One of the best ways to strengthen your bond with your dog and to allow your dog to engage in enrichment is to take frequent walks together. Walking allows both of you to get some healthy exercise while also immersing yourself in the natural world around you.
But while having a four-legged companion at your side can be uplifting and comforting, the situation can quickly become frustrating and dangerous if your dog doesn’t know or follow his walk commands. In those cases, your dog is often the one walking you! Dogs aren’t born knowing how they should walk alongside their owners, so it’s up to you to teach your dog the right way to walk.
One critical walk command is ‘heel’. In the heel command, the dog should walk directly next to the handler, not in front of or behind. Not only is this an essential skill for harmonious walks between dog and owner, but in certain situations, such as walking along a busy street or a crowded walkway, it’s vital that your dog is at your side.
Fortunately, training your dog to heel is a relatively straightforward process. It will involve repetition and patience on your part, as well as consistency both in going for walks and in training your dog until he learns the command.
Puppies may tend pick up on the heel command more quickly as they are younger and quicker to absorb new material. Older dogs may take a bit more time as they may already be set in their ways, having had years to solidify poor walking habits. Be patient and, with practice, your pup will become a respectful walking buddy.
Before you begin training, you will need a few items on hand. First, make sure you have a sturdy but comfortable collar and a resilient enough leash. Have some small training treats on hand as well. Select some low-traffic or non-distracting yet familiar location to begin the training. You can work your way up to louder, more distractive, and more crowded places after your dog learns the basics of the heel command.
As always, don’t get frustrated with your dog. He will learn at his own pace, and if you are patient and consistent, he will pick up on what you want far more quickly.