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Great Danes are great dogs indeed. If you own a Great Dane and would like to take him out on a leash for a walk, training him to heel will help keep both of you safe and assist you in keeping your sanity with a giant breed. Everyone you pass along your walks is going to be drawn to your beautiful, tall Great Dane. This means his attention is going to be on just about everything except for you. Keeping his behavior in check and training him to heel when you walk together will help to keep him safe and also keep from pulling you along using the leash to drag you behind him. Train your Great Dane to heel so you can enjoy quality walks together. Leash manners for all dogs are important, however, it is most important for dogs larger than their owners!
Having your Great Dane heel while you walk together using a leash and harness will take some time and practice. When scheduling your training sessions to teach your Great Dane to heel, try to make them as distraction-free as possible. Over time, you will work up to adding distractions into your walks and your training sessions so your Great Dane is challenged, but in the beginning, try to train in quiet areas where only you have your Great Dane’s attention. The younger you train your Great Dane to heel, the easier it will be. However, you can train an older, stronger Great Dane to heel as well with the right rewards and lots of repetition. The biggest task for you both will be committing to this daily training giving it time to sink in.
There are few ways to train your Great Dane to heel. You're going to need all the right tools to train this giant breed to walk next to you using his leash manners. A harness is always great to have for a large breed dog. You will also need a leash long enough and strong enough to handle your Great Dane. Don't forget lots of high-value treat such as cheese, beef jerky, or even hot dogs during your training sessions. Your big guy will work for even a tiny morsel of food, so these do not need to be huge treats.
The Leash and Clicker Method
Leash and harness
You will need to be in control of your giant Great Dane. The best way to control a giant breed is to have him harnessed. A harness with a chest leash attachment rather than a back attachment gives his human more control.
Once your Great Dane is harnessed and leashed, take him for a walk where there are no distractions. This could be in your house or your backyard or even your neighborhood as long as you know you have his full attention. After a few walks, you can increase the distractions in your path.
The train to heel, most trainers keep their dog on their left side with the clicker and treats in the right hand. Just be consistent wherever you place your dog for walks. Have your Great Dane sit before you begin walking.
Click and treat
Give him a treat for sitting. This will set the tone for the walk. He should listen, and if he obeys, he gets rewards.
Hold a small treat in your left hand over his nose and walk forward a few steps. Use the command ‘heel’ as you walk with your Great Dane. The treat over his nose should keep his attention as long as there are no other distractions. As long as you hold this treat up, he should walk with you, heeling on your left side.
Take a few steps, say the command ‘heel,’ and click and treat as you maintain your pace.
Keep working on these simple walks every day, several times a day using the command and rewarding your Great Dane with a click and treat as long as he stays with you, giving you his full attention while heeling beside you.
Without a treat
Walk with that encouraging treat above your Great Dane’s nose for about a week before walking without the treat. Begin your walks as before but do not place the treat above his nose. Only use the command to heel as you walk together. Increase the distance you take before clicking and treating. Be sure you are still rewarding him as you walk and he heels. Just do it without the enticing treat above his nose.
The better your Great Dane is at leash walking and the command to heel, along with staying with you on leash walks, start to increase the distractions on your walks. Go to areas where other dogs are walked. Walk to a playground so your Great Dane can see and hear children play. If you need to add the treat above his nose at first with new distractions, do so for the first few walks.
Any time your Great Dane pulls you, and he will, stop walking. This will redirect his attention back to you. Once you have his attention, ask him to heel again and keep walking. If he pulls away again, you’ll need to start from early stages of training. Remember, training a giant breed to heel takes time and repetition. Be patient with him and with the training.
The Along the Wall Method
Pick a long wall or fence you can use to keep your Great Dane next to while in early stages of 'heel' training. You can use an outdoor wall, yard fence, or a hallway in your house. Try to choose a place with little distractions. So the fence with the neighbor’s dog barking on the other side may not be the best wall.
Leash, harness, and sit
Have your Great Dane all ready with a harness and leash, and place him between you and the wall. Ask him to sit and offer him a treat for obeying.
Start with the command to 'heel' and take a step forward. Remember, your Great Dane should be on your left against the wall.
Your Great Dane will have nowhere to go except to walk forward with you. Keep him close to the wall and keep walking forward. As you walk, repeat the command to 'heel'. As long as he stays walking next to you, give him a treat every few steps, along with some verbal praise.
Keep practicing the heel command with your Great Dane between you and a long wall. Walk up and down along the wall asking him to heel and giving him treats along the way. Doing this repetitively will condition him to know this is how he is to walk with you while on a leash and repeating the 'heel' command while treating will remind him of rewards with commands.
Away from the wall
Once your Great Dane is naturally using the 'heel' command the more you walk with the wall next to him, distance yourself from the wall until you no longer need that structure to help keep him close to you. Keep practicing farther from the wall using treats as rewards.
On a walk
Once you are both ready, take your Great Dane for a walk and use the 'heel' command with the expectation he will stay next to you and not pull ahead or fall behind. Be sure you are still using the command on a regular basis and rewarding him along the way. He may need additional rewards if there are distractions around.
The Heel Off-Leash Method
Your Great Dane might not go on leash walk with you in public, but you may still need him to know how to heel to keep him and others around you safe. This is especially true if you live in a rural area and will need your Great Dane to stay with you while walking your property to a country road.
Sit at attention
Ask your Great Dane to sit and give him a treat. You will want to be on his right side so he will be on your left side. This is basic training for the heel command. Either way, you choose, be on the same side each time you train to keep it consistent.
Place treats in your hands and walk forward. If your Great Dane doesn’t immediately follow, show him a treat, encouraging him to come. Use the command 'heel' and walk with him. Every few steps, give him a treat. This should keep him by your side.
Say the command ‘heel’ and give him a treat. Keep this up for as long as he stays with you, following your command and not running off.
Stop to sit
Once you have walked together using the 'heel' command and treats to keep your Great Dane at your side, begin asking your dog to stop. When you are ready, stop walking and ask him to sit. Offer him a treat for doing so and then move forward again, asking your big guy to heel again.
Keep your Great Dane thinking by stopping and asking him to sit every so often then asking him to heel again. Be sure you are treating him with every command and every few steps he stays with you.
If your Great Dane becomes distracted, use the 'sit' command to redirect his attention back to you. Give him a treat and then keep walking. If your Great Dane is distracted a lot during his off leash training, consider placing a leash on him while training until you can trust he won’t run off.
By Stephanie Plummer
Published: 02/01/2018, edited: 01/08/2021
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