How to Train Your Border Collie Dog to Heel

Medium
3-6 Weeks
General

Introduction

If your Border Collie loves to go for long walks with you but leaves you with one arm that feels like it is at least 6 inches longer than the other, you are doing something wrong. If you feel like you can't go for walks when other dogs are present because your dog wants to tear your arm off to get the other dog, you are doing something wrong. So, what is it that you are doing wrong? You have not trained your Collie to walk in the 'heel' position.

The hardest thing your pup has to overcome is his natural need to explore and sniff at just about everything. At first, he is not going to like the fact you are keeping him close by your side, instead of letting him do what he wants. Once he gets used to walking with you this way, you can both settle down to enjoying long walks with each other. 

Defining Tasks

The 'heel' position is a very specific place where your dog must walk when he is given the command to do so. This position is on your left side right beside your leg. Ideally, his front legs should be in front of yours and his back legs behind. He should never be more than a couple of inches away from your leg. This is the ultimate in controlled walking positions as your dog will learn he is not to stray from this spot once the command "heel" has been given.

Bear in mind that since you are teaching your pup to walk with you in the 'heel' position, you can treat every walk the two of you go on as a training session. But this doesn’t mean you have to, try and vary up the walks. In reality, most of your walks will not be in the 'heel' position, it is used more to control your dog in unusual situations. 

Getting Started

To train your dog to walk in the heel position, he must first have mastered the four basic commands, 'come', 'sit', 'stay', and 'down'. He should also be used to going for walks on a leash. You will need a few things to help make the training go smoothly, including:

  • Collar: One that fits your pup comfortably, you do not need a "training" collar with prongs, shockers, or anything else.
  • Leash: Stick to one that is no longer than 10 feet.
  • Treats: Choose a treat that your pup loves to use as rewards.

The only other things you need are a quiet place to work and plenty of time to work on this skill. Be patient and work with your pup. It might take a little time, but be patient and your Border Collie will know where he belongs when you give him the "heel" command. 

The Choose a Side Method

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Step
1
Choose your side
Choose the side you want your pup to heel on. While the left side is traditional, you can use either side. But once you pick one, stick with it or your pup may become confused.
Step
2
Pick the right leash
Start by choosing the right leash. For this, you need a strong walking leash that is no more than 10 feet long. This type of leash lets you maintain maximum control during the training process.
Step
3
To my side
Call your pup and use a treat to lure him to the 'heel' spot by your side. As he moves into the right position, praise him and give him the treat.
Step
4
Repeat
Repeat this step over the course of several days until your pup will assume the position every time you give him the "Heel!" command. Be sure to praise and treat him each time he gets it right.
Step
5
On the trail again
Time to take your pup out and see how well he does out in the real world. Pick his leash up and give your pup the "Heel!" command. He should step right into place. If he does, hook up the leash and give him a treat.
Step
6
Go for that walk
Go ahead and take your pup for a walk. Each time he strays, stop. Make him sit, let him calm down, then try again. Be sure to continuously praise him while he walks along with you in the proper position. The rest is all about practice. Make every walk an opportunity to work on his training and he will soon know his place when you go walking.
Recommend training method?

The No Looking Back Method

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Step
1
Go for a brisk walk
Call your pup over, hook him up to his leash, call his name and take off walking at a brisk pace. Do not look back, your pup should naturally try to follow you.
Step
2
Hold a treat
Hold a nice tasty treat down at knee level and use it to lure him into the 'heel' position. When he assumes it, take a few more steps while praising him, then stop and give him the treat. Repeat this until your pup will come to your side when you call his name and give him the 'heel' command.
Step
3
Off you go
Take off immediately after you give him the treat and call him to your side using the 'heel' command. Extend the walk, keeping him in place. Each time you come to a stop, praise him and give him a treat.
Step
4
Go anywhere
Once your pup has mastered this command in a straight line, start changing directions, reversing, going into noisy or busy areas. Anything that will put his new skills to the test.
Step
5
Keep working at it
It will take plenty of practice for your pup to master this skill as it goes so much against his nature. But as long as you keep working at training him to heel, he will figure it out, making your walks much easier.
Recommend training method?

