Each time when we walk our dogs we can see, how some people struggle with their own dog, which is pulling on the leash. The owner is not leading the dog but instead of it, he is being dragged by his dog. It does not look nice either if one has a Chihuahua. But if the pulling dog is, for example, a heavy a Mastiff, it is already a big problem. In fact, it is so easy to have a dog walking in unison with its owner. You just need to train your dog to heel.
What is heeling
If a dog is heeling, it means, it is walking along next to its owner. Usually, the dog is on the left side of its handler. Traditionally the working dogs at police, military or hunting dogs are trained to heel at the left hand so as the handler has his right hand free for his arm. But, at the same time, if somebody is left-handed and thus uses the gun by the left hand, he can train his dog to heel on the right side. In fact, if you train a pet dog only for walk nice by your side, it does not matter on which side you will teach your dog to heel until you want to compete at dog sports.
Position of the dog
If we prepare a dog for some working exams, we train it to keep eye contact with us all the time while heeling. Contrary, if we prepare a service dog, we let it look ahead instead of up at his owner. The problem occurs when you train your dog to look up at you when you work with it, but you want your dog to look ahead when you go just for a walk. In such a case, we just use two different commands for the dog. If we give the command “heel” – our dog will walk by our side looking up. On the other hand, command “walk” will just mean free walking (still without pulling on the leash!) and looking ahead.
Before you start to train your dog to heel
Before you start to train your dog to heel you should decide whether you want your dog at your left or right side. Then would you prefer your dog looking up or ahead? The next thing is to determine – how close to your leg your dog should be. At some working exams, you can see dog heeling so close to its handler´s leg, it is touching the leg by its shoulder all the time. At working dogs, there is usually some space left between the handler and the dog. This should minimize the risk of injury when you are using a gun. You do not want your dog to jostle you. If you are training your dog also in rainy weather, you will soon realize that having a wet dog too close is not so great.
We will show you steps how to train your dog to heel on your left side while dog will keep eye contact with the handler and automatically sit down when the handler stops.
Steps how to train your dog to heel
- Obtain a variety of small soft treats (small pieces of sausages).
- Get your dog´s attention for example by calling its name or by giving a command for paying attention like “watch”.
- Command your dog to “heel” and by the help of treats in your left-hand lure your dog next to your left leg into a sitting position. Your dog will follow the treat and get next to you. Command “sit” and give a treat to your dog as soon as it makes eye contact with you.
- Say “heel” and holding treats in your left hand in front of your dog´s nose make a step. The food is used as a lure during this so your dog will follow you. Command your dog to “sit” as soon as you stop. Wait a bit till your dog makes eye contact with you and reward it by treats. Repeat step 4 several times moving forward with your dog. Later you can do 2-3 steps, let your dog “sit” and reward after it looks up at you. Then you can increase the distance until you stop with your dog.
- But do this only if your dog is already automatically sitting down when you stop and looking up at you at the same time.
- Release your dog from the position and praise it verbally by words like “good”, “clever boy”, “yes” etc.
- Play with your dog so as it has a positive feeling connected with the training.
- Repeat steps 3, 4, 5 and 6 a couple of times (no more than 2-3 minutes).
If you will train your dog to heel according to our steps above, and you will reward it only after it makes eye contact with you, soon your dog will heel and keep eye contact with you all the time, as it will be waiting for the reward.
Do not forget that if you walk your dog, you should not use a choke collar! At the same time, the leash should not be tight. We do not use a leash so as our dog not to run away! Usually, we use leash only due to safety or to make corrections in a single behavior. We do not recommend off-leash walking till your dog does not have 100% recall.
If you prefer reading “How to train your dog to heel” in Spanish, click here.
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