump on me while walking?
#9: They want to see if the route is safe
“Hooman, danger ahead! Let’s move out of this path!”,
It’s so cool having your own mini danger scanner, right?
They usually do this when you’re out on a hike.
Especially if the place is new to them.
They check around trying to collect data from their surroundings.
One way they do this is by sniffing around.
You see, dogs have way better noses than humans.
As you know, canines are being employed by the police for bomb and drug-sniffing tasks.
Their noses are so awesome they can even detect illnesses in people!
Here are some of the diseases that are known to be detected by dogs:
Who knew our furry companions could match medical machines?
Dogs also have incredible ears.
Have you seen your dog go crazy when they hear someone’s car?
Especially if they’re familiar with the vehicle?
Yep, even if you haven’t heard the car’s engine…
They already know it’s on its way!
According to the AKC, dogs have the ability to hear sounds way beyond our range.
Humans can no longer hear sounds above 20,000 Hz.
Your pooch on the other hand can hear up to 47,000 to 65,000 Hz.
7 tips on how to stop your dog from walking in front of you
#1: Use the “heel” verbal cue
A simple technique you could use is teaching your pooch to heel at your command.
What happens here is that whenever your dog hears you say, “Heel!” they’d go near you and walk beside you.
It’d be best if you start training inside your home.
Your dog will be free from distractions. And you will have control over the environment. So they’ll learn faster.
This command would also be helpful in situations where your dog could be in danger.
Being able to call them back to safety is incredibly useful.
“How, then, do I train my dog to come when I say heel?”
Here are the steps:
- Teach your fur baby to start following a treat. If they don’t get lured, you can use a toy or any object that interests them.
- Let your dog notice the treat and keep it in one of your hands.
- Walk ahead of your dog and use the treat as bait to lure them closer to you.
- Every time they walk towards you, release the treat. This will serve as a reward for walking calmly towards you instead of ahead of you.
- Repeat this exercise multiple times.
- Once your dog is comfortable, add the verbal cue, “Heel!”
- Right after saying “Heel” start walking. When your dog follows, give them the treat. Pets and positive words will also help them learn to walk beside you.
- Once they’d learn how to follow and walk beside you, increase the time you walk before giving them rewards. Increments of 10 seconds would be a good start.
Pretty simple, right?
It’s also another cool trick you can show to your fellow fur parents during park visits!
#2: Let your dog learn how to walk with a leash
It’s easier to walk with your dog without a leash.
I mean, no cord that would rip your arm off if your dog pulls? That’s the dream.
However, the dangers outweigh the pros especially if your dog is not trained to walk safely beside you when you’re out together.
It would not be a surprise if your pooch zooms out onto incoming traffic if you let them go without a leash.
They could accidentally bump into a small child causing minor injuries.
Another possible scenario would be an encounter with an aggressive dog.
While it’s possible to train your dog to not be unruly during walks, it’s still better to have a backup plan.
In this case, a leash.
Here’s how you can start training your fur baby:
- Find an area where there are minimal distractions. For example, walking in your lawn would be a good place.
- Put the leash on your dog. Remember to keep it fit but not too tight. Injuries can occur if the leash is too tight-fitting.
- Start walking forward. Whenever your dog pulls on their leash, gently pull back to reign them in and take a few steps back.
- Lure them to your side with a treat and release it when they comply.
- Walk forward again. When they learn to follow and walk calmly, give them one treat every 5 steps.
#3: Use the ‘Stop and Go’ technique (without a leash)
As the name suggests, whenever you walk with your dog, you’ll be stopping and going from time to time.
“Uhm, how is that helpful? This sounds like a waste of time.”
Well, altering our dog’s behavior will take time.
However, the result will be much more beneficial to both of you.
You’ll no longer feel your dog pulling on you, and walks will be more enjoyable.
Just you, your pooch, and the beautiful scenery.
“How do I execute the ‘Stop and Go’?”
Every time your dog walks way ahead of you, you come to a complete stop.
You don’t walk forward.
Don’t pet them or give them treats. Totally stop in the middle of your walk.
Wait for your pooch to stop walking ahead.
Naturally, your dog will be confused and stare at you.
Maybe even give you a head tilt or two.
You know the ones they do when they don’t know what to do next? Yeah, they look cute doing it, right?
Anyway, as soon as they stop walking, go near you, and behave calmly, continue the walk.
This will make your dog think that the walk (a fun activity for them) will stop every time they go beyond you.
You’ll notice that the more you do this, the more behaved and laid back they become during walks.
It could become tiresome with all the stopping and going.
But eventually, your dog will learn how to behave.
#4: Consistently praise them for good behavior
As mentioned earlier, positive reinforcement works best when training a dog.
Since you’ll be altering the natural behavior of dogs, you’ll need to provide rewards for when they do something desirable.
One example of good behavior would be coming back to you after sniffing to investigate something.
Dogs will have several side stops when you’re out walking.
It’s pretty easy for them to be distracted by things that move, look, and smell interesting to them.
However, they could be caught up in the moment and decide to just stay and interact with whatever it is that they found.
If they do decide to come back to you, give them rewards such as treats, pets, and hugs.
Another behavior you need to reinforce with praises would be holding back ecstatic reactions to things that usually excite them.
Being excited usually comes out when they see other dogs, people they haven’t seen in a while, food, etc.
While it’s pretty normal for dogs to go crazy over these, it would be better if they’d learn how to control themselves in public.
Reward every wanted behavior they show – they’ll keep doing it!
#5: Use the correct gear
Choosing the right equipment before going out with your pup is important.
This will determine the quality of your walk and how much you can control their behavior if they become unruly.
There are two main gears you can put on your dogs for your daily strolls: leashes and harnesses.
Generally, you would want a leash that won’t give too much slack to your pooch.
Retractable leashes can also be easily pulled on by your fur baby and would not be helpful if you don’t want them walking in front of you.
Use the appropriate length of leash for your adventures.
A leash of 4 to 5 feet (1.2 to 1.5 meters) should be enough to give your pooch enough room to walk comfortably but not too much that they’d roam around.
When it comes to harnesses, use ones that would enable you to install leashes that can easily pull your dog’s upper chest.
It’s much easier to control your dog’s distance and direction if you can gently pull them using their upper body.
#6: Go out on walks more often
Another thing you can do to keep your dogs near you when walking is to go out more!
Keep their curious minds occupied and let them learn more things about the world.
This way, they wouldn’t be surprised when a leaf moves or a kid runs past them.
Desensitize your dogs to these experiences by making them more aware of their surroundings.
#7: Don’t stop them
Are you surprised?
“Uhh, yeah. Thought these were tips to stop them?”
Bit of a curveball here, but, yes!
You can totally just let your dog walk in front of you.
Generally speaking, there is nothing wrong if your dog walks in front of you.
If it isn’t too much of an inconvenience, let your pooch go.
As long as they keep their distance from danger and don’t cause any injury to other dogs and humans, let them be free!