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How To Teach A Dog To Heel

How To Teach A Dog To Heel cover image

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Teaching your dog to heel is like putting an ace up your sleeve for dog walking.

When a dog heels, they are stopping the free-roam walking style to walk tightly at your side with no distractions.

This can be used when your dog is sniffing around too much, or there are other dogs walking towards you, etc.

Its main use is for control in situations when your dog might act out. But without further adieu, here is how you can teach your dog to heel.

And when your done training your dog to heel, see our article on how to stop your dog from jumping on your visitors

Essential Supplies

  • Collar Or Harness
  • Leash
  • Treats, Food Or Any Other Reward Your Dog Prefers

How Long Will Teaching My Dog To Heel Take?

There is no definite amount of time it will take to teach a dog to heel.

It depends on how susceptible your dog is to the idea, and how much time you are putting into it. For some dogs, it can take weeks, and for others, it can take months.

How To Teach A Dog To Heel

Motivation

It starts with motivation. Like humans, dogs need inspiration to learn something new. Luckily for us, dogs prefer a treat or a toy.

This will be the tool that you will use to trick your dog into learning this command.

Start With Positioning Your Dog

Put whatever motivates your dog in your hand at your side, we will use a treat for this example.

Have a small treat in your hand and put it at your side so your dog comes to your side. Then, tell your dog to sit and give them a treat.

Teach Them What Heel Means

After they sit, begin to walk slowly with your treats at your side while saying “heel”.

If your dog follows you, every three steps you should give your dog a treat. For the beginning of your training constant positive reinforcement is key.

Repetition

Your dog won’t know what this command means for awhile.

But over time, with much practice, your dog will learn that when they follow your instructions they will get rewarded.

Like mentioned before, this can take weeks or months depending on your situation. 

Some dog owners say they had success with 5-10 minute sessions with several training sessions every day.

But, you should go at the pace that is most comfortable for you and your dog. 

Ween Off Of The Treats

This should start when your dog understands heeling and when you say “Heel” they walk at your side.

Instead of giving them a treat every three steps, try doing it every 10 steps, then every 20, then try just giving them a treat when you give the command.

This will slowly teach your dog to do the command because you tell them to and not just because of the reward.

While still at least giving them one treat every time for following the command to continue the positive reinforcement.

Add More Distance And Time

Try using the heel command on a walk. Start walking outside with your dog in the heel formation for a short distance with rewards. Every time you should go a little bit longer to teach your dog to persist. 

Add More Distractions

This command is great for avoiding distractions on walks. So you should practice with distractions to properly teach your dog the command once they know the basics. 

Go for a walk in your neighborhood and teach your dog to avoid sniffing everything and running towards other dogs while heeling.

Most likely, you will have to increase your treat amounts in order to tell your dog that heel means to avoid distractions while walking at your side.

But, as before you should decrease the number of treats you give once your dog learns.

Eventually, your dog will be able to complete a whole walk in the heel formation.

You can choose to continue walking like that or to use it only when you need it. That is up to you as the owner of your dog. 

But, if you are in an area that doesn’t have many other dogs it’s nice to walk in the traditional way because it will make your dog enjoy it just a little more.

Wrap Up

There you have it, it’s much shorter and easier to say than it is to do, but it’s not impossible!

This is an essential command that you should definitely teach your dog.

It keeps your dog from getting into trouble on walks and it is good for when you are walking on small sidewalks.

If you are interested in learning about other things you can teach your dog here is, how to teach a dog to fetch, and how to potty train a puppy fast.

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