How to Teach your dog to heel

OK so you finally got your dog to stop pulling on the leash while you walk, but his stopping and starting on every new blade of grass is becoming annoying.  What to do?  Heel is your answer.


In a heel, your dog is commanded to walk beside you without deviation.  That is, no stopping to sniff, pee or poop, or greet people or dogs.  As long as you are walking, she is walking right next to you.  If you stop, your dog sits.  It sounds hard, but so long as you practice, practice, practice using the proper technique, you can have your dog heeling in a couple of weeks.


While the traditional heel side is the left, you can choose whichever side you feel most comfortable with.  The first thing you want to do is get a pouch and some high-value treats – that is, treats that you normally don’t give your dog (like freeze-dried steak or liver, hot dogs, cheese, etc).  Next, call your dog by name and point to the side you want him to walk on.


As your dog comes to your side (on leash), use the marker “yes!” and give her a treat.  As you start walking slowly, keep the leash in your right hand and bend down with a treat in your left.  Your dog’s nose will do the trick, leading him alongside you at the same pace as your hand.  After 2 steps say “yes! Heel!” and give her the treat that is in your left hand.  Reload and take 3 steps and say “yes! Heel!” and give her the treat and reload again.  Rinse and repeat, sometimes taking a few more steps, but keep it between 2 and 5 steps for the first few training sessions.


Thereafter, increase the number of steps but continue with the above technique.  After 5 more training sessions, increase the number of steps again until you are up to 15 steps or so – do that for 5 more training sessions.  At that point, you can attempt to do a heel walk for a minute or so, but don’t forget to treat every once in a while, always saying “yes!” first.


Eventually, you will get to a point where it’s obvious your dog will be ready for a few-minute heel.  Congrats!

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