Dog Training And Tricks: Heel

English Sheepdog Learning Dog Training Like Heeling

Training Your Dog To Heel

The "Heel" command is one of the more advanced techniques to be teaching to your dog. This will probably be a difficult command for your dog to master quickly, so you must be extremely patient when teaching your dog to heel.

Getting Started
When your dog is heeling, it means they are walking at your side with their front paws at your heel; this is where the name comes from. Usually, when it comes to strict heeling, the dog's nose will not pass your legs. For the most part, while your dog is heeling, they should be paying close attention to you and maintaining eye contact.

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A lot of people make the mistake of thinking their dog should heel constantly on long walks; this is untrue. It's hard for a dog to maintain the level of concentration it takes to heel properly. This is why when you are training your dog to learn the "Heel" command, you should be somewhat lenient.

The Basic Techniques
Start out with your dog in the "Heel" position. Your dog should be standing on the outside of your left leg facing the same direction as you are. Make sure your dog is very close to the outside of your leg, but not touching it. Hold a treat in your left hand. Do not put your hand in front of your dog's nose. Now say your dog's name and get eye contact with them. Then proceed to take two steps forward and stop.

Your dog should follow you at your side and stop in the "Heel" position. If they do this correctly, make sure to reward them with a treat. If they don't immediately step up and follow you in the "Heel" position, you can encourage them by saying "Come on" in a positive tone or manner.


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If your dog rushes off ahead of you instead of stopping in the "Heel" position, you can simply command them to "Wait." Do not yell this command. Instead, say it in the same firm tone that you have used for all of your dog's other commands. Catch up to your dog, but don't reward them, and start the exercise over. Only reward your dog for correct actions and never repeat commands. Repeat this exercise and increase the number of steps you take forward.

When they start to catch on to the "Heel" command for 15 or so steps, you can start using it verbally. Now, after you say their name, follow it with the "Heel" command. For instance, start your dog Shane in the heel position at your side. Now look down and say "Shane, Heel!" and take a few steps forward.

Your dog should begin to recognize the "Heel" command the more often you repeat the exercise.

Advanced Techniques
When your dog gets better at the "Heel" command, you can start to introduce some more advanced variations. Instead of walking, try running forward a few paces and stopping suddenly. Your dog should stop with you at the "Heel" position.

A fun exercise for heeling can involve obstacles. Take plenty of turns and try to mix where you are going. Vary your speed and direction and always reward good behavior. To test if your dog has mastered the command, while they are heeling, throw a toy in front of your dog. They should maintain eye contact with you and stay in the "Heel" position.


Last Updated: January 25th, 2008

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