Walking your dog is one of life’s simple pleasures. You get to enjoy the fresh air, the sights, and smells, and, of course, the company of your four-legged friend.
If you want to make sure that it’s a pleasure for both you and your pup, teaching him how to heel on a leash or loose leash is very important. But how long does it take? Here are my tips for teaching your pup to heel in no time at all!
Leashing Up Your Dog
First, start by putting the leash on your pup. If they don’t know how to wear one yet, have them stand still and use a treat or toy as an incentive for them to stay put while you put it on. Once the leash is securely attached, take a few steps forward and stop.
If your pup continues walking forward, gently tug back on the leash until they stop moving and look at you. This will help them associate the feeling of the leash pulling with stopping in their tracks.
When they stop, give them lots of praise and maybe even a treat if you can manage it without losing focus! This will give your dog the confidence to have happy heeling experiences.
Keep Walking and Keep the Leash Slack
Second, start walking again. But this time, keep the slack out of the leash so that it’s not tight. As soon as they get ahead of you, give them a gentle tug backward until they’re by your side again, and then give them lots of praise when they do so correctly.
It’s important to watch their eye contact. When they make eye contact with you while heeling correctly, reward them with positive reinforcement such as a bunch of treats or verbal affirmation. Be sure not to jerk the leash too much; otherwise, it could hurt or scare your pup, which is definitely not what we want!
Be Consistent During Training
Finally, make sure that whenever you come across something that excites your pup (i.e., other people/dogs), keep him close by using verbal commands like “heel” or “stay with me” before he pulls away from you.
If he pulls towards something else (like another person/dog), always turn around and go in the opposite direction instead of continuing forward because this will only reinforce his bad behavior by rewarding him for pulling away from you (which is obviously something we don’t want).
I have trained many dogs in this manner, including my own two dogs. When training a dog that isn’t your own, keep in mind their home environment, too. Be extra careful in the beginning and go to a quiet spot first to train before gradually introducing them to people, dogs, and other distractions.
My golden (Wedgefield) picked up heel quickly. She’s a smart cookie. My Saluki (Liam) took months to learn here and required different techniques than Wedge did. So, don’t get frustrated if your dog doesn’t seem to get it right away.
All breeds are different in how they need to be trained, and you need to understand their temperament while training.
Teaching Your Dog to Heel: Tips
The following tips are words of wisdom I have been taught and that I teach others. The process of training a dog to heel can be arduous if you don’t know how to handle your dog, are not working with their temperament, or aren’t consistent.
- Get the Right Equipment—The first step in teaching your pup to heel is making sure you have the right equipment. You will need a collar and leash that fits your pup comfortably without being too tight or too loose. Make sure they made the leash of a durable material that won’t break easily if your pup pulls too hard.
- Set Up The Environment—Before starting any training session, make sure you set the environment up for success. Choose an area with few distractions, such as other people or animals. Also, consider using the biggest treats as rewards during training sessions so that your pup has something positive to look forward to when they do something correctly. But beware of feeding them too many as it may cause stomach upset.
- Have Patience—It takes time for any animal to learn something new, so don’t expect miracles overnight. Consistency is key when training your dog. Stick with it, and they will reward you in no time!
- Start Slow—A good place to start is by having your pup walk by your side as you move around the house or yard. As they become more comfortable with this behavior, you can then take short walks outside with your pup in tow.
- Use Home Made or Store Bought Dog Treats—Rewarding positive behavior is an excellent way to reinforce desired behaviors when training your pup. When he walks correctly beside you, reward him with small treats or praise—whichever works best for him! Try not to use human food if you can help it!
- Don’t Pull on the Leash—Pulling on the leash can cause discomfort and confusion for your pup, which can lead to frustration for both of you. Instead, use verbal cues like “heel” or “let’s go” when you want him to stay close by.
- Take Breaks—It takes energy for dogs (and humans!) to focus on learning something new, so make sure that you give yourself and your pup breaks during training sessions so that he doesn’t get overwhelmed or too tired out!
- Practice Makes Perfect—Once your pup has gotten used to being by your side, it’s time for some practice! During each walk, give verbal cues like “heel” or “come” every few steps so that they keep their attention on you rather than getting distracted by smells or sights along the way. When they respond correctly, reward them with treats or praise so that they know they did something good. With enough practice, they will eventually understand what “heel” means with no extra prompting from you!
- Be Consistent—The most important thing for training any behavior is consistency. It’s important that you use the same commands every time and give consistent feedback when your dog does something right or wrong. If you allow Fido to pull on one occasion but not another, he won’t understand what he’s supposed to be doing—so make sure you’re consistent with both commands and rewards.
- Establish the Right Mindset—Before you begin leash or long leash training, it’s important that you establish the right mindset in yourself and in your pup. You want your dog to understand that walking by your side is a good thing—not something that he dislikes.
- Use Rewards as a Motivator—Rewards are one of the best tools for positively reinforcing good behaviors in dogs. Every time they stay in heel during their walk, give them lots of praise and reward them with small treats like bits of cheese or pieces of kibble. This will help motivate your dog to keep up the good work!
Now for the two most important things about training your dog:
Establish the Right Mindset for Both of You
Before you begin leash training, it’s important that you establish the right mindset in yourself and in your pup. You want Fido to understand that walking by your side is a good thing—not something that he dislikes.
So make sure you keep things positive and relaxed during this process; no scolding or shouting allowed! Once Fido understands that walking by your side is a pleasant experience, he’ll be much more likely to stay there.
Use Rewards or Praise as a Motivator Instead of Aversive Methods
Rewards are one of the best tools for positively reinforcing good behaviors in dogs. Every time your pup stays at heel during his walk, give him lots of praise and reward him with small treats like bits of cheese or pieces of kibble.
This will help motivate him to keep up the good work! It can also help if you pair an action (like walking next to you) with a word (like “heel” or “by me”) so that your pup learns what behavior goes along with each command.
Teaching a dog how to heel on a leash may seem daunting, but with patience and consistency, you will achieve success in no time!
Remember that rewards are key when training a puppy. Praise him when he does well and take breaks if either of you gets frustrated so that everyone remains happy and motivated throughout the process. So grab those treats and get walking—you won’t regret it!