How To Teach a Dog to Heel: Simple Guide 2020

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Kendall Abbott author of Simple, Quick, and Fun How To Teach Your Dog to Heel

How to Teach a Dog to Heel

Walking is extremely beneficial for your dog, and for you! Most dogs are not born knowing the proper way to follow or heel while going on a walk. It is up to us to teach them this valuable skill which makes everyone happier and healthier in the long run! 

Read below to learn how to teach a dog to heel.

What does heel mean?

The command or skill "heel" simply means that the dog must walk directly next to you instead of behind or in front of you. The dog is required to keep pace with you, only stopping when you stop and walking when you walk.

How do I know if my pup still needs to learn this skill?

You know you need to add this to your to-do list if when you take your dog for a walk you feel like instead, your dog is the one walking you! It can sometimes be hard to motivate yourself to get up and go for a walk. But it is even harder to get motivated and enjoy a walk with your favorite companion if they are constantly pulling and tugging you in every direction. At SitStay, we offer a wide variety of dog training tools that can help you to train your dog to do pretty much anything, including learning to become a respectful walking buddy. 

A leash we recommend for dogs who like to pull is this Freedom Flex by Tough Pup

Why should I take the time to teach my dog to heel?

This skill helps your dog know that you are in charge of the walk and that you are the alpha in the pack. This skill is also a must-have if you ever wish to walk your dog without a lead or leash. Even with a leash or lead it is so much more enjoyable to go on a walk and have your dog heel to you instead of you trying to keep up with whatever direction or pace your dog thinks you should walk at. Try using our great Kronch 100% pure and natural fish treats for your heel training sessions they are fun, delectable and healthy.

How do I teach my dog to heel?

Although there are many methods that can be effective in teaching your dog to walk alongside you, there is one that we find especially effective --lure and reward. To effectively teach this more complex skill make sure your dog has mastered the sit, stay, come and focus commands. These allow you to fully teach this more complex skill. The biggest key to long-term success with this skill is being consistent.

Beginning training:

First, clicker training has proven to be one of the most effective ways to get results fast. We also suggest having some quality treats on hand. The reinforcement makes all the difference. First, get a clicker for your right hand and a handful of training treats in your left hand. Brown Beggars is our personal choice and they make a great healthy and delicious incentive while training. Keep extras in your pocket if you plan to do a longer training session. Start your heel training in a non-distracting familiar environment, like your living room, basement, or a fenced-in backyard.

Second, you will position your pup on your left-hand side. Have them sit and stay then quickly reward them with a click and a treat. Have your dog sit calmly next to you until you are ready to walk. Make sure you wait to start until they are calmly following your first more simple commands before beginning your more advanced heel training. You will also want to make sure they are fully focused on you! Clickers are used to show your dog they have successfully followed your command and to keep their focus solely on you.

Third, keep the handful of small, soft training treats in your left hand. Start to walk slowly forward; the command "heel" would be appropriate. Expect your pet to walk slowly beside you. The idea is to hold the treats out within an inch of your dog's face to guide him or her along, and every step or two rewards with a click from the clicker and a treat. If you combine this with verbal praise it is most effective. But the clicker and verbal praise can be interchangeable, so you don't wear out your voice on longer sessions. If your dog starts to veer off, pull ahead or focus on anything other than you, you should stop immediately, call your dog's name, ask them to sit, stay and then start again only once your pup is in the correct position and focused on you.

If you are still having trouble you might want to look for some gear that can help you train your dog to heel. Many professional trainers recommend martingale collars (also known as human control collars).

Check Out Our Section of Collars Here

More advanced training:

After a week or so of practicing this way, it is time to pocket the treats and walk with your empty left hand hanging naturally by your side. When your dog is walking beside you calmly, pull a treat out of your pocket and give it to them. At first, give them a treat after every other step, then about every 5 steps and finally every 10 steps. Try walking back and forth, and add in an obstacle course of objects in your environment to practice walking around while training.

Finally, your dog should be able to follow your heel commands correctly and only receive a treat every once in a while. You can rely more heavily on verbal praise and less on actual training treats, though they are always good to have on hand. Try testing your dog by going out to a dog park then removing their leash allowing your dog to practice this complex skill in a more challenging but safe environment.

