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Training your dog to heel will keep him under your control when you are out on walks. Dogs who walk on leashes in municipalities that require a leash will need to be under your control to keep themselves safe, as well as the people and animals around them. Training 'heel' keeps your dog’s manners in check. If you hike with your dog or live in a more rural area and would like your dog to be off leash, heel is a great command to train because you are going to want your dog to be near you while you are walking in open areas. Your dog wants to please you, and staying by your side and walking with you using the heel command is the perfect command to show you respect.
Training heel with treats is more manageable than not using treats because the treats reward your dog for a job well done and encourage him to continue to learn new things and appease you. Heel also teaches your dog who is master; leader of the pack, so to speak. Teaching your dog to heel, whether on leash or off-leash, will be easier starting on a leash. The heel command will give you control over your dog's movements. Teaching heel with treats is easiest with dogs who are younger, but can be taught to older dogs as well. Just make sure you have a treat that is enticing enough to grab your dog's attention. Be sure your dog knows his basic obedience commands as well.
To train heel with treats, you are obviously going to need treats on hand. Keep a pocket full or a baggie of treats with you so you can train longer sessions and still have enough rewards to keep your dog motivated. You may want to find a long fence or a wall to put on the other side of your dog as you are teaching your dog to heel. And you will need to a leash to get training started, even if your goal is to have your dog off leash once he understands the command heel.
The Off Leash Method
Know the rules
Know the rules and leash laws in your area before training off leash. Teaching your dog to heel off leash is helpful for large properties, fenced in properties, and for hiking where allowed off leash.
Have dog sit
Have your dog sit and face forward. Put him on your left side using a treat to coax him into the proper position.
Two handed treats
Have treats ready in both hands. Walk and encourage the dog to walk with you. Every so often, offer your dog a treat from your right hand as long as he stays with you.
Use a treat in your left hand to coax your dog to stay by your side. Hold the treat so he can sniff it, but do not let him have it.
Stop and use your right hand to ask your dog to sit. Give him a treat from the right hand as a reward for positive behavior. When you are ready, walk again.
Now that your dog knows how to walk next to you at your pace and stop to sit when asked, repeat these steps using your left hand to indicate heel and your right hand to treat as he does well. Use the heel command and offer treats from your left hand to lure your dog to walk next to you at your pace.
As your dog gets used to pacing you, increase the pace, asking your dog to sit less often.
When your dog is distracted while off leash, ask him to sit. This will grab his attention and keep him by your side.
The Click and Treat Method
Using his leash, take your dog for a short and familiar walk. This could be in your backyard or even within your home.
Put your dog on your left side with the clicker and treat in your right hand.
Ask your dog to sit. Click and treat when he obeys. He will know by this where the treats will come from and be reminded of the rewarding clicker.
Left hand treat
Put one treat in your left hand and lure your dog up to a walking position. Begin walking taking only a few steps. Keep that left hand with the treat above your dog's nose.
Use the heel command. If your dog walks calmly beside you, click and give him the treat.
Sit and walk
Alternate sitting and walking a few steps for a bit. When your dog sits, click and treat from your right hand. And when he heels, walking at your pace beside you, click and give him the lure treat from your left hand.
Repeat these steps, gaining lots of practice.
Try walking without the lure of a treat in your left hand over your dog's nose. If he has learned the command and expectations, he should heel. If not, revisit the steps above for more practice.
As your dog begins to pace beside you, increase and decrease your pace. Continue to use to heel command and always click and treat for a job well done. Create stopping points by asking him to sit.
The Against a Wall Method
Position your dog between you and a wall.
Use the heel command and take a step forward.
Begin walking at a slow pace and continue to use the heel command.
Every few steps, give your dog a treat after using the heel command. If he changes pace, use the command and get him back on track with you.
Continue practicing heel with your dog, using the wall to help keep him in place next to you. Be sure to offer a treat every five to ten steps and use the word 'heel' for the command.
Away from wall
Over time, get further away from the wall. This gives your dog the opportunity to get away from you. Let him know your expectation is to heel. Be sure to give him treats every few steps as he does well.
By Stephanie Plummer
Published: 10/11/2017, edited: 01/08/2021
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