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The Ultimate Guide to Teaching Your Dog to Heel

Teaching Your Dog to Heel: The Ultimate Guide

If you’ve ever seen a well-trained dog walking calmly beside its owner with a loose leash, then you know just how impressive it can be. A dog that heels is not only a joy to walk, but it also shows that the dog is in control, disciplined, and obedient.

If you want to achieve this level of obedience with your dog, then this article is for you. In this guide, we will take you through the steps to teach your dog to heel.

We’ll cover everything from what “heel” means and the benefits of teaching your dog to heel, to the different stages of training and techniques you can use. Whether you’re a new dog owner or an experienced one, you’re sure to learn something new.

Heel Definition and Positioning

The first thing you need to understand is what “heel” means. Heel is a command for your dog to walk directly beside you, with its head behind your leg and its shoulders in line with your hips.

This means that your dogs leash should be loose and it should not be pulling you along.

The benefits of Heel Walking

Training your dog to heel offers a lot of benefits. First, it gives you more control over your dog, especially when you’re in a crowded or busy area.

If your dog is well-trained, you can trust that it won’t run off, chase after people, or get into any trouble. Additionally, teaching your dog to heel helps with communication and bonding.

It allows you to share a comfortable closeness with your dog and establish clearer communication during walks. Training a Dog to Heel: The Stages

Training a dog to heel takes time and patience.

You won’t see results overnight, but with persistence, you’ll eventually have a well-trained dog. These are the stages of training:

Stage 1: Establishing the Heel Position

The first stage of training is to establish the heel position.

You can use a treat to lure your dog into the correct position. Hold the treat in your hand, close to the side of your leg, and tell your dog to “heel.” When your dog comes into the correct position, give them the treat.

Repeat this a few times until your dog understands what you want it to do. In this stage, it’s important that you keep your dog on a short leash so you can better control its movements.

Shaping with Clicker Heel Technique

Another technique that you can use in this stage is shaping with the clicker heel technique. This is a more advanced technique where you use a clicker to train your dog.

To start, tell your dog to “heel” and place your hand on the side of your leg. When your dog comes into the correct position, click the clicker, and give your dog a treat.

Repeat this until your dog associates the sound of the clicker with the desired behavior and position. Eventually, your dog will learn that it needs to be in that position to get a treat.

Stage 2: Increase Duration of Heeling

Once your dog is comfortable with the heel position, you can start increasing the amount of time it spends in that position. Start by taking a few steps and then stopping and rewarding your dog for staying in the correct position.

Gradually increase the time and distance until your dog can heel for longer periods without losing focus or becoming distracted. Stage 3: Introduce Distractions

In this stage, you want to introduce distractions to your dog.

Practice heeling in a more distracting environment, like a park or a busy street. You can also introduce the “sit” command during the distraction phase.

The more you practice with distractions, the better your dog’s focus will become. Stage 4: Eliminating Treats

The final stage of training is to eliminate treats altogether.

Once your dog is comfortable with heeling and can do so in a distracting environment, you can gradually phase out the treats. Start by giving fewer treats, and eventually, only give treats occasionally.

Remember to always praise your dog, though, as this is an essential way to reinforce positive behavior.


Teaching your dog to heel is a rewarding and essential aspect of dog training. It takes time and patience, but with persistence, your dog will become a well-trained companion that you can take anywhere with confidence.

Remember to start with the basics and gradually increase the level of difficulty in training. Stick to your training regimen, and with time, you’ll have a happy and well-trained dog.

In the previous section, we discussed the importance of establishing the heel position and increasing your dog’s duration of heeling. This stage lays the groundwork for the next step in training your dog, which involves gradually adding distance to the heeling exercises and introducing your dog to the collar and leash.

Stage 2: Walking at Heel

Adding Distance Gradually

Once your dog has mastered the heel position, you can start to add distance as a way of introducing a new challenge. Start by taking a few steps and stopping.

Reward your dog for staying in the correct position, and slowly increase the distance you’re walking. It’s important to remember to stop and praise your dog frequently, as this will help reinforce the behavior you want to see.

This process may take some time, but with practice, your dog will learn to maintain the heel position for longer and longer distances.

Introducing Collar and Leash

In this stage, you should introduce your dog to a collar and leash. Begin by letting your dog get used to wearing a collar.

You can start by putting the collar on during mealtime, then later, put it on for a few minutes at a time. Once your dog is comfortable with the collar, you can introduce the leash.

Let your dog get used to wearing the leash first. Pick a quiet area where you won’t be disturbed, so your dog can concentrate on getting used to the new sensation of wearing a leash.