Since we know walking a dog that constantly pulls can take the fun out of an afternoon walk, if you follow the above simple, quick and fun steps we are confident you can train your dog to walk calmly beside you.

Other Options

A quality leash can make a big difference if used properly. There are methods to use in a positive way instead of commonly used choke chains. We suggest a multi-function leash like the Blue K9.

Teaching your dog the Heel command

The heel is an advanced skill and command for a dog to learn to be patient if it takes a while to master. Also, remember that consistency is key! We believe that there are four advanced commands that you should teach your dog if you want to know the rest of the top 4 advanced commands please check out our blog More Advanced Commands All Dogs Should Know.

SitStay has been your working dog supply headquarters since 1995. From service dog vests, dog beds, and working dog equipment, to dog treats and dog training supplies. We've got you covered.

We hoped you learned everything you needed for how to teach a dog to heel. Please share this post if you found it beneficial.


Meet The Author 

Kendall Abbott

Kendall Abbott obtained her Bachelor's Degree at the University of Kansas, she then went on to pursue her education and love for animals by attending the Animal Behavior College. Kendall began her professional career as an animal care technician for the Kansas Humane Society. After finishing school Kendall followed her passion for dog training and took a position with Beyond The Dog. After 5 years she then left to focus on being a freelance dog trainer.



9 Responses

Alli with SitStay
Alli with SitStay

July 23, 2018

Hi Ernie,

Some dogs can definitely be easier than others. The main thing for me with my dog was finding something to motivate her. My previous dog was super easy because she loved treats and toys. Our new one is not quite so motivated with anything. I tried all types of food and finally found that she will work for cheese. If you can’t find anything to motivate him, then I would say consistency and time will have to be your friend. You might not get to walk anywhere for a while, but he will understand if you are consistent. Hope this helps!

Thanks!

Ernie
Ernie

July 23, 2018

Sounds real easy, but no its not, in the yard my dog could be a show dog, on the street he is a jerk… I know he hears me, I’ve stopped and started, turned around stopped and started so many times that Ive walked 5 miles in only 15 feet… my dog doesn’t want treats, his toys or anything except to be his own boss. (Australian Cattle Dog) he goes to the dog park, beach, walks, runs next to my mountain bike just fine but a simple walk aint happenning unless he’s tired out already and I don’t always want to ride my bike too many hills.
If i get frustrated and let him know he’ll behave for 5 minutes… its not terrible just the constant need to be in front pulling with slight tension drives me crazy. My first ACD was better at it but worse at the recall, do you think a treadmill would help then go for a walk? Live in Seattle its always wet so bicycle can be hazardous some days plus we have no sidewalks and people drive like people drive.

Shannon Rounsavall
Shannon Rounsavall

June 01, 2018

I asked my husband what heal ment even though I already knew and he said it ment for the dog to sit by your side and wait for a command so I’m glad I saw this article to show him what I already knew. Thanks for your information.

Alli with SitStay
Alli with SitStay

April 04, 2018

Hi Jade,

I would start the training on a lead, so you can correct your pup easier and allow him to understand the concept of “heel” better. Once he starts to learn the word and what it means, you can graduate to practicing it off-leash. I have an energetic Aussie and it worked well with her. The high energy breeds may just take a little more consistency and time to keep their attention and allow them to learn the concept completely. Hope this helps!

Thank you!

Jade
Jade

February 10, 2018

Do you do this on a lead or not and also I have a really energetic jack Russell will it work with him?

SitStay Hannah
SitStay Hannah

November 17, 2017

Hi Cali,
This is a great question. Does it feel like you are pulling your dog to walk with you, or she is just a bit of a slow-walking dog?
If it feels like you are dragging her it could be a fear of something on the walk. If she’s just a slow-walking dog, there is nothing wrong with that. Does she slow down when you slow your pace as well?
Thanks,
Hannah

Cali
Cali

November 14, 2017

On the least my dog only wants to follow behind me she will not walk beside me. How to I get her to walk beside and not behind?

Esther Castro
Esther Castro

May 01, 2017

I love cats and dogs, but don’t have any but my friends do, this helps me understand alot about my friends training his new puppy. I did not know what heel meant. Now I do. Thanks great information.

marion
marion

January 30, 2016

great info enjoyed reading them all
thanks

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