So, how do I go about teaching a puppy to heel ?

Teaching a puppy to heel is the final exercise from the 5 basic lessons of dog training. Learning to walk on a leash is important to the dog and the dog owner. The dog, because constantly pulling on the lead is tiring, and frustrating, and for the owner; who wants a dog that keeps trying to rip your arms from their sockets.

Because you have taken over the role of your puppy's mother, she will initially follow you wherever you go. You can take advantage of this in the very early days by beginning her heel training with a collar on, but without the use of a leash. Treat this like all other training exercises- as fun:

  1. Take a treat in one hand and allow your puppy to catch the scent of it. Give the command "heel" and begin walking forward in a straight line- encouraging your puppy to follow using the treat as a lure.
  2. Make a left turn, lower your hand to the level of your pup's nose, and issue the command "heel". Your puppy should follow the treat, go a few more paces, and reward him.
  3. Repeat the exercise on the left side. If your puppy gets ahead of you, take a hold of the collar with the treat hand, and slip your free hand beneath his rear end- ease him back in to line with you, and issue the command "easy".

Puppy on his leash

Teaching a puppy to heel- using the leash:

A puppy will naturally pull on her lead when out walking,because she's impatient to get to the source of the smells and sights she will encounter on a walk. Puppies and leads aren't a natural combination.

So, the first thing to do is to get her comfortable with wearing a lead and collar which was discussed in caring for a new puppy.

Once your puppy is happy with a lead and collar attached you can move on to teaching your dog to heel with the leash attached:

The key to this command is that your dog is focused on you, and not the world about him. So choose a location for these lessons with few distractions. Traditionally "heeling" means that your dog walks on your left hand side, close by your side. When your dog is in that position, he's doing things right. So slip on his training lead and collar and settle him in the sit position on your left hand side.

  1. Take a hold of the leash, so that there is very little play in it, between your right hand and the collar. This puts you in control as your able to move your hand closer to the collar to restrict movement.
  2. Clasp a treat in your other hand, which should also hold the far end of the lead. Issue the "heel" command and start off on your left foot.
  3. If your puppy starts to pull ahead of you, give the leash a gentle pull back towards you. Issue the command "easy".
  4. As soon as he's back in the correct heeling position, by your side, give him the treat and praise. Give the "sit" command and repeat the exercise. Gradually increase the distance.
  5. Once your puppy is walking in a straight line in the heel position, move on to left and right turns. As you turn direction, guide your puppy by slipping your hand beneath his collar and steering him in the required direction. Issue the "heel" command as you turn, and he's once again along side you.
  6. Next, move on to changes of pace. When your puppy is doing all of these exercises in the correct heeling position, seven out of ten times, you're both doing excellently. Give yourself a treat!
  7. Be firm with your puppy if he jumps up at you, or grabs at the lead. In a stern tone of voice say "no" and reinforce the command with the wagging finger hand signal.
  8. A few dogs, those that are particularly head strong, will require a head halter instead of the traditional collar and lead.
  9. Only move the lessons outdoors when your confident that your dog will reproduce his indoor lessons under the multitude of distractions that outdoors will bring.

The goal of training your puppy to heel is that you're going to be in total control on walks- no matter where that may be. Your puppy will walk on a loose lead, sit when asked to, lie down when asked to, and return when asked to after you have released her from the lead. This won't happen overnight, you'll need patience to eventually overcome your dog's natural exuberance.

Reinforced by kindness and a reward when things are progressing in the right direction.

Teaching a puppy to heel is just one segment of our puppy-training guide.....

Dog reading a newspaper

So why not find out All About Clicker Training a Puppy.
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