How to Train a German Shepherd to Heel

Hard
2-8 Weeks
General

Introduction

When you first welcomed your German Shepherd into your home, you envisaged a tough but lovable canine friend to cuddle up with on the sofa. Now you realize he’s totally soft at heart and that his menacing exterior is just that, an exterior. However, you also imagined gentle strolls through the countryside. Unfortunately, walks haven’t turned out to be so relaxing. This is because he pulls you in every which direction whenever you are out the house. This would be bearable if he were most dogs, but because he’s a German Shepherd, he’s big and strong. 

Therefore, training him to 'heel' is essential, if only for the health of your shoulder. This training could also prevent him charging across a road, causing an accident. Any accidents could result in hefty vet bills or may even claim his life.

Defining Tasks

Because of the size and power of German Shepherds, training can sometimes prove challenging. Fortunately, there are a number of effective techniques to stamp out any pulling behavior. Training will consist of asserting your control while on walks. It is important he understands you are pack leader. So, you will need to show him this is the case. You will also need to motivate him throughout training by finding the right tasty treat.

If he’s a puppy he should be a fast learner. This means you could see results in just a week or two. However, if this habit has been years in the making then you may need a while longer. It could take a couple of months to fully get a handle on this behavior. Succeed and you won’t have to worry about him bolting as soon as he sees a dog on the horizon. You can return to those relaxing walks you initially dreamed of.

Getting Started

Before you start training, you will need to gather a few bits. Because of his size and strength, you may want to consider using a body harness. This will reduce strain on his neck and increase your control. 

You will then need to get your hands on a relatively short leash. A generous supply of treats or his favorite food broken into small chunks will also be required. Training can take place when you are out on your normal walk.

Once you have all the above, just bring patience and a proactive attitude, then work can begin!

The Stop & Heel Method

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Step
1
Head out
Quietly secure him to his leash. You don’t want to get him too worked up. This will just make him harder to control. Once secured, head out for your walk as you normally would.
Step
2
‘Heel’
As soon as he walks ahead or begins to pull, issue a firm ‘heel’ command. You can use any word or phrase you like for this command. Just make sure you give it only once. You want him to respond to your instructions first time, every time.
Step
3
Stop
As you give the command, stand still. He will eventually have to stop and then he will probably turn and look up at you, confused. Wait patiently for him to return to your side. It may take a little while, but he will quickly catch on.
Step
4
Reward
When he does return to your side, give him a quick treat and then begin walking again. You can also shower him in verbal praise. Make sure he returns to the same side each time.
Step
5
Consistency
It is important you react like this every time he pulls. Each time he is allowed to pull without consequences will only push back the end result. That also means anyone else that walks him needs to follow the same steps until he stops pulling altogether.
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The Treat Lure Method

Effective
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Step
1
Head out
Secure him to a short training leash and then head out the door for your walk as you normally would. Just make sure you have a pocketful of tasty treats with you.
Step
2
Head height
Hold a tasty treat in your hand at your side, close to his head. Make sure he can smell what is in there. The smellier the food, the more effective this method is. Cheese, for example, often works well.
Step
3
10 feet
Walk for approximately 10 feet slowly. Make sure you use the treat to keep him walking firmly next to you. Choose a side and make sure he always walks on the same side. You want to get him in a routine.
Step
4
Reward
If he stays by your side for that 10 feet, hand over a tasty treat. You can also give him some verbal praise. If he doesn’t stay close to your side, try only walking 5 feet to start with. Alternatively, try a more tempting treat.
Step
5
Increase the distance
You now need to gradually increase the distance you make him walk for each time before handing over a treat. Over time this will get him into a habit of walking closely by your side and not pulling. When you can do a whole walk without him pulling, you can cut out the treats altogether.
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The U-Turn Method

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Step
1
Body harness
Because you will need to pull on the leash for this method, securing him to a body harness is advised. Once he is fitted in the harness, attach his leash and then head out for your walk as you normally would.
Step
2
Be ready
Have him walking on one side. Watch him closely; you need to be ready to react as soon as he creeps ahead and pulls.
Step
3
Turn
Once he pulls ahead, turn around and walk swiftly in the other direction. Don’t stop or give him any attention, just head in the complete opposite direction. Pull him around with you as you go. This will show him you are in control of the walk. So if he pulls, he will not be able to go in the direction he wants.
Step
4
Repeat
You now need to do this each time he pulls. To start with, it will be frustrating. You may find yourself constantly walking backward and forwards. However, he will quickly catch on and you will be able to walk farther and farther without pulling.
Step
5
Don’t punish him
It is important that you always turn around and pull him gently. You do not want to do him any harm, nor do you want to scare him. So, keep your cool while being firm but in control at all times.
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Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers and Success Stories

Question
Kintu
German Shepherd
7 Months
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Kintu
German Shepherd
7 Months

Kintu is fearful aggressive
When going outside the property gets in high stress
Always pulls forward at the leash

Darlene Stott
Darlene Stott
Dog Trainer and Groomer
92 Dog owners recommended

Hello, Kintu is at the ideal age for obedience classes. Taking him to classes will help him to get over his fears in a controlled environment and will also help socialize him with other dogs. He'll be happy to have friends and the training will give him confidence. Remember, he will only get bigger and stronger so it is essential that you can handle him when he is older. It's a safety thing, too, as you do not want him pulling you into traffic, etc. When a dog and owner train together, a bond is formed and the dog automatically listens better. Start training Kintu to heel when out on walks. He'll focus on you and maybe pull less: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel. Any method will help. Start teaching Kintu commands before training classes start:https://wagwalking.com/training/obedience-train-a-whippet. Definitely contact a trainer and even start with lessons at home if that is your preference. Good luck!

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Question
Ramu
German Shepherd
18 Months
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Ramu
German Shepherd
18 Months

I am not able control my dog it won’t listen my commands. And I bought at the age of 18months. He barks at strangers who comes to my home as if he is going to attack them and if I ask him to sit not to bark he won’t listen to me. So now how make him listen to me.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
707 Dog owners recommended

Hello Siddu, First, I suggest reading the article I have linked below and implementing all three methods to help build his respect for you in a calm way. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-doberman-to-listen-to-you Second, teach and practice what you want him to be able to do ahead of time. For example, teach a Place and Quiet command and work up to him being able to do those commands around distractions in scenarios you have set up - so that you can follow through consistently. Quiet method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark Place: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O75dyWITP1s Finally, if he has shown any aggression toward people other than simply alerting that they are there, it's time to hire a professional trainer to help you in person with him. Look for someone who specializes in behavior issues and specifically aggression, who comes well recommended by their previous clients, and is familiar with high drive breeds like Shepherds. Always be sure to take measures to keep other people safe while training as well - such as a back-tie leash or basket muzzle if aggression is a potential issue. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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