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Become Better #8:  

How to teach your dog to heel

You have probably seen a strong willed dog who is dragging his owner wherever he wishes, instead of gently going along wherever his owner wants. This sight should clearly show the benefit of training the dog to walk effortlessly by his owner’s heel, even when not on a leash.

And there are even more benefits to teaching your dog to heel, other than being tugged by your dog, and then stopping stubbornly whenever your dog wants to sniff of a lamp post.

When walking your dog is not a “chore,” you’ll enjoy it more, you’ll do it more, and you and your dog will both benefit from more frequent walks.

Dogs, and their ancestors the grey wolf, are by nature territorial. Sniffing and leaving scent marks are the natural necessity, to establish their kingdom and gain information about what other dogs are in the area, and when they dropped by. With the great number of dogs in the area, this practice is even more important, as seen from the point of view of the dog. So teaching him to decrease this practice is quite a challenge.

After all, dogs, unlike people, do not naturally walk side-by-side with their friends and family.

What is the best way to teach the dog? Using some type of choke collars, intimidation or brute force to teach the dog to heel is known among some dog trainers – amateurs and even professionals.

From a dog’s point of view, this concept of “heel” must seem more like “hell.”

That is definitely not our approach. By turning the lesson into an interesting game, teaching your dog to heel may be easy and enjoyable.

But it will take a little time; you may not get to a finished “heel” for a few weeks. That’s OK, because the process will be lots of fun for you and your dog.

Follow our training system, and soon you and your dog will be the ones struggling dog walkers gaze at in wistful admiration!

Lesson 8: How to teach your dog to heel

Read this lesson first, and then practice it with your dog.

  1. Load up your pocket (or a bag or pouch) with treats.
  1. Take your dog to a quiet area where it’s safe for her to be off a leash.
  1. Decide on which side you’ll prefer your dog to heel—your left side or your right. It doesn’t matter which side you choose, but once you decide, don’t change your mind later and confuse your dog. For the purposes of this lesson, we’ll use the left side. If you prefer the right side, just substitute “right” whenever we say “left.”
  1. Put a few treats in your left hand.
  1. Show your dog the treats in your hand and then start walking away.
  1. Encourage your dog to stay with you as you walk away. Call her name, slap your left leg, make smoochy noises, etc. Pick up the pace of your walking, almost as if you’re trying to get away. As you’re doing all this, wave the hand with the treats down low on your left side so your dog knows where they are.
  1. If your dog follows you, stop after a few strides and give her the treats and lots of praise. It’s great if she’s stayed right by your side, but don’t worry if she lags a bit behind at this point.
  1. Wait a couple of minutes, and then repeat Steps 4 through 7. Vary your walking speed and make sudden changes in direction. The point is to make it interesting and fun for your dog to keep up with you.

Not doing what you want? Here is what to do

If your dog doesn’t follow you, go back to her and put the treats right under her nose before walking away and encouraging her to follow.

If she still isn’t interested, the treats are not tempting enough or she’s too distracted. Find a treat she likes better, wait until she’s hungrier, or move to a less-distracting location.

Practice for Lesson 8

Practice this lesson a couple of times a day, but only for short periods of a minute or less.

Make sure there are few distractions, and your dog is eager to play and get lots of yummy treats.

This is the last lesson in these Become Better dog training lessons!

Congratulations for finishing the course.

(Stock images from 123rf.com, referral link.)