Canine companions and taking walks pretty much go paw-in-paw. Dogs (and humans for that matter) need a certain amount of daily exercise. Everyone could benefit from some fresh air and the walks can be a great time for socialization and bonding.
However, canine personalities are very individualized and unique to the animal, and sometimes, this can end up turning what could have been a peaceful walk, into a game of tug-of-war that nobody asked for. Dislocating an arm is never a fun time, so what’s up with these furballs? Why does my dog walk in front of me?
A dog walking in front of you could be him saying that he is the boss, that he has to go potty, or even just to reiterate his desire to go faster than you are. A lack of exercise will also cause him to walk in front of you due to the energy he has.
Many factors can play a role in your dog’s, complexing albeit sometimes odd, behavior.
Whatever the reason, if it is bothersome, it can be corrected, and it’s quite easy, actually. But it can be incredibly helpful to find out exactly your pooch is doing. Just in case it needs to be corrected.
Why Does My Dog Walk In Front Of Me?
11. It’s Potty Time
When you gotta go, you gotta go, am I right? One of the most common reasons for this conduct is simply that he has to go to the bathroom and needs to find the perfect spot.
The thing is, dogs are very, very particular about relieving themselves in THE perfect spot (like it’s weirdly super important to them) and this can take a bit of time so rushing you along is nothing personal, he just has a very important mission.
In this case, considering it is in response to having to relieve himself, walking ahead of, and/or pulling on you is acceptable, although a firm ‘No’ or ‘Slow’ along with a gentle tug of the leash will let him know to ease up on the yanking.
10. He Wants To Move At A Faster Pace
Some dogs simply have a need for speed. They just want to move at a faster pace than the rate at which they are currently traveling. Using a shorter leash or harness allows you to have more control over his movements and can help to discourage the behavior.
Walking at a slower pace while holding him tightly to your side, and stopping completely when or if he starts pulling, will eventually condition him to walk in step with you, or at the very least, to not pull as much.
09. Staking His Claim As ‘Pack Leader’
If your dog is one that tends to have a pack mentality then this could very well be his way of staking his claim as the alpha, or leader of the pack. He feels that he is the head of the household so to speak and that he is in charge and therefore should be front and center.
While you don’t need to punish him, the behavior would be best restricted. Excessive shows of dominance have been known to lead to aggression and over-the-top possessiveness.
08. Evaluating The Terrain
Curiosity might have killed the cat but Fido is a natural born explorer. Most dogs enjoy nothing more than checking out the people, places, and things around him. This could also be him assessing the dangers for his favorite and most special hooman.
Dogs are very territorial animals and knowing their surroundings is a preventive safety instinct, ensuring that the terrain is secure and that there are no immediate threats nearby. This motive is also present in dogs that walk behind their owners. They are also evaluating their surroundings, but they’re taking their time.
Anyone who has come home to a bouncy four-legged family member after a long day away knows just how excitable dogs can be. Breed and personality can also play a role as some dogs are more uppity than others.
Walking or pulling ahead of you during what is meant to be a relaxing walk might just be your pooch getting simply a wee bit overstimulated. Using a harness instead of a collar/leash can help keep authority over him, reminding him to be calm may also help.
06. Lack Of Exercise
If your dog is not getting enough exercise, the pulling could be an indicator of excessive pent-up energy. Providing more rigorous exercise should start to improve this response. Depending on the breed and size of your dog, he needs to have between 30 minutes and two hours of exercise a day, at the very least.
Dogs enjoy having plenty of physical activity and can help with both behavioral and medical issues. Weight, any underlying medical conditions, age, and the overall health of your pet will determine if he needs more or less physical activity.
One of your dog’s proudest jobs in life is to be your protector. By pulling ahead of you, he might be scoping out the area, assessing any possible threats and/or danger. By being in front of you it puts him at the perfect advantage to protect you if he needs to do so.
Again, a harness or a shorter leash can offer some control over the situation but at the end of the day, protective dogs will be protective dogs in most cases.
04. Inadequate Training
Some dogs are harder to train than others and sometimes, no matter how hard we try, we can not substitute the in-depth training that expert dog trainers can do. Correct training takes commitment, skill, and patience.
Some dogs are also more likely to listen to and learn from, an authority figure that is not family (IE: You), it’s just the way it is and nothing personal. The bottom line, you might have to call in a professional to ensure that Fido is trained properly and correctly.
03. He Is Testing Boundaries
When a dog walks in front of or pulls on his owner during walks, it could very well be his way of seeing exactly what he can get away with. Much like non-furry children, dogs too can test boundaries.
Canines are also looking for structure, they thrive on it, and they look to their owners to set the rules and limits. He needs to be reminded, as gently as possible, that you are the boss. And don’t forget to reward him each and every time that he does not pull.
02. Eager To Investigate
Dogs are curious, inquisitive individuals and they love nothing more than exploring the great outdoors. The different sights, sounds, and smells are all super enticing to his tingling puppy senses.
It is in a dog’s natural instinct to investigate and you should feel free to let him do so, however, be sure to set boundaries, for safety’s sake, yours, his, and those of other pets.
01. It’s A Breed Thing
Now, we are not talking about strength here. Just because a dog can pull, doesn’t mean that he will always be able to yank you around, but it should be addressed nevertheless.
A chihuahua, for example, is quite light but can still display this particular behavior by always taking the lead. While chihuahuas are not exactly known for walking in front of you, some breeds can be more prone to doing it.
Dogs that tend to be more protective or territorial, such as a Bull Mastiff, will also tend to try to lead the pack for a variety of reasons.
Should The Behavior Be Addressed?
Depending on the situation, it is an entirely personal decision. Ideally, for the safety of both you and your dog, a leash with a manageable length should always be used.
This is so that you are able to maintain control of your pooch while also avoiding a possible injury from overexcitement (excited dogs like to jump and run and have little to no awareness of the dangers of cars).
Although you might not mind being yanked about, having that little control of your pet, especially one that is prone to being excitable, could have dire consequences.
How To Train Your Dog To Not Walk In Front Of You
As we have learned more and more about our furry friends and how their brains work, we have come to realize that they aren’t much different from our own. There is a reason that people and dogs go hand in paw, our brains and the mechanics of how we learn are quite similar.
Techniques that we used to use to teach have now been found to be ineffective. Associating the learning process with something negative (yelling, hitting, being punished) will only cause the dog to shut down or even worse, lash out.
Positive reinforcement and conditioning are now more accepted as effective training methods. Basically offering praise or a treat when he does the correct thing, in this case, him walking beside, you instead of in front of you will eventually train him to do so.
Being a pet parent is not always throwing a ball or rubbing a belly. Dogs are not unlike human children in that they need to be molded and cared for properly to grow up healthy and strong, both physically and mentally.
While the old adage might not be true, as you can, in fact, teach an old dog new tricks, it is easier to train them right the first time. If you have reinforced the behavior, it isn’t impossible to correct but it is going to take a lot of love, time, and patience.