Heeling is something every dog owner should train their dog to do. It can be a long process, but pays dividends while walking the dog in high traffic areas. This is much different than merely training your dog to walk on a leash. When heeling, the dog will be very close to your left leg, however, the dog should not be touching you.
In order to heel properly, you will need to be able to hold your dog’s complete attention. Because it is difficult to do this initially, it is recommended that you train your dog to heel in stages, allowing it to master each step of the process before moving forward. Over time, the dog will naturally heel when being walked until you give the release command. If possible, conduct the training in an enclosed area where you can leave the dog off the leash. Now, load your pockets up with your dog’s favorite treats and let’s get started.
1. Have your dog stand next to you facing in the same direction. As stated above, the dog should be close, but not touching.
2. Hold a treat at waist level. Call your dog by name and when you have the dog’s attention, walk forward two steps and immediately stop. If the dog follows and stops, reward it with a treat and give him an enthusiastic pet. If the dog fails to complete the step, correct him and start over again. Do not give the dog the treat until the step has been completed properly.
3. Now repeat the process. Once again, call the dog by name and when the dog looks up at you, take two more steps and immediately stop. If the dog does this successfully, lavish him with praise and another treat.
4. Your dog will now start to get the idea that he is not being lured by the treat, but rather rewarded by doing this simple act.
5. Once the dog has mastered two steps, increase the training to four steps, then six, then eight, and then ten. As you can see, this will not take place during one training session, but over multiple days, so you will have to be patient.
6. Once the dog has repeatedly mastered ten steps, you can make it a verbal command for the dog to follow. Stand as you did, but this time command the dog to heel. Address him by name and then say heel. For instance, “Spike, heel!” After giving the command, begin to walk forward and then stop. Repeat this until your dog recognizes the verbal command and follows your lead.
7. After repeated success, you can start to switch up by walking quicker or slower, always remembering to give the verbal command. Add turns into the training as the dog advances. Bring other people or pets into the mix to ensure your dog will maintain the command in a populated area.