Teaching a dog to heel is one of the best things you can do if you struggle with your dog pulling on the leash. Walking your dog is one of the best times to bond with your pooch, but we all know how excited dogs can get when they hear the word ‘walk’.
Walking is stressful when your dog is the one walking you. Lucky for us, the “heel” command exists. Let us show you how to get your dog to heel and get you on your way to stress free walking!
Who’s in Charge Here?
When you’re teaching a dog to heel, you’re telling him or her to follow your lead by walking beside you. Your pace is the one to be followed and you decide when to go and when to stop. I know, sounds bossy, but you gotta take charge once in awhile when it comes to your dog.
Allowing your dog to lead on walks may be relatively harmless sometimes, but it will ultimately lead to problems.. Do you enjoy stopping at every mailbox or tree for 7 minutes to smell whatever it is that is so interesting to your dog? Me neither. You don’t have to have your dog heel all the time, but the “heel” command will come in handy at some point. And when that time comes, you’ll be thankful that you taught this command to your dog.
Teaching your dog to heel means that you can go on stress-free and safe walks with your dog, whether they’re on a leash or not. Sounds good, right?
We agree! Now let’s take a closer look at the “Heel” command and how to teach it to your dog.
Perks Of Teaching A Dog To Heel
The basic idea of the “heel” command is getting your dog to walk beside you. Not in front of or behind you. In order for this to succeed, your dog will have to keep up with the pace you set, to walk when you walk and to stop when you do.
Our previous post on basic dog training commands is a good place to start establishing obedience in your dog, but teaching your dog the “Heel” command will give your dog a better idea of you as the leader between the two of you.
Getting your dog to heel during a walk ensures that your dog follows your lead and not the other way around. Even if your walks aren’t the kind where your dog tugs on his leash so ferociously that someone is at risk of getting hurt, adding the “heel” command to your dog’s arsenal is vital to establishing yourself as the leader for your dog to heed your call when you’re out walking.
Plus, it can come in handy in situations when your dog, despite himself, finds himself wanting to take charge of the walk. This can happen when your dog gets excited, and these instances can be quite risky if you don’t know how to keep your dog in check.
Another advantage of teaching your dog to heel is that it gives you the freedom to walk leash-free with your dog. If your dog knows how to heel, it will give you confidence to allow him to be out with you even with no leash on.
Before Teaching Your Dog The “Heel” Command
The “Heel” command is a command that’s a little more complex than the ones we’ve been talking about so far. As such, you will need to get your dog to focus in order to learn this command effectively.
You can start off by practicing a few of the more basic commands that your dog knows, but not too much that your dog’s attention starts waning. Just enough to know that your dog is on a training mindset.
You can also make things easier for both you and your dog by getting your training done in a distraction-free zone. This ensures that you get a lot of quality training done.
As we’ve mentioned before, getting your dog to respect and obey you isn’t really about dominance but rather leadership. And while there are ways to go about teaching your dog to heel that involve less gentle materials and techniques, we will be sticking to the GoodDoggies way of doing things.
This means that you once again have to stock up on treats that will help motivate your dog in this positive reinforcement based training.
Prepare your clicker if you utilize one in your training sessions. Brush up on how to effectively use clicker training in our previous post.
Train your dog to obey the “heel” command while he is on a leash first, as this will make it easier for your first attempts. You can move on to more complicated environments and situations as your dog gets a better grasp of the idea of the “heel” command.
Last but not the least, don’t forget to be patient and to have fun!
It’s Training Time!
To begin training your dog to heel, have your dog stand on your left. Your treats should also be in your left hand as you will use them to lure your dog to walk beside you.
Hold your dog’s leash on your right hand and start training by saying the command word “Heel” and then walking. Entice your dog to walk exactly beside you by holding out a treat a few inches from your dog’s face.
If your dog starts to walk ahead or in another direction, call their attention by saying their name and asking them to sit and stay. Start with the heel training again once your dog resumes their position beside you and when you’re sure that all their attention is on you.
For the first few training sessions, reward your dog after every few steps that they keep up with your pace. As you progress with the training, reward your dog for greater distances kept and longer periods in the proper position.
Once you know that your dog knows the heel command, you can progress further by varying your pace, starting and stopping as you please, as well as practicing in different environments. Once your dog has the hang of those things, you can then begin training to do it leash-free.
There you have it, with the “heel” command, your dog to learn to walk beside you and to follow your commands when you’re out on a walk together. It’s a command that you may not opt to use as often as the others, but is one that can come in handy in some circumstances.
Teaching a dog to heel helps you have stress-free walks and helps your dog to become more obedient and sensitive to your commands and leading.
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