How to Teach a Dog to Heel
There are numerous benefits to training a dog to heel:
- Dogs are exercised better when both their minds and their bodies are working.
Playing fetch, running around, and having a good time with your dog are all forms of good exercise. For the most part, though, those are only physical exercisers. Dogs are intelligent creatures and need mental workouts in order to be satisfied.Dogs that get regular ‘focused walks’ (where the dog is walking in heeling position) are much less likely to be destructive, anxious, aggressive, or develop other behavior problems.Note, there is a big difference between walking on leash and heeling. A dog in the heel position is right next to the owner, never leading, and paying attention.
- Heeling leads to leadership.
As a dog trainer I can tell you that the biggest cause of problems I see with dogs are a result of a lack of leadership or poor leadership. Think about a child who doesn’t get good leadership at home. Think of an employee who sails without a rudder. Think about an athlete whose coach is a lousy leader. All of these examples point to the need for leadership.The same is true for dogs. In order to be happy, healthy, and balanced they need to know that they have a leader. Leadership is achieved through obedience training. As the dog learns to mold his behavior towards what you want the dog naturally assumes a follower role.One of the best things you can do to encourage a follower attitude is to teach your dog to heel. In the heeling position the dog literally and figuratively becomes a follower.
- Teaching a dog to heel combats other problems.
Do you have issues with an aggressive dog who lunges at people or dogs? What about an over-excitable dog that wants to jump on people or rush to say ‘hi’ to everyone? Guess what? Your dog can’t do that if he heels properly. In order to train a dog to heel on command I teach what I call the ‘crazy man’ method. This involves using the proper training collar and, initially, making lots of directional changes accompanied by quick leash corrections as the dog ventures away from your side.
In doing this method the dog learns that he needs to pay attention because you are ‘crazy’ and prone to darting off here and there unless he’s paying better attention.