Teaching A Dog To Heel In 6 Simple Stages
A lot of times, when people take their dogs for walks, they're being dragged behind the dog instead of leading it. The dogs pulling the cart, or even those left behind, were not properly trained to walk in step with their owners. Walking with your dog is a comfortable way to do it, not the opposite, so it's worth teaching your dog how to do it. Anyone can train a dog to follow its owner through repetition and patience, as well as some simple techniques.
Prepare for Training
You will need to have plenty of treats on hand. For training (especially when introducing a new or difficult command), choose treats that your dog absolutely can't resist. Small pieces are best because you will be giving your dog lots of treats at first to reward good behavior, and you don't want to spoil your dog's diet. For stubborn dogs or small dogs that make it difficult to bend down and offer treats while in the heel position, use a long-handled spoon coated with peanut butter, cream cheese, or wet dog food.
Sit, Heel, and Treat Continuously
First, get a clicker for your right hand and a handful of training treats in your left hand. Keep extras in your pocket if you plan to do a longer training session. Start your heel training in a non-distracting familiar environment, like your living room, basement, or a fenced-in backyard.
Second, you will position your pup on your left-hand side. Have them sit and stay then quickly reward them with a click and a treat. Have your dog sit calmly next to you until you are ready to walk. Make sure you wait to start until they are calmly following your first, more simple commands before beginning your more advanced heel training. You will also want to make sure they are fully focused on you!
Third, keep the handful of small, soft training treats in your left hand. Start to walk slowly forward; the command "heel" would be appropriate. Expect your pet to walk slowly beside you. The idea is to hold the treats out within an inch of your dog's face to guide him or her along, and every step or two rewards with a click from the clicker and a treat. If you combine this with verbal praise, it is most effective. If your dog starts to veer off, pull ahead, or focus on anything other than you, you should stop immediately, call your dog's name, ask them to sit, stay and then start again only once your pup is in the correct position and focused on you.
Fourth, Once you're able to walk with your dog at a heel for several yards, it's time to start cutting down on the number of treats you give it. Again, begin with your dog sitting at your left side and give the command "heel." Give the dog a treat and then take a step before giving it another. Be sure to give your dog a treat before its interests wander. Keep the distance you walk with your dog at a heel fairly short, and gradually work up to walking a yard or two between treats.
Fifth, Once you're able to walk several yards with your dog in a heel with only a few treats, it's time to start adding more distance to your walk. You can give your dog treats, but begin to slowly phase them out. If your dog is continually breaking out of a heel at any point, you may be moving ahead too quickly. Go back and repeat the distance and number of treats where you were last successful in keeping your dog at a heel.
Sixth, Once you're able to walk a fairly long distance with fewer treats, it's time to add some distraction. You can work on this training at a park or take walks through your neighborhood on a leash. When you first begin this, you may need to go back to treating your dog continuously and keep the walks short until it understands what's expected. Again, slowly work up to longer distances and fewer treats.
Training a dog to walk to heel is one of the most important tasks for any large dog owner. But it is not as hard as you think once you get started and have a plan to follow.
Remember that your dog will learn faster if he is clear what is expected of him, and you use plenty of high-value rewards, to begin with.
Master each stage in training before moving on to the next and give yourself and your dog some great rewards for making progress!