One of the topics I am frequently discussing with clients is how to go about teaching a dog to heel, so I felt an article on the topic would be a good resource for all dog owners, including my clients!
Teaching a dog to walk to heel is very simple! That is, what you need to do to teach them is very simple. The part which is difficult is having the patience required to get the message through, because some dogs can be very stubborn! But the answer to that is once again very simple – you have to become more stubborn than your dog!
There are several parts of the walk, and you have to be patient with each one to achieve the desired result.
1. Getting the lead out.
Picking the lead up usually creates an adrenalin response in our dogs and they will appear to look excited and start trying to hurry us up. Wait until your dog stops hurrying you before talking things any further. Sit back down, put the kettle on etc. Call their bluff! The more anxious they look to go out, the more important it is that you wait…
2. Calling them over.
Once the lead is out and your dog is calm, call them over to attach the lead. This is important, because it’s a part of them accepting that things are happening on your terms. Essential if you want them to heel!
3. Getting out of the house first.
The temptation is to physically hold your dog back or tell them to sit and wait. A more effective way is simply not to open the front door until they will hold themselves back and wait for you to open it and step out first. You may have to re-close the door several times before they get this message (see, I said it requires patience!)
4. Start walking, but NEVER let them lead.
This is the really simple bit. If your dog starts walking ahead of you, stop or walk a different direction. It is that simple. A dog can only pull on the lead if you continue to follow. You may have to stop several times or change directions several times, that’s fine. This is where your stubborness comes in. If you allow the lead to go straight and the dog to stay ahead of you for any period of time, they will think they are the leader and will continue to try to lead. If you NEVER let them go ahead of you, by calmly changing directions or stopping, they will eventually learn that you are not following them and do not need them to lead, so they will stop bothering.
It really is that simple. Try it. Be patient. Make sure everyone in the household is doing the same thing. This does work if you are consistent. It works much better if you do it in line with everything else, so have a read of “The Dog Listener” by Jan Fennell to find out what ‘everything else’ is, or get a local Dog Listener to come and help you put it into place. You can search for your local dog listener if you click here. And if you are looking for an Essex Dog Trainer, that’s me and I would be happy to help with your dog training!