New Tricks: Teach Puppies How to Heel
Teach your puppy how to heel with our helpful instructions:
1. Start the session on the pavement instead of grass where interesting smells may be distracting. Use a plain lead, like a rope lead, and hold it in your right hand with the dog sitting to your left, slightly behind you if possible. Use your left hand to hold the lead loosely so that you have extra control.
2. Get the attention of the dog by tapping their head, calling or whistling. When they look up, strike your left hip and state the command; ‘heel’. Indicate where they should be by pointing and only praise or treat when they are in the right place.
3. Ensure the dogs attention is still on you and move forward two steps. If the dog moves with you, still in the heel position, praise them. Repeat this, only giving the reward or praise when the dog is in the correct position.
4. You can now increase the number of steps you take, repeating the process.
5. There are several techniques to stop dogs forging ahead: Simple say no and deny the dog a treat. If they are not given treats for good behaviour, keep the lead quite close so that if the dog forges forward, you are able to turn sharply into their path, saying ‘no’ firmly in order to stop them. Some choose to tug the lead in response, as this mimics how the pack would discipline them. If the dog continues to move forward, resort to using the sit command to calm them before beginning again.
6. If the dog lags, let the lead hit your leg as you walk, causing a slight jerk on the lead as you step forward. The dog will quickly realise what it needs to do, but if it does not, begin to slowly reel the lead in, use a command such as ‘come here’ and slap your leg lightly. Remember to always praise good behaviour and not to repeat ‘heel’ as this can confuse the dog.
7. Once the dog is reliably heeling, begin to add variables one at a time, such as speed, location, duration, and distractions such as other people or animals. When the dog is older, you can begin moving to an off-lead heel. Drop the lead and let it drag along the floor. If you need to regain control, simply step on the lead while saying ‘no’ firmly.
This may be a long and repetitive process and you will need to be very patient with your puppy. Remember to be consistent with your actions for the best results.