The Snapping Collar Method

Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Which side?
Pick the side you are going to teach your pup to heel on. The left side is traditional, but you can use the right side if you prefer.
Step
2
A different type of collar
For this training method, you need a training collar. You want one that is designed to make a loud "snapping" noise when you give a sharp tug on the leash.
Step
3
The initial training location
Find a nice long straight sidewalk in a quiet area or at a quiet time of day to train your pup. The earlier in the day you can schedule your training session the fewer smells your dog is likely to encounter.
Step
4
From the 'sit' position
Put your pup's training collar on, hook his leash up, and have him sit next to you on your chosen "heel" side.
Step
5
Off you go
Give your pup the "heel" command once and then take off walking at a nice slow pace at first. No matter what, do not give the command again.
Step
6
Work that leash
Every time your pup tries to walk ahead, give the leash a slight jerk that makes the collar go "Snap!" and then change direction, forcing your pup to follow you and try to catch up. The tug on the leash represents the way a pack leader would control his pack in the wild by grabbing the unruly pack member by the scruff and pulling them in the right direction.
Step
7
No more leash
Once your pup has mastered the 'heel' position while he is hooked up to the leash, try giving him the command and allowing the leash to drag on the ground. If for any reason he tries to run ahead, simply step on the leash and pick it up. Use plenty of praise and treats to reward good behavior and before long, your pup will walk with you in the 'heel' position without the need for being attached to a leash.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Smudge
Border Collie
4 Months
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Smudge
Border Collie
4 Months

My puppy will not stop pulling on the leash. I’ve tried saying ‘ah ah’ walking backwards, waiting 5 seconds then when leash is relaxed walk forward. I’ve tried standing still until he walks backwards towards me, Waiting 5 seconds then walking forward, I’ve tried carrying treats, he’ll come back take treat then pull after treat. I’ve tried toys, I’m at my wits end, he has a front leash connector. He’s an angel at heal when at home, but outside he just constantly pulls.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
419 Dog owners recommended

Hello Carol, Check out the "Turns" method from the article linked below. Focus on cutting in front of him at a ninety-degree angle abruptly as soon as his face moves past your leg...you have to cut in front as soon as he starts to get ahead for this to work. Cutting in front helps teach respect and spacial awareness. The truth is that heel around distractions simply takes time though. Practice outside in a spacious area like your front yard or neighborhood culdesac (where he can see some distractions but you have space). It will not feel like he is being exercised but as long as he is walking (even if it's in a circle) he is getting what he needs. The mental exercise of having to focus on you during the walk should actually tire him out more than a regular walk. The goal is to teach focus on you and following (which automatically stops the pulling - opposed to just teaching him not to pull as the goal). As he improves, be intentional about practicing the training in gradually more distracting locations. Expect walks to look like training sessions and teaching focus for a while. Also, reward with a treat while he is moving when his head is behind your leg, focusing on you. This will help him understand along with the turns what heel actually means (be in the position beside/behind you and focus on you). Heel article - "Turns" method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Halo
Border Collie
5 Months
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Halo
Border Collie
5 Months

1. Severe leash pulling
2. Aggression towards house guests
3. Doesn’t listen as well when my wife is home
4. Jumps up on kitchen counters

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
419 Dog owners recommended

Hello Jessicca, I highly suggest hiring a professional trainer who is part of a training group that specializes in behavior issues and has a lot of experience with aggression. It sounds like he needs a lot of structure and boundaries in general to build respect. Have him work for everything he gets for a while by having him perform a command first. For example, have him sit before you feed him, lay down before you pet him, look at you before you take him outside, ect.. If he nudges you, climbs into your lap uninvited, begs, or does anything else pushy, make him leave the room. Teach him a Place command and work on him staying on place for up to an hour, even when you walk into the other room for a minute. Practice crate manners. Work on teaching a structured Heel. Forget about getting places during a walk for a while right now, instead go somewhere open, like your front yard, a park, or culdesac and practice a heel where his nose does not go past your leg. You need to hire a trainer to help you with the aggression and you need someone who uses a lot of boundaries, positive reinforcement and fair discipline tactfully. Look for someone who is very experienced with aggression and different types of aggression - many trainers are only experienced with fear based aggression and you likely have some dominance- based or possessive aggression going on too, and they are treated a bit differently than fear. Place: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=omg5DVPWIWo Crate manners: https://thegooddog.net/training-videos/free-how-to-training-videos/learn-to-train-the-good-dog-way-the-crate/ Thresholds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-w28C2g68M Heel article - The turns method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel Heel Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OTiKVc4ZZWo Consistency and Working method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-doberman-to-listen-to-you Stealing food off the counter - I suggest teaching Leave It for while you are around, then setting up a trap like a Scat mat to also teach the dog that they shouldn't jump up even when you are not there. Set up the trap, leave out some food where the dog will investigate but not be able to grab before being corrected, then leave the room and watch your dog from a camera in the other room. As soon as your dog triggers the trap, go back in the kitchen and pick up the food, ignoring your dog, so that pup doesn't grab the food after being corrected. People Aggression protocol video- notice the back tie for safety (your guest should never be put at risk. Only train with the correct safety protocols to keep everyone involved safe. https://youtu.be/mgmRRYK1Z6A Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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