Teaching your dog to follow you on cue will have an awesome impact on your relationship and can keep leash walking skills sharp when the weather is just not conducive to being outside for long walks. This is an intermediate skill so it is uber important, especially around distractions, that your pup already have a couple good, strong cues under his collar first like “sit”, “touch” or “stay”. Ain’t no way your dog will listen when you are moving about if he is not yet responding when stationary. And, while we love Suzanne Clothier’s “follow me” game, this is a VERY different exercise.
The beginning, don’t goof it up! This may seem overly simply but the behavior you are teaching is for your pup to follow you, no matter where you move. If you have a one-dog home, it is totally cool if your dogs “follows” in leash walking position, on the left or right side. Start with your pup next to you and simply say “follow” as you move forward. If your dog is walking next to you, say “yes” and reward for continued walking. Don’t wait and treat for stopping. Repeat this a few times. Not only does this wear out dogs with cabin fever but gives your pooch practice hearing “follow” when you need it.
Real-life uses. Let’s say you have a very energetic dog who struggles to stay on their bed when company is over. Well, instead of fighting an uphill bone, give her something else to do besides jump on guests. If, every time you walk to the kitchen to grab a soda, you cue “follow”, your dog will be moving AND be a good little monkey. Win-win!
Double dog homes. When there is a new puppy or rescue dog in the house, I love to teach this game. It helps the new dog understand more appropriate movement in the house. Many times, the newest dog is younger and more energetic. If left to their own puppy devices; often bulldozing the resident dog, which does not create a peaceful home.
Start with both dogs in front of you. Take a step back and cue “follow”. If they follow you vs. getting into one another’s face, say “yes” and reward. Say “yes” again and reward for not trying to grab the treat from each other’s mouth. DO NOT DO THIS EXERCISE WITH DOGS WHO HAVE SHOWN ANY FOOD AGGRESSION WITH EACH OTHER.
I like to practice this a few times a week to help the puppy respect the older dog’s space a bit. AND…if you are training with movement around the house, your dogs will be more tired and less likely to cause ruckus later on. You can add turns and pace changes with practice but, even in small spaces this can go a long way to help your dog’s responses when people come into the home and when you are back on Chicago streets.