Is your dog taking you for a walk every day? Does he tug at the leash and try to chase after every dog, kid, squirrel, bird, and leaf that he sees? Has he wrapped his leash around your legs in his frantic attempts to get going if you stop to talk to a neighbor? If so, you might need to teach him to heel: the art of walking obediently by your side.
The best time to train a dog is when he’s a puppy, but you can train an adult dog with the right technique. You may think it will be impossible to re-train your dog, but most dogs respond well to a training and reward system. Dogs aim to please, so teaching your pooch to heel shouldn’t be too hard. Persistence pays off, so allow him the time he needs to master the task, and you should be walking beside a well-behaved dog in no time.
Sit and Watch Me
The first thing Fido must learn is to pay attention to you. Dogs love treats, so start the “watch me” training with a pocket full of his favorite snack. The goal is to have the dog learn to sit, look at you and respond to your command. Give the dog a cue, such as raising your hand, and give the command to sit. Make sure the dog is looking at you. If the dog sits and looks at you, respond by giving him a treat. You should only have to repeat this 3-5 times before he understands that sitting attentively results in a treat.
Position Your Dog
Pat your hip and give the dog a verbal cue. "Come here" is a common command. Encourage the dog to come and stand beside you. Give him a treat for his compliance. Practice this a few more times. Tap the hip, say the verbal command, give the dog a treat.
Ready, Set, Go
With the dog at your side, take a few steps forward. You should have the dog on a leash to guide him. Take 2 or 3 steps, stop, and tell the dog to sit. Of course, he’ll be waiting for the treat. If the dog lunges ahead, start over and practice until he understands what you want. Increase the number of steps, and stop again. Continue this pattern as the dog becomes accustomed to walking beside you.
Now We’re Heeling
You’re ready to walk your dog. Leave slack in the leash. Expect your dog to walk beside you. Use the leash as a gentle reminder, but only if necessary. Increase your distance, stopping occasionally to reward your dog. By now you should be able to walk to the end of the street, or around the block with your well-behaved companion. If he forgets the rules, go back to the “sit and watch me” step. Give him plenty of praise for his progress.
Once your dog masters the heeling technique with the leash and you think he can be trusted, try walking without the leash in a protected area, such as your backyard, until he walks beside you without prompting.