How To Teach a Dog to Heel & Walk Beside You

You definitely want to learn how to train a dog to walk beside you without pulling or walking ahead. A dog that scampers off to explore places or people they see can be dangerous and difficult to handle, making dog walking an unpleasant experience. The good news is it’s easy to learn how to teach a dog to heel and walk beside you without pulling on the leash.

With this guide, we are here to help you understand the basics of dog training and provide simple steps on how to teach a dog to heel with proper leash etiquette for walks. Whether you’re an experienced pet owner or just getting started in the rewarding world of pet parenting, these tips will give every pup ample opportunity to learn a valuable skill that promotes responsible ownership as well as independence.

But first, what exactly is heel training?

The heel is a training command that tells your dog to stay close by your side (usually on the left) without straying ahead of you or lagging behind. The cue tells your pup to walk in a steady stride that matches your pace and keeps their attention on you. It is a useful command in obedience training because it shows that your dog can be trusted to follow commands, even in the face of distractions.

Importance of teaching your dog to heel?

Some pet owners struggle to keep their pup under control during walks, and heel training is an effective way to teach your dog good leash manners. Training a dog to heel promotes safe-walking practices, as it teaches your pup to be conscious of its body position and movement while on a leash.

Learning the heel command also prevents your pup from getting into mischief or harm’s way, such as running off after other animals, chasing cars, and eating toxic materials. It strengthens your relationship with your pup and encourages mutual trust and communication between the two of you. In addition to safety and obedience, teaching your dog to heel helps them understand their place in the family unit and shows that you are in charge.

how to teach a dog to heel

Mastering the Heel Command

Having the right tools for the job is the first step in teaching your pup how to heel. A collar or harness is a must for your dog and a quality leash that won’t snap or stretch during walks. To ensure your pup is focused on you, bring along some high-value treats as rewards and praise for when your dog does something right. You need a clicker in addition to treats and verbal rewards, so your pup can more easily understand the connection between good behavior and rewards.

Step #1

Start in an enclosed area with no distractions, such as your backyard or a quiet park. Attach the leash to your pup’s collar or harness and stand still with a treat in hand. At this point, you can give a verbal cue, such as ‘heel’ or ‘with me,’ while simultaneously motioning your hand towards your side.

Step #2

Position your pup on your left side and hold a treat in your right hand. Much like when teaching a dog to sit or stay, ensure that the treat is visible and at nose level. As soon as your pup takes a step in the right direction, click the clicker and give them a treat. You can also give verbal praise such as ‘good job!’ or ‘yes!’

Step #3

If your pup starts to get ahead of you or wander off, stop and hold your ground until they come back to you. Command them to sit, then treat and click when they do. Gradually increase the time that your pup must stay by your side before you reward them. Ensure your dog’s attention is on you, they are calm, and their body is flush against your legs.

Step #4

As your pup gets accustomed to the sit command, give the heel command and work on keeping your dog by your side while walking by, luring them with a treat. Give the heel command and hold a treat in front of your pup’s nose. Slowly walk forward while saying the command “heel,” and make sure your dog follows you. Every couple of steps, reward them with a clicker and treat, as well as verbal praise for being a good pup. The treat usually acts as a guide for your dog, so keep your left hand with the treat close to you at all times until your dog learns to walk in stride with you.

Step #5

Alternate between rewarding your pup with verbal praise and treats during the walk. When your dog has mastered walking by your side, begin to give them verbal commands without treats as a reward. This encourages good behavior from your pup without relying on treats. Keep practicing the above routine for 10 minutes at a time, with a few training sessions each day. If your dog ever becomes distracted or wanders off, stop walking and call its name until it returns to you.

Step #6

As you progress, start taking longer and more challenging walks, such as through areas with a lot of distractions, to reinforce the heeling command. When your pup can stay with you, reward them with verbal praise and treats. This will help cement the hee command in their memory.

how to train a dog to walk beside you

Tips to Remember:

  1. Remain calm and be patient throughout the training process. Your pup needs time to learn, so don’t rush them. Instead, reward them for doing things correctly, and be patient if they make mistakes.
  2. Correct bad behavior with a firm and consistent tone, but avoid yelling at your pup. Always remain positive and reward good behavior.
  3. Make sure to give your pup breaks from the training sessions so they don’t get burned out or overwhelmed.
  4. Avoid using the leash to pull your pup towards you. Instead, use the leash to gently guide them in the right direction.
  5. Be consistent and persistent during training. Commit to a routine and stay consistent, so your pup understands the heeling command. Use the same phrase or word each time you give the command. This will help your dog remember what you’re asking them to do more easily. Repetition is key!
  6. Keep the training sessions short but consistent. As your pup progresses, gradually increase the length of each session and the level of difficulty.
  7. Be sure to give your pup plenty of praise and love throughout the process. By doing so, you motivate them to keep on learning, and your pup will come to understand that heeling is a fun activity.
  8. Above all, ensure that your pup is having fun! Training your pup to heel should be a bonding experience, not an unpleasant one. If your dog enjoys the activity, it will learn faster and respond to your commands more easily.

Teaching your pup how to heel may take some time and practice, but with patience and consistency, they’ll be able to heel like a pro in no time. The time you spend teaching your pup how to heel will be worth it in the end, as it’s a fundamental skill that can help make walks and other activities with your dog easier, safer, and more enjoyable.

If you’re struggling with training your dog or just don’t have the time, leave it to us. We do consultations and can discuss any dog training goals. Book an appointment online or call us anytime during store hours.

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