Difficulty: Easy Prerequisite: None Items Needed: Clicker, Treats
For a well-trained dog, teaching heel—to walk beside you with a loose leash without pulling—is a must. Consider these two examples:
A man opens his front door and exits with his dog on leash. It is a busy neighborhood. Other dogs bark around him, cars whoosh down the road through puddles of rain. The soggy ground is imprinted with his footprints and exactly next to them are his dog's. As if glued to his side the dog trots. Never venturing ahead. Never falling behind to sniff at a mysterious stump or for whiff of a bush that rumors another dog's scent. The leash dangles in a calm arch.
Across the street a woman yells. The man stops to watch, the dog with him. She is flung forward clinging to a black leash. A small dog runs ahead pulling her where it wishes to sniff. The man grins, then laughs aloud.
Step 1: Begin by having your dog on a leash looped to your belt on your left side. That way you don't have to use your hands to hold the leash.
Step 2: Should your dog pull on the leash, never go in the direction that your dog is pulling.
Step 3: When your dog is close to you with his shoulder by your left leg, then click and treat. (If you are walking you will have to stop to treat. That's ok, using the clicker in this way greatly speeds up the time it takes for your dog to learn this important skill.)
Step 4: When your dog starts walking regularly by your left side, begin using the commands "Let's go" and "With me" so that the dog will associate those commands with that position by your side. These commands are more natural than saying "Heel."
Step 5: Click and treat every ten steps that your dog completes by your left side.
Step 6: Work in 10 to 15 minute sessions about four times each day until the skill is mastered.
Step 7: When your dog is faithfully responding to the "Let's go" and "With me" commands by walking by your side, then begin off leash training.
Caspian was only a puppy when we first started working on this. To go outside was a new adventure for him every time, and he would want to check out everything. Even though he was just a puppy, he pulled quite hard on the leash and would end up choking himself. If I ran with him, he would see the leash as a toy, and jump up to catch it. He would hold the leash in his mouth, like he was "taking his human on a walk," instead of the other way around. Although we started with these difficulties, it didn't take too long for him to understand that I was in charge. Consistency cured his pulling problem.
He just won't listen!
Dogs are sometimes obstinate. If they want to pull you on the leash in order to get somewhere faster, they will. The main rule for you in training your dog to heel is for you to be firm and obstinate yourself. Never go in the direction that your dog is pulling. If anything, go the opposite direction that your dog wants to go and train him to always walk by your side. Just a few steps of walking right next to you are great strides toward your goal. Remember to click and treat well and only do ten or fifteen minutes of training at a time.
Tip: "Start by teaching off leash tricks in a fenced-in yard or enclosed area so that you don't lose your dog."