We know that show dogs and obedience dogs are required to walk on the left side of their handlers. In our dog training classes, we always ask dog owners which side they walk their dogs on and nearly every time they say the left side. Why is that exactly? I think the answer is tradition. Most of us were taught that is the way to walk a dog.
I trained my dog to walk on whichever side I put him on. When we started leash training I started out on the left side. I did not want to confuse my dog while we were learning the basics. But as soon as possible I moved him to the right side because we spend a lot time at parks and on trails. Park etiquette dictates that people moving faster than you pass on the left. I did not want bikers and joggers zooming by, close to my dog, so I started walking him on the right side.
But from the very beginning I did enforce that it was against the rules for him to decide when to cross from one side to the other. That is one danger of teaching your dog to walk on both sides. They may think they can go back and forth any time they wish but you must train your dog against that.
If you have a correction sound you can use that as soon as they start to change sides or just use a gentle leash correction by extending your arm. If your dog is on the right side and they start to move to the left, you can correct that behavior by extending your arm out to the right. The leash will go tight and let them know they should stay where they are. No need to jerk the leash or anything like that. You might have to block the dog by putting yourself in the way or gently and carefully lifting a leg to block them.
If you are in a strong position of leadership, it will be easier to teach your dog this behavior so constantly work on your dog’s skills every day. Going through a short, fun training session every day will build your dog’s desire to follow your commands. You are not necessarily trying to teach your dog a new skill every day, just work on what skills they have and reward them for following your commands.
Work like this in the living room and the back yard will translate to making your dog easier to handle out in the world. They will be more likely to look to you for leadership when unexpected things happen and will learn subtle skills more easily.