Teaching your dog to heel is an essential part of obedience training. It involves training your dog to walk on a loose leash next to you, without pulling or lagging behind. A well-trained dog who heels properly will make for a more enjoyable and safe walking experience for both you and your dog. In this article, we will explore the steps you can take to teach your dog to heel.
Start with Basic Training
Before you can teach your dog to heel, you need to ensure that they have a good foundation in basic obedience training. This includes commands like “sit”, “stay”, and “come”. It is also important that your dog is comfortable walking on a leash and that they understand that they should not pull or tug on the leash.
Choose the Right Equipment
To teach your dog to heel, you will need the right equipment. This includes a sturdy collar or harness and a strong leash. Choose equipment that is comfortable for your dog and fits them properly.
Pick a Quiet Location
To begin training your dog to heel, you should pick a quiet location without many distractions. A park or your backyard is a good place to start. Once your dog is comfortable with the training, you can start to introduce distractions gradually.
Start with the “Sit-Stay” Command
Before you start teaching your dog to heel, it is important to teach them the “sit-stay” command. This will help you to establish control over your dog and ensure that they are paying attention to you.
To teach your dog the “sit-stay” command, follow these steps:
- Start by having your dog sit in front of you.
- Hold a treat in front of your dog’s nose and slowly move it towards the back of their head. This will cause your dog to look up at the treat and sit down.
- Once your dog is sitting, say “sit” and give them the treat.
- Repeat this several times until your dog is comfortable sitting on command.
- Once your dog is comfortable sitting on command, you can move on to the “stay” command. Start by telling your dog to “sit” and then say “stay” while holding your hand up in a stop position.
- Take a step back and wait a few seconds. If your dog stays in place, reward them with a treat and praise.
- Gradually increase the distance between you and your dog, but always make sure that they are staying in place before you reward them. Training your dog to sit is easy, just be consistent.
Introduce the “Heel” Command
Once your dog is comfortable with the “sit-stay” command, you can start introducing the “heel” command. The “heel” command tells your dog to walk on your left side, close to your leg.
To teach your dog to heel, follow these steps:
- Start by having your dog sit at your left side. Make sure that they are sitting close to your leg.
- Hold a treat in your left hand and hold it close to your dog’s nose.
- Say “heel” and start walking forward. Keep the treat close to your leg so that your dog follows it.
- If your dog starts to pull ahead or lag behind, stop walking and wait for them to catch up. Once they are in the correct position, reward them with the treat.
- Repeat this several times, gradually increasing the distance you walk.
- As your dog becomes more comfortable with the “heel” command, you can start to introduce turns. To do this, simply turn to your left or right and say “heel”. Make sure that your dog stays close to your leg as you turn.
- If your dog starts to pull or lag behind, stop and wait for them to catch up before continuing.
Gradually Increase Distractions
As your dog becomes more comfortable with the “heel” command, you can start to introduce more distractions. This could include walking in areas with more people, other dogs, or other distractions.
When introducing distractions, it is important to start slowly and gradually increase the level of distraction. This will help your dog to stay focused and avoid becoming overwhelmed.
Use Positive Reinforcement
Positive reinforcement is an essential part of teaching your dog to heel. Whenever your dog successfully heels next to you, reward them with a treat and plenty of praise. This will help your dog to understand that they are doing the right thing and encourage them to continue heeling properly.
It is important to avoid using punishment or negative reinforcement when training your dog to heel. This can cause your dog to become anxious or fearful and can damage the trust between you and your dog.
Be Patient and Consistent
Teaching your dog to heel takes time and patience. It is important to be consistent in your training and to practice regularly. Short, frequent training sessions are often more effective than long, infrequent sessions.
It is also important to be patient with your dog. Some dogs may learn to heel quickly, while others may take longer. Remember to always reward your dog for good behavior and to avoid becoming frustrated or angry if they do not immediately understand what you are asking them to do.
Seek Professional Help if Necessary
If you are having difficulty teaching your dog to heel, it may be helpful to seek professional help. A professional dog trainer can work with you and your dog to develop a customized training plan and provide guidance and support as you work towards your goals.
The Bottom Line:
Teaching your dog to heel is an essential part of obedience training. By following these steps and being patient and consistent in your training, you can teach your dog to heel properly and enjoy a safe and enjoyable walking experience together. Remember to always use positive reinforcement, avoid punishment, and seek professional help if necessary.