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Teaching your dog to heel will make walks more fun and relaxing for both of you.
Step 1: Start with basics
Before you attempt to teach him to heel, your pooch should respond to his name and know how to sit. You also need to teach him how to recognize a behavioral mark: Use a clicker, or say the word ‘yes,’ and then give the dog a small treat. Do this 10 times before beginning training.
For training, choose soft, small treats, like cut-up hot dogs, that you don’t give your dog normally. Keep them in a plastic baggie.
Step 2: Put the leash on
Put your dog on a leash, hold the leash in your right hand, and have the dog sit at your left side. Hold about 15 small treats in a bag in your left hand. If you are going to use a clicker, click with your right hand, leaving your left hand free to pop the treats into your dog’s mouth.
Step 3: Start walking
Start by getting your dog’s attention. Move forward with your left leg first. As your dog moves with you, click or say ‘yes,’ and pop a treat into his mouth. Take just a few steps at first. If your dog gets ahead of you, stop and call him back to your left side. Mark and treat him when gets back in the correct position.
Step 4: Start saying “heel”
Once your dog has the idea that walking at your left side is a rewarded behavior, as you start walking, say ‘heel’ once, loudly. When he moves with you, click and treat. Gradually work him up to longer periods of walking in the heel position.
Keep Fido’s focus on you by making sure you’ve properly exercised him before beginning training. Setting your dog up for success will help ensure a productive learning experience.
Step 5: Don’t overtrain
Limit each training session to about 15 minutes, continuing to reward behaviors you want your dog to repeat.
Give an extra reward for a good training session by taking your pooch to a dog park or a dog run.
Step 6: Be patient
Be patient. While some dogs will pick up heeling in a few tries, others will take longer. Ability to learn depends on breed, age, and experience.
If you allow your dog to pull on the leash, or you pull on the leash, it will be more difficult to teach him to heel.
Step 7: End positively
End each lesson by practicing a command he definitely knows. If he hasn’t mastered heeling yet, but can sit or shake hands without a problem, he’ll feel good. And so will you!
Did You Know?
The ASPCA estimates that 1.5 million dogs are given to shelters each year because of behavioral problems.