How can I get my dog to heel?

Teaching your dog to heel will not only make walks easier, it will also strengthen the bond you and your dog feel. Heeling is when a dog walks directly next to you, as close to your leg as he can get without actually touching. A dog that is heeling will match your pace, stop when you stop, and walk when you walk. The dog is essentially mirroring your walking behavior. Heeling is generally a good skill to teach your dog when you are in situations where there are other dogs or children present, but isn’t necessary for long, relaxed walks.

Heeling should be taught slowly, as it’s not something that a dog will typically pick up after just a few practice sessions. Start by having your dog stand next to you while holding his leash firmly. Have a treat in your hand and show your dog the treat. Next, take two steps forward. When your dog moves with you, give your dog the treat and praise him verbally.

Keep practicing this activity, moving two steps, waiting for your dog to follow, and then rewarding him with the treat. This will teach your dog to be by your side, and encourage the behavior. Gradually increase this activity to four paces, and then six paces. When your dog gets up to ten paces of following beside you, you can then start to use the word “heel” when practicing the behavior. This further reinforces the behavior and attaches a word command that your dog will associate with walking next to you.

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