Training Your Dog To Heel

Heeling is the staying by the master’s side, preferably the left side, whether the dog be free or on lead. To heel is one of the basic acts of a trained dog. If he does not heel, he has not learned complete obedience.

After only a few days of training the dog on the lead, begin the work of heeling. Keep the dog’s head slightly in front of your left leg. His forequarters should be even with your left leg. Even after trained well, this relative position should be maintained inasmuch as a dog always ahead of his master does not give attention to the master and loses that sense of close association necessary between a dog and his master. Also, he is less inclined to pull and tug if he is kept close by the master’s side.

Hold the lead in the left hand, be on the alert to avoid a quick jerking of it out of your hand. You can keep the loop or free end in the right hand so that the left hand can always hold the lead taut.

The command is “heel,” and should be given frequently. The training begins on the lead. The difficulty is in training the dog to stay back and not rush ahead. When he rushes ahead, pull him back with short, quick jerks; it may be necessary at times to jerk with much force. Pull back the instant the lead tightens; do not wait for the dog to tug on it. Slow your pace; if necessary, stop–stand still for a moment.

Use a short lead for training as the force lessens with the shortness; hold the lead at an angle, 60°, as this “breaks” the pull.

Lead him close alongside a fence or building on the left so that you can step in front of him quickly and stop him, when he rushes forward. After a time, have him heel off the lead. Large dogs are inclined to heel more easily than small dogs. Terrier breeds present a problem as they delight to scamper everywhere. They should be taught to heel as early as three months.

Large breeds may require a choke collar, either of chain or round leather (leather preferred), that is, a collar that has a loose end thru a loop and tightens about the neck as the dog pulls. It stops his breath until he slackens his speed; it is not cruel unless the dog makes it so. The training collar having spikes or sharp points on the inside, which pierce the dog’s skin, should be used, not on the dog’s neck but around the neck of the trainer who would use it on the dog. The use of such instrument of torture is evidence of the trainer’s inefficiency.

Some dogs exhaust all their owner’s patience in training to heel. There is a remedy, painful but not cruel, and deserved by the disobedient dog. Take him on a walk where there is a high wall or fence; he will be between you and the fence, as the fence will be on your left. Shorten the lead with your left hand, walk him close by the wall, and as he persists in pushing ahead, tread on his front paw, but very lightly. The paws are sensitive and I suggest this only as a last resort. Usually it accomplishes the purpose.