How to Teach a Dog to Command “Heel”?

It is believed that a well-bred dog, moving along the street with its owner, should walk to the left of him so that its right shoulder blade is level with the owner’s leg. In this case, the distance between them should not exceed the width of the croup. If the dog moves to the side, lags behind, or, conversely, is ahead of the person, this is considered a sign of improper upbringing.

A properly trained dog must adapt to the speed and pace of the person’s movement and change the direction of movement synchronously with him. When the owner stops, the dog should immediately sit down next to him. All this she must do on one command – “Heel!”.

Such complex skills should be practiced by breaking them down into their component parts, so it will be easier for the pet to understand and master difficult behavior.

It is good if, by the time you decide to teach the dog to move around, he will already be familiar with the basic stance, will know how to behave correctly on a leash, and perform a landing. It is best to exercise in a calm place where the dog will not be distracted from the training process. Over time, as your pet begins to learn a new skill, you can move around and train where there are distractions (for example, other dogs, cats, or passers-by).

Stage 1

At the beginning of the training, the pet should have an understanding of what he should do when the owner commands “Heel!”. There are several ways to do this.

Pushing Method

You will need a narrow collar, to which you need to fasten a medium-length leash. To begin with, you should take the starting position: command “Heel!” and get the dog to sit near your left leg. It is necessary to make it clear to the dog that “Heel!” means that she should not only take a position to the left of the owner but also sit down if he is standing.

Take a short pause, then give the command “Heel!”. Moreover, this must be done loudly to be sure that the dog heard you. Start walking away, take just a couple of steps, pulling on the leash, forcing the dog to get up and follow you, then command “Heel!” and stop, forcing the dog to sit down. As soon as the dog does this, be sure to praise him with affectionate words, pet, or give a couple of pieces of her favorite treat.

Pay attention to the term “pulling”: it does not mean a pull, but a snatch with a leash, reminiscent of a push. The pulling force should be sufficient to force the dog to follow you.

Repeat the above exercise 2-3 times. And for the next two repetitions, walk in a straight line not two, but four steps. Take a break and play with your dog. We will call this cycle of exercises the approach. During the walk, you can do 10-20 of these approaches.

As you learn, you need to increase the number of steps taken per approach in general and between stops. But there is no need to rush.

Aiming Method

For this method to be effective, the desire of the dog to eat delicious food or to play must be very strong. You will need the same narrow collar and medium-length leash as in the first training method. Take a leash in your left hand, and a target in your right hand, which can be used as a treat or a dog’s favorite toy.

Take the starting position by commanding the dog “Near!” and forcing her to sit on your left. This can be done using the aiming method, that is, moving the target up and back from the dog’s nose, or the command “Sit!” If you use a command, then over time you need to use it less and less and finally stop using it altogether. It is necessary for the dog to understand: by the command “Heel!” she should not only take a position to the left of the owner but also sit down if he is standing.

Pause and give the command “Heel!”, Then present the target to the dog and take a couple of steps forward, dragging the dog along with the target. Command again “Heel!”, Stop, make the dog sit down. In case you are using a treat as a target, give the sitting dog a few bites of food. If you are working with a game target, then at first only praise the dog with affectionate words, and give him the toy after 2-3 repetitions of the exercise.

Otherwise, the principle of learning is the same as when using the push method. Targets should be used less and less as you learn this skill. If the need arises, the dog’s behavior can be corrected using a leash.

Method of Uncontested Behavior

This strange way consists in the fact that in the process of training such conditions are created in which the dog has no alternative, but only one possible form of behavior. This method was invented a long time ago and was described back in 1931.

It is necessary to take the dog as close as possible to the collar and, having given the command “Heel!”, Lead it so that it is between the left leg and any obstacle, such as a fence or a wall. Then the dog can only get ahead of the owner or lag behind him. It is necessary to align its course, making short jerks back or forward, each time commanding “Heel!”. When working with a puppy, it is best to use praise and affection. If you are training a strong and stubborn dog, you can use a collar with spikes – parfors in training. In this case, you must follow your path and ignore her displeasure.

Over time, it is necessary to add variety to this exercise by frequent turns to the right, then to the left, as well as acceleration and deceleration of the step. Once your pet learns to do this exercise, you can move to an open area where there are other animals and people. You can also train your dog to walk alongside by walking along the raised curb. It is necessary to walk along the road, holding the dog on the left side, between yourself and the curb.

You should not use the method of uncontested behavior for a long time. After 2-3 such sessions, move on to other methods of training.

Stage 2. Changing the Pace of Movement

When you have managed to achieve that the dog begins to move without mistakes and resistance, sits down when you stop and walks at least 50 steps nearby, you can switch to learning to change the pace of movement. To do this, moving at your usual speed, the command “Heel!” and go for an easy run. It is not worthwhile to accelerate strongly and rush. A dog that gaps or simply do not have time to react should be pulled up with a leash in order to attract its attention and motivate it to accelerate. After slowly running a dozen steps, again give the dog the command “Heel!” and go to step. Remember to praise your dog. If necessary, you can influence her with a leash or a treat.

Stage 3. Change of Direction of Movement

Teaching a dog to change direction is not difficult at all. To begin with, make smooth turns – turn, making a semicircle. Over time, begin to turn gradually more and more sharply, so that in the end you achieve a right-angle turn. This will take about two weeks of training. Remember that no matter how smooth the turn you make, before starting the maneuver, you must give the command “Heel!”

Stage 4. Combining Elements Into a Skill

Moving from stage to stage, you, of course, relaxed the requirements and focused the dog’s attention on certain elements of the skill. It’s time to combine all the elements into one skill. It is necessary to walk 100 steps in one approach while making 10 stops, 20 turns, and 7 times changing the pace of movement. It is in this mode that you should train now in order to finally consolidate the skill.

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