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How to Train Your Dog to Heel

It is important to teach your dog basic training commands in order to keep yourself, your pet, and any other people—or animals!—who interact with your dog safe and happy. Most dog trainers would agree that the most important commands are those which relate to how your dog interacts with you and its environment. “Heel” is an often misunderstood training command. Many people mistakenly believe that “heel” refers to stopping your dog in its tracks. However, “heel” actually refers to a command used when walking your dog on a leash—“heel” is intended to teach your dog that they should be walking at your left side with you, or at your pace, rather than dragging you ahead or lagging behind.

Why_Dog_Commands_Are_ImportantTeaching your dog to heel is not difficult, although dogs which are known to have trouble with leashing and walking may require more patience and training than breeds which are quicker to learn. The following are the basic steps to teaching your dog to heel. Remember: Patience is the key to training your dog any command, but especially commands related to walking and leashing.

Step One

Before you begin training your dog to heel, it is important to remember that the command is intended to teach your dog to willingly walk beside you—not to force them into place with the leash. The leash you use should be long enough to be slack between you and the dog. Think of your walking leash as an extension of your hand, and not as a tool to be yanked for correction.

Step Two

First, you will need to get your dog’s attention. First, stand with your dog sitting next to you on his leash. Then, you will need to achieve your dog’s focus and attention–this may be done by calling their name, snapping your fingers, or any other way that you typically call your dog’s attention to you. If your dog has difficulty paying attention to you, you may want to teach them a “Look” or “Look at me” command before training them to heel.

Step Three

Once you have your dog’s attention, slap your hand against your left hip and say the command you are going to be using for heel. “Heel,” “get up here,” and “right here” are all commonly used.

Step Four

Now it is time to actually walk. It is recommended to begin heel training on concrete because concrete does not have all of the distracting sights, smells and sounds that grass and natural ground does. As you walk, keep careful attention of what your dog is doing. If they are attempting to lead you by running ahead, make a sharp (but not forceful) turn to make them walk in your lead, and not the other way around. If they are lagging behind, use the earlier command while slapping your hip and do not praise them unless they obey. As you are walking, using the command (“Heel” or a substitute) while slapping your hip should—with most dogs—eventually teach them the command.

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