Stage 1:Establish the heel position
What we are going to do is get the dog into the heel position, let him know that this is the position we are looking for and reward him for being there. We’ll start in a quiet room or yard with no distractions, no other dogs, no kids, no toys, just you and the dog. We won’t be telling the dog to ‘heel’ (he doesn’t know what that means yet). You don’t need a leash.
And, even during that free-sniff time, the dog is not allowed to pull. You should be walking the dog, not the other way around. Even if the dog is in front of you they should not be leading you. In other words, you can still lead from behind, just as long as you don’t let the dog get the wrong idea. Rover-Time tends to give sniff time at special locations we’re familiar with on our daily dog walking visits, such as a park or open area, and keep to heeling when traveling from one sniff place to another. Feel free to find your own balance.
Walking at a human pace is actually not much physical exercise for a dog but a structured walk in heel position is a lot of mental exercise. Maintaining heel position keeps the dog in a more relaxed, working state of mind. You are constantly in your dog’s peripheral vision which is a constant reminder that you are calling the shots. The dog is taking direction from you rather than making his own decisions.
This cue asks a dog to walk directly next to you instead of behind or in front of you. The dog is working to keep pace with you, only stopping when you stop and walking when you walk. Walking at your side, on a loose leash, avoiding the temptation to sniff and pee on everything requires a lot of discipline for a dog.
Julia Rohan founded Rover-Time in January of 2012 and received her formal training at FetchFind Academy, a program for aspiring dog trainers, based in Chicago. Julia lives in Irving Park with her husband Mark. Together they co-parent Archer, their 3-year old son, and Chauncey Billups Vanderhoff, an over-confident, territorial, and anxious 8lb. Chihuahua-Terrier mix. Both boys melt her heart hourly.
Once you allow the dog to forge ahead far enough that you fall out of view it tends to be a matter of “out of sight, out of mind” and most dogs will begin to start making more choices, following less direction, and acting on their own agenda. This is where we often get pulling, leash aggression, and so forth. Dogs do not need to heel at all times but it is a very valuable command that Rover-Time recommends all dogs learn and practice it on a daily basis.
Sit, Heel, and Treat Continuously
Start off with your dog sitting on your left side. Hold a handful of treats or the wooden spoon close to your dogs nose, and tell it to “heel.” Begin to walk. For the first few tries, take just a few steps and give your dog treats continuously.
Teaching your dog to go heel, switch and middle
Walking with your dog at a “heel” is more formal than walking your dog on a loose leash. Teaching a dog to heel involves training it to stay close by your side while walking and it is a great way to instill self-control in your dog whether its on or off leash. Any dog—even the most energetic pups—can learn to heel and teaching this command is not too hard as long as youre persistent and consistent.