When I was deciding whether it was time to have a pet or not, I began to do some research into teaching a dog different tricks and the benefits of each trick. Once I was finally able to bring Marlie, my female beagle, home, I knew that my life were about to change forever.
Not only is Marlie one of the most independent dogs that I have ever met; training her was going to be a task that would take us a very long time. Over the months we worked on basic training such as showing her how to play dead, teaching her how to sit and lie down, as well as give her paw. Once she was able to get the basics down, we decided to expand her horizons and teach her how to heel.
It wasn’t easy, not by a long shot, but luckily our experiences can now be used to your advantage while you’re working on training your own dog. Below are some of the most important things to remember when teaching your dog to heel, as well as a step-by-step guide to help you remain patient through the process.
What You will Need
1. Your Dog’s Favorite Treats
As with any type of training session, it’s important that you grab your dog’s favorite treats. This is especially true when it comes to teaching your dog to heel, as it’s commonly seen as one of the more advanced training techniques. You might want to consider spending a little outside of your budget to get the tastiest treats on the market, as you’ll want to make sure your dog will be more willing to listen than ever before. We used to have a little bag of great treats that were dedicated specifically to teaching Marlie how to heel.
2. Dog Whistle
A dog whistle can be useful if you’re the type of owner that doesn’t want to use verbal commands and would prefer to use a training tool to signify what your dog should be doing. You can easily find a variety of different dog whistles from pet stores and even some grocery stores. You’ll want to make sure to find a whistle that is either silent to humans or soft on your ears, as you’ll be blowing into it frequently.
A leash is essential for teaching your dog to heel, as it will give you a clear idea of whether your dog is actually grasping the concept of heeling or not. It will also give you an additional reinforcement tool to help teach your dog the proper posture and position. I always used a leash with Marlie as beagles are characteristically hunting dogs and she loves to chase after any type of animal. With the help of the leash, I was able to maintain her attention with each training session. If your dog has a unique body shape like dachshund, you can use a harness for your dog instead of a leash.
How to Teach Your Dog to Heel
1. Prepare Your Dog for a Walk
We found the best place to train Marlie was in a park, though you might want to start inside of your house and then gradually work your way outdoors. This depends on the attitude of your pet. To prepare your dog for a walk, ensure that you put on their leash and bring your snacks with you, as well as a reliable source of water. You may also find that if you don’t want to train your dog indoors, you can use your backyard.
2. Find a Quiet Location to Train
It’s incredibly important that you have the complete attention of your dog while teaching them how to heel, so try to stay away from heavily populated areas. If you find that it’s too distracting outside, there’s no harm in trying inside. But remember, after they grasp the idea of heeling inside, you’ll need to change locations so your pet knows they are supposed to heel anywhere you tell them to.
3. Getting into Position
The ideal position to teach your dog how to heel is for you both to be standing side by side and your dog next to your left leg with both of you facing in the same direction.
4. Gaining Eye Contact
This step is imperative, as it helps to establish the eye contact needed to perform the heel command. Keep one of your dog’s treats in your left hand and hold it near your waist, not in front of your dog’s nose. You’ll then want to say your pet’s name, as an example, “Marlie”, in order to get their attention and their eye contact.
Once they’re looking at you, take 2 steps forward and then stop moving. In the event that your dog moves with you and then stops when you do (performs the heel), praise them and give them a treat.
5. Repeating the Process
As soon as your pet is done eating their treat, repeat the process again. This time, when you say their name and take the two steps forward, give them verbal encouragement. For example, “Good boy/girl” or “Come on, pal”. This is also when you can use your dog whistle instead of using your voice. Make sure you choose a different tone or blowing pattern to signify a command or “words” of encouragement.
It’s important that you remember to only reward your pet when they are performing the action properly. You’re not going to want to use the treat to lure them into the right position, but instead to reward them for doing the right thing.
6. Room for Corrections
It’s going to be unlikely that your pet is going to grasp the concept of heeling immediately. With Marlie, we had to go through several trials of success and error. Whenever she would lag behind or if she wouldn’t stop walking when we would, I would hold onto her leash and say, “Ahh-Ahh” until she would stop. We would then start the entire process over again from the beginning.
Learning how you can teach different tricks to your dog is essential for bonding and improving their overall obedience. Seen as one of the more difficult tricks for dogs to master, teaching them how to heel can be done as long as you have patience. It wasn’t Marlie’s first rodeo and she still had some difficulties with her attentiveness, though at the end of the day she had a strong understanding of how to heel.