Once your dog is comfortable on the leash, it’s time to introduce it during heeling exercises. The leash should be loose and comfortable for your dog.

A retractable leash may not be the best choice, as it can be harder to control. A standard leash that’s four to six feet long is usually the best choice.

The leash should attach to your dog’s collar on the back, not on the front, as this can interfere with your dog’s balance. Stage 3: Adding Distractions

Diluting Distractions and Controlling Intensity

The next step is to introduce distractions. This stage is where you will see if your dog really understands how to heel.

Start by introducing mild distractions, such as people, cars, or other dogs, at a distance where your dog can see them, but not close enough to cause your dog to lose focus. If your dog does lose focus, calmly lead it back into the heeling position and praise it for doing well.

As your dog becomes comfortable with milder distractions, you can increase the intensity level. Introduce more challenging distractions, such as toys, loud noises, and more people and dogs.

Remember to take things slow and not expect too much, too soon. You want to make sure your dog is comfortable and can focus on walking at heel.

Proofing Heelwork with Distractions

The final stage of training is to proof the heelwork with distractions. This means that you want your dog to maintain the heel position no matter what distractions are present.

Start by introducing the distractions that your dog finds tough to ignore. Practice in different locations and environments, gradually increasing the amount and intensity of the distractions.

If your dog does become distracted, calmly lead it back into the heel position, and give praise and treats when it focuses on the task at hand. Always remember that dogs learn best with positive reinforcement and patience.

In conclusion, the key to teaching your dog to heel is to start with the basics and gradually increase the level of difficulty in training. By taking it slowly and building on your dog’s success, you’ll have a well-trained companion that you can take anywhere with confidence.

Always remember that training takes time and patience, but the rewards are well worth the effort. Distractions can be a challenge when it comes to teaching your dog to heel.

However, with consistent training, you can teach your dog to remain focused even when distractions are present. In this section, we’ll explore how to succeed with distractions and become a well-trained duo.

Prevention of Rehearsed Bad Habits

It’s important to understand that any bad habits that your dog develops can be difficult to break. Therefore, prevention is the best way to manage and avoid the development of bad habits.

For example, if your dog starts to pull on the leash, immediately stop and do not move forward until your dog returns to the correct heeling position. You should also avoid allowing your dog to sniff around or wander off during a heeling session.

It’s essential to teach your dog that the heeling position and walking at your side are the only behaviors that are acceptable during a heeling session. Using positive reinforcement techniques will make a significant difference when training your dog to heel effectively.

Verbal praise and small food treats are the effective tools that motivate your dog to do their best. However, it’s important to phase out the treats gradually to avoid becoming dependent on them.

One of the most crucial prevention techniques is repetition. The more your dog performs the heeling action, the more it will become accustomed to walking by your side.

Reinforcing consistency and practicing at home in different locations can help support this behavior.

Using a Tracking Harness in Unique Situations

Unique situations may arise where you want your dog to remain focused while heeling. The best solution to this is to use a tracking harness.

A tracking harness is a unique harness that gives you more control over your dog during a heeling session. It is usually equipped with a handle located on the back, making it easy to hold your dog close to you and control their movements.

Tracking harnesses have a unique design that allows a dog to transition between heeling and tracking without losing their focus. When using a tracking harness, start by introducing it to your dog gradually.

You can do this by letting your dog wear the harness around the house or yard, so that they become familiar with it. Remember to be patient and use treats and verbal praise to help encourage your dog to accept the harness.

Once your dog is comfortable wearing the harness, you can begin using it in unique situations where you want them to remain focused on heeling such as in crowded areas or during walks in unfamiliar territories. With practice, your dog will learn that the tracking harness means it’s time to focus on you and your commands.



Distractions can be a significant challenge when it comes to training your dog to heel. You may encounter unexpected scenarios, such as unexpected noises, people, and other animals.

However, with patience and positive reinforcement techniques, you can teach your dog to remain focused and stick to the heel position. Prevention and training repetition set the foundation for successful heeling.

And, for dealing with unique situations and environments, a tracking harness is a great tool to have. With the right attitude, techniques, and training regimen, you and your dog can thrive as a well-trained duo.

This guide has explored the process of teaching a dog to heel, from establishing the heel position to succeeding with distractions. We’ve covered the benefits of heeling and the importance of positive reinforcement and prevention of bad habits.

We’ve also discussed the stages of training, such as adding distance gradually and introducing distractions. Additionally, we’ve explored techniques such as using a tracking harness in unique situations.

Training your dog to heel requires patience, effort, and consistency, but with practice and positive reinforcement, you and your dog can become a well-trained duo that enjoys walking and bonding together. Remember to start with the basics and stay positive, and you’ll see progress in no time.

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