how to teach a dog to heel

How to Teach a Dog to Heel

February 10, 2023

When you imagined adopting a dog, you pictured a loyal companion who’d follow you to the ends of the earth. Instead, you find yourself with a precious handful of fluff and energy that can’t seem to sit still long enough to notice you’re there! While your furry friend’s verve is perfect for the backyard, what will happen when you slip on their leash and attempt a walk?

Without guidance, most dogs will spend every walk sniffing, exploring, and chasing after scents and movement. Learning how to teach a dog to heel will benefit you both. You’ll ensure your canine companion’s safety, and they’ll enjoy a sense of control as they trot proudly at your feet.

Training can be tricky, whether teaching a young dog its first command or teaching an old dog new tricks. We’ve created this guide to help conscientious pet owners like you learn how to teach the “heel” command.

Read on to learn the dog training tips that can transform your distracted pup into a well-behaved walker.

What Is the “Heel” Command?

When dog owners tell their pets to “heel,” they are asking them to “be at heel.” In other words, they want their dog to walk beside them rather than in front or behind (or off in a bush chasing a squirrel). Your dog will move when you move and stop when you stop.

Dogs tend to want to dawdle and take in the scents or run and move quickly. Walking at your side might not seem like a workout to you if your goal is exercise. In fact, it takes a dog incredible mental focus to perform the heel command, and even a slow stroll will tire them out!

Your dog doesn’t need to heel on every walk. Starting early can help prevent behavior problems, including leash aggression. Once they know how to heel, however, it’ll be a tool in your arsenal that you can use in challenging situations.

What Do You Need to Teach a Dog to Heel?

The “heel” command is a behavior your dog can only perform while walking. Thus, you’ll want to ensure your dog has a comfortable, well-fitting collar and a high-quality training lead or dog leash.

You will also need a highly motivating treat to use to train your dog. You know your pet best. Food usually works well, but if your friend is more toy-motivated, use what they love.

How to Teach a Dog to Heel

Always begin the training process indoors. There are too many distracting and potentially dangerous variables outdoors, from cars to other animals. Teach your pup the basics in a distraction-free environment, then slowly take the training into the wider world.

At Your Side

Your first goal is to show your dog that being right at your side is a good thing. You might want to start without a leash if you’re training a young puppy.

It can be helpful to make the connection between the command and the leash early, however. Buy a leash before you think you need one, and introduce it gradually during the training process.

Introduce the Treat

Start by showing your dog its treat. Once they’ve tracked it and have begun to act excited, put it in one hand. Press that hand against your side.

Ideally, your dog’s interest in the food or toy should bring them to the side where you’re holding the treat. From there, use the food as a lure to help your dog learn to track and follow. See if you can get your dog to follow the lure for about ten steps.

Be sure to reward your dog with the treat when they can successfully follow! Repeat this series of steps while gradually increasing the number of steps you take.

Stop and Sit

Eventually, you’ll want to be able to train your dog to stop when you stop. Most dog owners have their dogs sit when they hear the command “stop.” When you stop, say “stop” and move into your dog’s body slightly.

Initially, you might have to give the “sit” command verbally. When your dog sits, praise them. Eventually, they’ll learn to automatically sit when they hear “stop.”

Add a Command

Once your dog responds to this process, cue them by saying their name. Say “heel” to introduce the command, then tap the side where you want them to stay. Praise them when they successfully comply.

You will want to continue to use treats intermittently to keep your dog interested and to reinforce the rewarding nature of following the command.

If your dog walks in front of you, switch direction and say “heel” again, tapping the side where you want them to be. Make sure to praise them warmly when they finally come to your side.

Mix it Up

Before you head outside, incorporate plenty of twists and turns as you walk together. Try to catch your dog off-guard with the “stop” command and see if they comply. They have mastered the command when they sit as soon as they hear the word.

When your dog has achieved mastery, be sure to practice whenever you get a chance. You want to ensure your dog can heel in sudden, unexpected circumstances. It will add enjoyment and variety to your dog’s walk!

Walk in Style With a New Auburn Dog Leash

While teaching your dog tricks can be fun for you, many of them are fun for your dog, too! When you know how to teach a dog to heel, you can show them who is in control on a walk. It’s a wonderful way to keep your furry friend safe in new areas or near busy roads.

Why not begin the process with a brand-new dog collar and leash from Auburn leathercrafters? Our attractive, quality products are always made right here in the USA. Browse our training leads and support a family-owned and operated business today.


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