A lot of people seem to think that the Heel command is not very beneficial. “Why should I train my dog to walk by my side? He likes to run ahead when we go for a walk.”
In most cases, a dog walking ahead of you is fine. There are times though when walking ahead of you causes problems.
If your dog is confident and bossy, letting him walk ahead of you proves to him that he’s the leader and you’re the follower. You have to do what he says. Well, how do you know what he’s saying? If you don’t understand, then you may be “reprimanded” by your dog with a bite to the leg, which is his way of saying, “No, I said we’re going this way.”
Heeling lets them know that you are in charge. They will gladly walk by your side naturally. In fact, when walking around the yard, my dogs will walk by my side without me saying a word to them. And all the while they are nudging my hand to get attention.
This command also comes in handy when walking your dog in crowded situations. Having your dog close to you ensures that no one will be getting tripped by a leash or your dog.
If you hunt with your dog, having them on your left side readies them to watch for game and keeps them out of the firing path of the gun. In order to send your dog out to retrieve game or an object, your dog should be close to you so you can guide them in the right direction.
When answering the front door, you can give this command to keep your dog from jumping and barking at the guests.
How to Train the Heel Command
Start with a flat nylon or leather collar and attach a 4’ to 6’ leash.
Position yourself so that the dog is on your left side.
Ask the dog to
Step out with your left foot and say “heel” and proceed walking forward.
Praise your dog if she follows. If she “digs in” coax her encouragingly and pat your left leg.
If your dog forges (walks ahead of you) stop walking, let your dog get to the end of the leash and repeat the command and encourage your dog to “catch up” to you. If she forges again, repeat the steps. Soon your dog realizes that you are going nowhere and will start to wait for you.
If your dog has never been on a leash before, she may fight the leash by bucking around like a horse and/or making horrible noises like she’s being strangled. Some dogs sit and dig in to the ground with their front paws.
If this happens to you, STAY CALM! But don’t coddle your dog. Your dog may be a little bit afraid of this new situation. This is somewhat similar to a two-year-old throwing a tantrum. Loosen up the leash so your dog doesn’t injure herself and let the tantrum subside. (They will stop as it’s exhausting to keep up.) When she’s done put a little bit of pressure on the leash and encourage a step toward you. Praise for any little step and release the tension on the leash.
If she explodes into another tantrum, release just enough so she doesn’t injure herself. But continue to apply the pressure and release until she’s walking toward you and with you. Treats will help with getting her to come forward, but there will be occasions when there will be pressure on the leash (changing walking directions) and she will have to learn to follow the pressure.
Once she realizes that she’s not getting hurt and she gets rewarded for walking on the leash, your dog will be heeling in no time!