Teaching your dog the heel command is necessary for pet owners who plan to bring their furry friend out and about. Having clear communication for what you expect your dog to do when moving through public spaces or past other people and animals makes it easy to proceed and progress while trusting your pup will stick by your side.
How to Teach a Dog the “Heel” Dog Command
In this article
Travel Everywhere Together
Psychiatric Service Dogs can accompany their handlers anywhere – even airplanes
Do You Really Have a Good Dog?
Pettable Academy is designed to bring out the best in your pet
Heel Dog Command
The 'heel' dog command is used to teach your dog to walk calmly beside you on a leash. Start by holding the leash in your left hand and giving the 'heel' command while walking forward. Keep a steady pace and reward your dog for staying by your side. With consistent practice, your dog will learn to walk obediently by your side during walks.
What Does “Heel” Mean in Dog Training?
The heel command in dog training refers to when your dog is walking alongside you while keeping pace and keeping close by. They’re not traveling ahead or behind you, but instead keeping their shoulders parallel to your hip as you walk together.
How to Teach the “Heel” Dog Command
Teaching your dog the heel command will end up being useful in many situations. This could be any time you’re moving through a crowded area, crossing the street, walking down the trail, or passing another dog. When your dog is able to follow the heel command, the two of you can move through the world with confidence together.
Limit Distractions During Practice
Limiting distractions while teaching your dog the heel command will make a big difference in helping them learn quickly. Consider doing your initial training in a quiet environment where you won’t run into other people or other dogs who might tempt your dog’s attention.
Use Positive Reinforcement
Using positive reinforcement to teach your dog commands is the best way to keep encouraging desired behavior. When your pup gets it right, make sure they know they nailed it by giving them verbal praise or rewarding them with their favorite toy. Treats are also a great go-to reward since dogs are incredibly food-motivated creatures. Some people use clickers as behavior reinforcers as well, especially in service dog training.
Lure and Reward
Lure and reward is a dog training strategy where you entice your dog with something desirable (like a yummy treat) to physically lead them into the behavior or command you’re trying to teach. In the case of the heel command, you’d hold a treat in front of your dog’s nose and lead them next to you in the same manner you want them to walk when you say “heel” in the future.
Add in the Verbal Command “Heel”
Once you’ve shown your dog what the expected behavior is, it’s time to add in the verbal command. Start using the word “heel” while your dog is walking alongside you and performing the desired behavior. Keep encouraging them with verbal praise, and they’ll begin to associate the behavior you’re looking to reward with the phrase “heel.”
Slowly Increase Difficulty
When your dog starts to realize what behavior you’re looking for when you say “heel,” they should also start to need less reinforcement to do it. While you’ll start by praising and rewarding them as soon as they heel, once they’ve got it down you’ll want to up the ante by having them perform the task for longer before offering praise and rewards. Slowly build up to 30 seconds of heeling properly, and once they’ve mastered that keep giving them praise with fewer and fewer treats.
Practice in Shorter Sessions
Teaching your dog to heel, and really any new training tasks, takes a lot of practice and patience. They’ll be doing their best to stay focused and follow your instructions, but giving them plenty of breaks and time to relax in between is important. Keep your initial training sessions short and sweet, and don’t be afraid to take a break if it starts to get frustrating. Remember that dogs (especially puppies) have short attention spans, so simple obedience commands are the best way to begin training your dog.
How Long Does it Take to Teach a Dog to Heel?
Teaching your dog the heel command is one of the more difficult tasks to absorb. While it depends on your dog’s age, personality, and breed, teaching your dog to heel can usually be mastered in about six weeks. For older dogs who may have absorbed other habits early on, teaching the heel command could take up to two or three months but is 100% worth the hassle.
It can also be helpful and allow your dog to learn more quickly to have more basic dog commands mastered before you start training them to heel, such as “sit” and “watch me.” Both of these can be used as re-focus commands to help your dog pay attention to learning heel.
Teach Your Dog the Basics with Pettable Academy
Are you ready to start dog training your four-legged best friend? Pettable has the step-by-step resources you need for successful training at home.
Pettable Academy utilizes the expert strategies of certified dog trainers and delivers them to you in self-paced, easily digestible lessons. You and your dog will be on your way to professional, proper training in just a few short lessons.