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How to Train Your Dog to Heel

Among the many things that you need to teach your new dog, learning how to train your dog to heel is a vital skill for both your dog’s safety and your peace of mind.

Why It Is Important to Learn How to Train Your Dog to Heel

Training your dog to heel is important because it makes the walk more enjoyable for both of you. It is no fun to walk your dog feeling like your arm is about to be yanked out of its socket for most of the walk.

Also, your dog’s safety is at risk if your dog does not know how to heel on the walk properly. You want to be able to have your dog under control to be able to navigate busy streets or crowded places safely.

Tools and Materials Needed to Teach Your Dog to Heel

Treats (if your dog is food-motivated) or a toy

A leash

How to Train Your Dog to Heel

Start training your dog to heel inside, rather than outside, with as little distraction as possible.

If your dog is food-motivated, use a treat to help him focus on you. Show the treat to your dog and then hold it again the side of your body while you walk. Your dog should follow you (or actually, the treat). Walk for a bit then stop and reward your dog with the treat.

When you stop, be sure to use a command, such as “stop!” or “sit!” so that your dog knows to stop and sit at this point. Having the dog sit whenever your stop is another way to keep your dog safe. You can have your dog sit at each crosswalk so that he is not tempted to pull out into the street while you are walking.

Repeat the exercise several times inside before moving outside. Always remember that the key to properly training your dog is to have much patience and to move slowly. Do not rush to train your dog outside if she has not yet mastered the training inside. If you move too quickly, you may be setting your dog up to fail, and this can be frustrating for both you and your dog.

When moving outside, be sure to pick a quiet spot to start off; somewhere without too many distractions. Being in a quiet area will help your dog to focus on you rather than what is going on around you. Again, your goal is to give your dog plenty of opportunities to succeed before moving too quickly into more challenging training scenarios with distractions.

Do the same exercises you did inside, but this time, since you are outside, have your dog on the leash.

Repeat the exercise several times and remember to practice this often.

Be sure to give your dog some breaks where she does not have to heel, but can sniff around at leisure. Just make sure that you, and not your dog, are the one deciding when your dog should heel and when it is OK just to sniff.

Once your dog has mastered heeling while walking in quiet areas without distraction, move on to areas where there are more distractions. Remember to be patient and to practice often. Do not expect your dog to learn everything in one session.

Some Points to Keep in Mind

Bear in mind that, when working with your dog on leash, you should not have tension on the leash. Maintain the leash loose and do not jerk your dog around. If you keep tension on the leash, your are, in fact, training your dog to fight against that tension.

It can help to keep your dog’s collar toward the top of his neck, which is his most sensitive area and therefore, he will be less likely to resist and to pull.

What Do the Experts Say?

Victoria Stilwell

Victoria stresses the important of teaching your dog to heel by starting inside rather than outside where there are more distractions in this artcile: https://positively.com/dog-behavior/basic-cues/heeling/

Cesar Millan

Cesar discusses the importance of your body language and energy when teaching your dog to heel on the walk.

https://www.cesarsway.com/dog-training/walking/problems-on-the-walk

Read More Training Articles

Did you enjoy reading this dog training article? Check out more in the series:

Potty Train Your Puppy

Teach Your Dog to Sit

Train Your Dog to Come When Called

Teaching your Dog to Drop It

Train Your Dog to Leave It

Have you trained your dog to heel? How long did it take you to do so?

Caroline Kellam

Caroline Kellam

Caroline Kellam is the co-owner of PAWSitive Strides Dog Walking and Pet Sitting Services and a huge animal lover. She and her husband, Brian, share their home with six (yes, you read it right, six!) rescued dogs and three cockatiels (one of which was found on a neighbor's roof). She would love to have a cat or two as well, but the dogs (and the birds) will simply not stand for it.
Caroline Kellam

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