Objective: Your dog must learn to stick to (or come to) your side on cue, and learn to remain at your side while making eye contact on cue.
You Will Need:
Collar (or front-attachment harness)
Do you walk your dog or does your dog walk you? If the latter sounds all too familiar, you may be interested in teaching your dog to heel. The “heel” cue has many uses. It can help you keep your dog under control when you’re walking near distractions (for example, when you’re walking past other dogs at the vet’s office or walking past a squirrel). It can also help you succeed in canine competitions like Rally
Obedience or Canine Musical Freestyle. It can even come in handy during some of our brain games, as it teaches your dog to stick by your side instead of prancing around all over the place.
In order to train your dog to heel, you will need only a collar or harness, a leash, and some tasty treats. A front-attachment harness, also known as a “no-pull* harness, works wonderfully for strong, large dogs. What distinguishes this type of harness from other harnesses is that the leash clips to a front ring, which allows for better control. Some popular makes are the SENSE-ible@ harness, the Freedom harness (by 2 Hounds Designs), and the Walk Your Dog With Loved harness.
Einstein’s Tip: If possible, avoid using retractable leashes, which extend every time your dog pulls. These leashes teach your dog to pull even more!
How to Train Heeling
When you begin training your dog to heel, take him to a large room, or to a long hallway with enough Space to accommodate both you and your dog walking side by side.
Once you’re in the large room or hallway with your dog, attach the leash to his collar or harness and hold some tasty treats, letting them protrude from your fingers so he can see them.
Now, holding the treats by your side at your dog’s nose height, begin walking with your dog, praising and rewarding him continuously when he’s beside your leg. This area beside your leg is known as the “reward zone” and it’s where you want your dog to be when you’re walking.
|I attach the leash and walk with Einstein down a long hallway. When he is beside my leg I continuously give him treats and praise.|
As the name suggests, a dog will need to be in the reward zone in order to get praise and treats!
If your dog moves out of the reward zone and bolts off, stop
walking and hold a treat by your side (in the reward zone) as a lure. Make sure it’s clearly visible between your fingers. If you do it right, your dog should return to your side to get the treat when he sees it. Once he returns to your side, praise him and give him the treat, then resume the walk.
After a while, continue to practice the exercise, but instead of letting the treats protrude from your fingers, keep them hidden in a dosed fist, treat bag, or pocket. This will reduce your dog’s dependence on the sight of food so he walks by your side even when he doesn’t see a treat dangling by your side!
Once your dog gets good at sticking by your side, you can add the verbal cue “heel.”
To do this, say “heel” while your dog is in the reward zone just before you praise, and then reward him so he teams that it means “stick to my side.” After doing this several times, your dog will begin returning to your side for a treat whenever you say “heel.”
While Einstein is at my side I say feel,” then give him a reward.
As your dog gets good at returning to your side when you say “heel,” you can really kick things up a notch by asking him to “heel” indoors without the leash on. Be sure to give him plenty of praise and rewards if he manages to successfully return to your side without the leash on.
You can also practice heeling outdoors in the yard, either on leash or with the leash off if your yard is well fenced and secured. It’s a good idea to use higher-value treats such as plain cooked chicken morsels when training outside, because all the sounds, sights, and smells of the great outdoors will be competing for your dog’s attention.
After enough practice, you will be able to get your dog to heel on real walks and impress all the other owners at the park with your welk behaved dog!
One of the biggest challenges encountered by owners of dogs who pull or bolt ahead is keeping their dog under control despite the presence of strong distractions such as other dogs, small animals, or people. If that’s the case, work with your dog under threshold. To do this, you should first start to walk with your dog at a distance from these distractions (but make sure he still notices them) until he learns to remain
calm. As long as he stays in the reward zone, despite spotting these distractions, continue to praise and reward him with tasty treats. With time, you can gradually practice heeling while moving closer and closer to these distractions.
Einstein’s Tip: If your dog has lots of energy and he tends to pull a lot on walks, try exercising him before going on walks. Play a game of fetch or try playing some brain games with him so he gets a chance to blow off some steam.
Increase the Challenge (Attention Heeling)
As your dog gets good at walking by your side, you may want to start asking him to also look up at you as you walk, which is known as “attention heeling.”
Before we start, you will need to teach your dog the Look into gang.
Once your dog masters “Look into My Eyes,” say “heel” to get him to come to your side (just as we learned earlier on this page), and begin walling. After a few steps, if he sticks by your side, make your smacking sound and took down at him while continuing to walk. If he remains at your side and makes eye contact, praise him and give him a treat!
Once your dog becomes comfortable with this exercise, try it indoors without the leash. Once he masters that, try it with the leash on in the yard or on real walks!
If your dog gets really good at this, you can even try doing a few steps of
When you’re finished with the training session, reward him with a treat, a game
of tug, or simply let him go back to sniffing around the yard if that’s his favorite
|Einstein sticks by my side off of his leash. I make my smacking sound from “Look into My Eyes” and he looks up at me, despite the distractions of the great outdoors!|
Attention heeling can come in handy in many situations, such as when you want to direct your dog’s attention away from a trigger.