Teaching Dog to Heel
Articles are a great way to showcase your company’s expertise on any topic. Use them to inspire interactions with your audience and drive traffic to your page, then convert.
When your dog is heeling consistently, start to taper off the treats. First, wait for them to heel every other step, then about every five steps, and finally to every 10 steps.
1. Get Your Dog’s Attention
A dog that knows how to heel can make your walks more pleasant. Heeling also allows you to control your dog’s impulses when they are off-leash, which is important for the safety of both them and others.
The first step in teaching a dog to heel is getting their attention. This can be done by holding a treat in front of their nose and using the verbal “heel” command. You can also use a clicker, which helps reinforce the desired behavior.
After the dog has mastered this step, it’s time to begin training for a heel walk. This can be done in a fenced-in yard or your own driveway. Begin by standing perpendicular to a wall and then luring your dog into position with a treat. When the dog starts walking with you and staying in the correct position, reward them for every couple of steps they take. Slowly increase the duration of your walk and then move to outside.
2. Keep It Simple
Heeling is a basic and important command that dogs need to learn. A dog that doesn’t heel can be a safety hazard to themselves and others, especially in busy areas where people are walking and traffic is present. Heeling is also an essential training exercise for dogs who are pulling on the leash. Pulling causes pain to the neck and restricts airflow which can lead to choking, coughing, and other health issues.
To begin training your dog to heel, take them to a quiet location where distractions are minimal. Choose a spot where you can easily control your dog and make sure they are calmly following your other more simple commands, such as sit or down. Grab a leash and a handful of treats. Start by standing perpendicular to a wall and luring them into position with a treat. Then slowly move forward, clicking and treating them every time they walk in their “heel” on your left side.
3. Make It Fun
Heeling is a fun skill to teach your dog. It is rewarding for them to walk close by your side and gives them something to focus their energy on rather than chasing every squirrel, dog, or person they see.
Heels also help prevent reactivity, a common problem for dogs that do not walk in a controlled manner on a leash. When a dog is allowed to wander far enough ahead that they fall out of sight, it is common for them to start following their own agenda, and this can lead to pulling and even leash aggression.
To make training to heel more fun, use a clicker to mark their behavior and use a reward for every step they take in the correct position. Once they get a hang of it, try practicing on a more exciting walk like in your front or back yard. You can then move on to real walks in a dog-friendly park.
4. Keep It Short
If your dog gets ahead of you while walking, you need to practice a simple trick to get it back into position. Get your dog’s attention by calling their name, tapping on their head, or using a pre-taught “watch me” cue. Once they look at you, reduce their heel zone to two to three feet and command “Heel”. As they start walking briskly, tap the lead remotely so that it tightens only when they are in the correct position.
When they return to the heel position, click and treat. Repeat this sequence with them until they are consistently walking at a heel for several steps. Then, gradually work up to longer distances while reducing the amount of treats given. This allows them to learn that the walk isn’t only about getting more treats. It’s about being a good, reliable, and consistent partner. Having a reliable heel is essential for safe walks, especially when a dog is new to the leash.