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How to teach a dog to heel?

Author: Alexandra Wrigley

Dogs are great to have as pets; they’re loyal, affectionate, and perform incredible tricks.

If you want to know more tricks for your dog, then you’ve come to the right place.

By now, you might have been done with the basics like teaching your dog to sit and wanting to expand your commands and teach it some new tricks.

One of the best tricks to teach your dog is to heel.

What do you mean by teaching a dog to heel?

To help you understand this trick a bit better, teaching a dog to heel allows your dog to walk by your side when you’re walking outside. This can be helpful to stop it from running off or straying behind you while walking. It also helps your dog realize why they might be pulling on the leash and prevent themselves from doing so.

If you practice this well, your dog will be able to walk next to you at a leisurely pace.

As a dog owner, the good thing is that this trick is suitable for all sizes and breeds of dogs.

Supplies needed

When it comes to teaching your dog to heel, there are multiple ways to achieve this. Today, we’re going to teach you a few different methods on how to do so.

But before you do so, you will need some essential supplies. When practicing your dog and teaching it how to heel, you should carry the following with you:

  • A collar/harness and a leash
  • Treats for training
  • Clicker
  • Treat bag to allow you to quickly access its treats

Stop and sit technique

This technique allows you to get your dog to walk and then stop on command. If your dog does this well and sits down, you should reward it with a treat. When the dog learns this technique, you should stop walking when it tries to run ahead. Eventually, your dog will seek out opportunities to be rewarded and finally learn to heel.

Begin in a quiet room

Get a treat ready for your dog and get it focused on the treat. Once done, walk a few steps forward.

Then, stop and ignore your dog’s response. Only acknowledge your dog until it sits down. Make sure you don’t indicate or give away what you want it to do; wait until it sits on its own.

Your dog may try to capture your attention, but they will eventually sit. Once your dog has sat, say in a cheerful voice ‘yes’ and reward it with a treat.

Take your dog on a little walk

After your dog has just learned this, begin again and take him on a short walk. You will want to hold the treat again in your hand, stop and then wait for it to do the behavior.

Rename this trick as ‘heel’

As your dog slowly becomes adjusted to stopping and starting, you will want to associate this technique with the word heel. So when your dog starts walking beside you, call out ‘heel’ in a commanding but cheering manner. After it stops and sits, then reward it.

Repeat this again, but practice walking longer distances before you stop and say heel.

Be careful of sprinting

Once your dog becomes used to this, it might quickly start walking or sprinting ahead. If this happens, stop and let it sit down. This will allow it to remember the behavior and automatically stop doing this.

Use heel when needed

Now by this point, your dog should know when to do this trick. To implement this when walking, use the command’ heel’ and if it responds, reward your dog with a treat.

Clicker training technique

This technique allows your dog to become familiar with a clicker’s sound and be conditioned to think it’s getting a reward with the sound.

Associate the click with a reward

Get some treats and place them in various places on the floor. As soon as your dog eats a treat, use the clicker to make a sound. Following this, offer a small treat, and as soon as they take it from you, use your clicker again. You will want to do this a few times.

As soon as your dog turns away, press your clicker and see if it looks for a reward. If so, you will know your dog has associated the clicker sound with a reward.

Tease your dog with a treat

Keep a treat in your left hand, and make sure your dog has its collar on and is attached to its leash. It’s also essential that you’re in a quiet location with little distractions and keeps it in front of your dog’s nose to encourage him to walk and match your pace.

Reward with a click

After your dog has taken a few steps forward and is ready to go to the position, say ‘heel.’ If your dog does this, reward it with a treat. Keep repeating this technique until it gets used to it.

Travel further

As your dog gets used to this, try walking further and asking it to ‘heel.’ Then reward it over more extended periods.

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