Dog training – Walking to Heel

Dog training – Walking to Heel

By Sean D

When you have a good relationship with your dog, teaching the heel command can usually be done with ease. First, take the leash and put your right thumb through the handle, at the top end, then close your finger around the outside of the handle, just below your thumb. This position gives you the most control and will protect your fingers if your dog jerks the leash. The correct position for the heel command is your dog at your left side with his shoulder and front leg aligned with your left leg. He should not lag behind or rush ahead and he should keep his attention focused on you.

We generally recommend teaching him two walking styles. The first is considered a “free” walk, during which he is free to wander, sniff, and do as he pleases. The second is a working walk, during which he is required to remain attentive to you in the heel position and may not wander or become distracted. To initiate a free walk, simply tell your dog, “Okay!” and allow him to do as he pleases. To initiate a working walk, you will command him to heel (after he has learned to, of course) and enforce the command as necessary.

Step 1.) In an open area with your dog on his leash, without saying anything to him, walk away. If he does not follow, give a slight jerk as he reaches the end of the leash. Most dogs, however, tend to bound ahead. Basically, the way this works is whatever direction your dog chooses to go in, you will turn and go the opposite direction. The first few times, your dog will be jerked by the leash when he reaches the end of it. It usually only takes a couple of jerks for him to pay attention to where you are going and usually, in a matter of minutes, you will find him by your side, paying close attention to your movements!

Step 2.) Anytime you find you dog by your side, in the appropriate position, praise him!

Step 3.) When you consistently find your dog walking by your side, then you are ready for him to begin to perfect his working walk! For this, walk in a straight line and keep your dog by your side. If he lags behind, encourage him to catch up, pulling the leash if necessary. If he gets ahead of you, warn him by saying, “stay here”, “heel” or some other suitable command and pull him back if needed.

Step 4.) As your dog perfects keeping pace with you, you will want to randomise the speed of your walk, going slow at some points and fast at others and add stops.

Step 5.) When you stop during a working walk, your dog should stop with you and automatically sit by your side, in the heel position. This is called the automatic sit, and it comes with time and repetition. When you are first beginning though, you will command your dog to sit every time you stop, until it becomes second nature to him. It is a good idea to warn your dog that you are about to stop by making exaggerated body movements or by saying, “Stop” right before you stop. Remember: you want your dog to succeed, so set him up for success by letting him know what you are about to do! Tall indoor dog gates is a site dedicated to dog training and healthcare – give us a visit.

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