How to Train a Dog to Heel

If you have ever seen someone being pulled along the sidewalk by an overeager dog (or if you have experienced this yourself) you might have assumed that this behaviour was simply a result of the dog's energetic nature. The real problem, however, often lies with the dog owner rather than with the dog.

If you have not properly established yourself in the role of "master" with your dog, he may take advantage of you and you could find yourself struggling to correct a variety of unwanted behaviours. Training your dog to "heel" is a simple process that can play a big role in teaching your dog who is the boss and it can also make walks with your dog a less frustrating experience.

The "Heel" Command

The "heel" command is a fairly basic training principle but it is a very important one for your dog to learn. The goal of this command is to get your dog to walk next to you, near your heels, rather than running ahead of you or lagging behind.

The dog should learn to match your pace rather than forcing you to jog to match his or to pull on the leash to make him slow down. Though teaching your dog this command is a relatively simple process, your success will hinge on whether or not you are able to convince your dog of your dominance as his "master". If you are able to do this, all of your training endeavours will become much easier.

Training Your Dog to Heel

When you first begin training your dog to "heel" it is best to keep him on a short leash rather than a long one. This will force your dog to stick close by your side and it will make it easier for you to control his movements.

Start by standing with your dog by your side, both facing in the same direction, and speak the "heel" command in a firm voice. Take a few steps forward to see if your dog walks alongside you or if he tries to pull ahead. If your dog "heels," matching your pace, praise him enthusiastically to show him that you approve of his behaviour.

In the event that your dog tugs on the leash or lags behind you, correct his behaviour by softly, but firmly, tugging the lead and say "No."

The key to success in training your dog to learn any command is consistency. In order for your dog to consistently perform the desired behaviour, he needs to learn to associate that behaviour with your approval. Praise your dog each time he "heels" properly and be consistent in correcting his behaviour when he does not.

If your dog has difficulty learning this command you may need to have a little patience - try not to get frustrated and never yell at your dog because positive reinforcement is much more effective than punishment. Simply repeat the exercise a few times each day, rewarding your dog with praise when he performs well.

Over time, your dog will begin to learn the proper response to the "heel" command that will earn your praise and approval. If you have established a trusting bond with your dog, he will be more likely to choose to seek your praise than to disobey you.