How To Teach Your Dog To Heel

by Nancy Boland

When training your dog or puppy, one of the core skills that they should learn is how to walk to heel.Dogs of any age can be trained to walk to heel, but teaching it to them while they are young is the best way to ensure that they are obedient and a pleasure to walk with.
Walking to heel means that your dog walks alongside of you level with your knee at all times. Your dog should match your pace with theirs and not pull or drag behind.


Why does it matter?

Walking to heel is an important life skill for all dogs (and owners) to master, for a great many reasons. It keeps your dog focused and  can also be vital to keep them safe on busy roads or in areas where they are overwhelmed.


Positive Reinforcement

Using positive reinforcement is always important when teaching your dog a new command or adjusting their behaviour. Having a treat on hand, especially if they are particularly food driven will always be beneficial.
Always give the treat in the hand and from the side that you wish your dog to walk on, to keep things consistent and keep your dog focused.


Step by step

When you have got the hang of getting your dog to take a step forwards with you for a treat each time, move on to taking two steps before you give the treat, and then repeat this process until your dog begins to put two and two together.  Soon, you should have your dog walking beside you nicely and looking to you for direction.


Avoid Boredom

Learning to walk to heel is one of the skills that takes the most concentration from your dog, as they need to look to you for guidance in order to match your pace. The harder your dog has to work, the sooner they will get bored and start to let their attention lapse, so keep things interesting and reward them eagerly. If necessary, practice in short bursts to keep them interested.


Keeping a Steady Speed

Even a dog that is otherwise adept at walking to heel may get carried away on occasion, or have a lapse of concentration, and pull ahead or walk faster than you. There is a very easy trick you can use to  correct this behaviour, so that in time your dog will come to recognise what you are doing and automatically slow down again.


When your dog gets too far ahead, let him reach the limit of their lead and then call “heel,” while switching direction quickly to turn back the other way and cause your dog to need to turn around and catch you up. Praise your dog and repeat until they begin to catch on to this new behaviour.

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