Training your dog to heel focuses on your ability to get your dogs attention and hold it. The heel call should be used for short periods of time unlike a daily walk situation, it keeps your dog to your left leg until the are released by you. It can be a difficult skill to learn so it is best to teach it slowly and building it piece by piece. It requires so much concentration from your dog so short and intense training sessions are suggested. Baxters K9 Complex in St. Louis wanted to share these tips on getting your training started the right way and set your dog up for success.
Teaching a dog to heel, Step by Step:
- Start by having your dog stand close to your left leg facing the same direction as you.
- Hold your dog’s favorite treat in your left hand near your waist. Call your dog’s name to get it’s attention and make eye contact. Take three steps forward then stop. If your dogs stays in the heeling position praise them and give the treat from your left hand.
- After your dog finishes the treat, repeat the healing process again. This time give encouragement to your dog when you step forward. Only give the reward when your dog is still in the heel position.
- It is very important to keep in mind that the treat is the reward and you are not using it to lure them forward. If your dog lags behind or goes ahead of you do not reward, say “No” and start again.
- Keep practicing heel training and when the three steps becomes to easy for your dog, increase to 6 steps and so on. Continue to encourage and reward your dog to keep them engaged.
- After your dog can reliably heel for more than 10 steps, begin to attach the verbal cue “Heel” to the behavior. You will use the same steps, but after you step forward you say “(dog’s name) Heel”. Time and repetition will build an association in your dog’s mind with the verbal cue “Heel” and the act of heeling.
That will get you rolling on the basic heel command, the next steps will be introducing elements one at a time that will make the command stick in their head. Continued enthusiasm and encouragement are key to continuing in training. To Take your training to the next level introduce these variations one at a time: go to different places, change the pace of your steps ahead, add in turns or obstacles, practice around people or animals, put distractions like balls infront of them. Keep your training sessions fun and don’t expect it to all happen at once, it will take time.