How to Keep Your Dog Calm When Walking

How to Keep Your Dog Calm When Walking | Animed Direc

As any dog guardian will know, walks are an essential daily activity that help to maintain your dog’s physical and mental health. When heading out for a walk with your dog, it should be a relaxing and enjoyable experience. However, if your dog is nervous, overly excited, or reactive, it can become a challenge. But don’t worry, as there are techniques you can try to address these common issues, so that you can keep your dog calm on walks, and have an enjoyable time together.

Tailoring Behavioural Training to Your Individual Dog

When it comes to modifying behaviours in dogs, the best approach will vary depending on the cause of the behaviour. Consider whether your individual dog is reacting out of anxiety, excitedness or reactivity. Let’s explore these different issues, and techniques you can use to address them.

Anxious Dogs

Nervous dogs might be skittish, try to hide, or even refuse to move during their walks. This behaviour can occur as a result of past experiences, a lack of socialisation, or simply because your dog is timid in nature.

How to Keep Anxious Dogs Calm on Walks

Start Slow: Begin with short strolls in quieter areas.
Positive Reinforcement: Bring along their favourite treats and reward them for good behaviour to build positive associations.
Comfortable Walking Gear: Consider a Y-front harness and a long line instead of a collar and short lead.
Avoid Overwhelming Situations: Gradually introduce your dog to new environments and people.

Aroused Dogs

These dogs get over-excited during walks and respond by jumping, barking, or getting easily distracted.

How to Keep Aroused Dogs Calm on Walks:

  • Physical Release Before Walks: Have some playtime at home to burn off excess physical energy before going on walks.
  • Mental Stimulation: Provide your dog with mental stimulation prior to going out. You can use interactive toys, such as KONGs, treat toys and interactive feeders for this.
  • Lead Training: Take time in low-distraction environments to teach your dog not to pull. Find more information on how to do this below.
  • Reward Calm Behaviour: Praise and food rewards can be useful to reinforce good behaviour when your dog is not pulling.

Reactive Dogs

Reactive dogs might lunge, bark, or growl at triggers while on their walks out of fear. Triggers may include other dogs, people, or vehicles.

How to Keep Reactive Dogs Calm on Walks:

  • Recognize Triggers: Identify what sets off your dog.
  • Create Distance: Increase the space between your dog and the trigger.
  • Diversion Tactics: Use scattered food to divert their attention away from the trigger.
  • Professional Help: Consider consulting a dog behaviourist for tailored advice as reactivity is complex.

Bonus Tips for Keeping Your Dog Calm on Walks

As well as tailoring your training to your dog’s individual needs, the following tips are applicable to all:

  • See Your Vet: Before anything else, take your dog to see the vet for a health check. Sometimes, behavioural issues are linked to health problems.
  • Consistency is Key: As with any behavioural modification attempts, it’s important to stay consistent when trying to teach your dog to stay calm on their walks. Maintain a predictable routine to help build confidence in your dog.
  • Be Patient and Understanding: Remember your dog is trying their best, and so are you.
  • Safe Exposure: Gradually expose your dog to new experiences. This will help them to build confidence, and prevent negative reactions to stimuli they might come across on walks.

How to Stop Your Dog Pulling on the Lead

Being able to walk your dog comfortably on a loose lead is the goal that many dog guardians aspire towards. If your dog walks nicely by your side without pulling, it makes for a much more enjoyable walk for the both of you. Here are some top tips for successful loose lead walking.

Reinforce a Slack Leash

Always acknowledge and reward your dog when they walk nicely beside you. This could be through treats, praise, or allowing them to explore and sniff. Dogs are more likely to repeat behaviours that get them rewards, so positive reinforcement is key.

Never Walk When Your Dog is Pulling

If your dog starts pulling, stop walking immediately and call your dog back to you. Resume walking only when the lead is slack. This helps your dog understand that walking nicely is the only way to move forward.

Start Lead Training in a Low-Stress Environment

Begin your lead training in a place with few distractions, like indoors or in your back garden. This setting helps your dog focus on the training without getting overwhelmed by external stimuli.

Use the ‘Follow Me’ Game

This game involves moving away from your dog and rewarding them as they follow you. It encourages your dog to pay attention to you and reinforces the behaviour of following your lead.

Practice Regularly on Walks

Integrate these training methods into your daily walks. Consistently reward your dog for good behaviour, and as they get better, you can gradually reduce the frequency of rewards.

Consider Additional Tools

Back-clip harnesses are a great option. However, it’s important to remember that any tools you use should be used in conjunction with conditioning, not as a sole solution.

Let Your Dog Sniff

Allowing your dog to sniff around during walks provides them with mental stimulation and can reduce the likelihood of pulling.

Check-In Technique

Reward your dog for checking in with you during the walk. This means they occasionally stay close, which can be reinforced with treats and praise.

Be Patient and Consistent

Remember that training takes time and patience. Each dog is different, so finding out what works best for your dog might require a bit of trial and error. Always ensure that the process is positive and stress-free.

Wrapping Up

Keeping your dog calm during walks will help to make for more enjoyable outings for both of you. Whether your dog gets over-excited, feels anxious, or pulls on the lead, try following our tips and advice for calmer walks. If challenges persist despite trying these techniques, seeking professional guidance from a qualified, ethical dog behaviourist can offer personalised advice based on your dog’s specific needs. For more tips and advice on this topic, check out Renee Rhoades on Instagram.

Struggling with your dog’s behaviour? Discover how Renee can elevate your wisdom and transform your relationship by visiting

Renee Rhoades MSc, dog behaviour expert for Animed Direct
About Renee Rhoades, MSc

Renee Rhoades, MSc, is a distinguished authority in canine behaviour and welfare, recognised for her unwavering commitment to improving the lives of both dogs and humans. The founder of R+Dogs, a virtual dog behaviour consultancy, Renee offers cutting-edge private coaching and online courses to dog guardians worldwide. Renee specialises in transforming fearful and high-energy dogs, addressing aggression, reactivity, generalised anxiety and hyperactivity.

Beyond client-focused coaching, Renee is also the co-host of DogLogical, a podcast dedicated to unraveling the mysteries of our dogs. In addition, she extends her expertise by mentoring fellow dog professionals, contributing to the growth and development of the industry.

Struggling with your dog’s behaviour? Discover how Renee can elevate your wisdom and transform your relationship by visiting