Training your dog to heel is all about having their undivided attention. You want them directly next to your left leg, without touching your leg. This is extremely difficult to teach and takes a great deal of time and practice to accomplish. You are going to watch to take baby steps with this process. Start slow and build up as you go.
The heel command can be used either with your dog on or off the leash. Remember that if you do use the leash, this is not for pulling the dog into place. The leash is used only for safety purposes. You want your dog to want to come to your side, and not feel as though he is being forced to.
When you are ready to begin, stand very close to your dog, with him at your left side, both of you facing the same way.
Hold one of your dogs treats in your left hand. You will want to make sure that you hold it up near your waist, and not directly in front of your dogs nose or mouth.
Say “Buster” (insert your dog’s name) to get his attention. When you say his name look at him and try to gain eye contact.
Take two steps forward and then stop your motion. If your dog moves with you and is still in the heel position, praise him and give him one of the treats that you are holding.
Begin the process over again.
Make sure that you are only giving him the treat if he is still in the heel position. Remember that the treat is used as a reward in this command, and not as a lure.
If your dog does not move with you or goes too far ahead of you, do not reward your dog and start again. You can also so “unh unh” or “aah-aah.”
Continue reinforcing and repeating the action. Gradually increase how many steps you are taking, one step at a time. When you have reached the 10 step mark, it is time to add in the verbal “Heel” command.
The only difference you will see is that you are going to say “Heel Buster” before you take your first step. Over time your dog will be able to anticipate what is coming by hearing the command.
Our final step is the addition of distractions. Some dogs aren’t very bothered by additional variables, while others perform very differently with the change up.
Here are some changes that you can make that your dog will need to adapt to:
- walk slower than normal
- speed up
- continue to start walking and stop several times in a row
- try changing locations
- try the heel command in a very busy area
- practice the command around other dogs
- have your dog heel for a longer time than usual
- throw a toy or a bone in front of your dog
Heeling is a command that is usually learned better by older dogs. While puppies can master it, it takes a longer period of training time. Most puppies are very hyper and it is hard for them to be so submissive.