To begin I want to explain a fundamental concept in dog training. Dogs learn with operant conditioning. Meaning positive consequences are more likely to occur in the future if we reward them correctly. You can also make a consequence less likely to occur in the future by presenting negative stimuli (a “correction”). Teaching the “heel” command is the perfect example of combining and balancing these two forces together.
Having this in mind,
The Heel command
The command or skill “heel” simply means that the dog must walk directly next to you instead of behind or in front of you. The dog is required to keep pace with you, only stopping when you stop and walking when you walk. Below are the basic steps to train this command with your dog.
Take your dog for a walk and let him pull you as usual. When he gets far away from you, with the leash in your hand call your dog back to you with a positive tone.
Once he gets next to you give him his favorite treat and say “free” or any release command.
Is very important that you use high value treats for this. The reinforcement they get from nature and walks are hard to defeat sometimes and some dogs will not eat unless we have something very yummy or toys that they love.
Repeat that throughout the walk and after 4-5 days you can start to lure the dog onto the side you want him to walk on by holding the treat in the hand on the side you want them to hold.
Now that your dog is coming back to you regularly on your walks it’s time to reward him for staying next to you. Lure your dog back to you again while walking and now start to reward him every 2-3 steps. When he is doing well you can add a few more steps extending the distance he walks with you while waiting for his treat or toy.
3.Know when its to much
In this step of the learning process you don’t want to rush it. If your dog is not “getting it” go back to step number one and keep rewarding a little more. All dogs can be trained, some just need more time than others.
Once your dog is doing well you can start to ensure compliance. When he passes your knees give him a little pop in a backwards direction with the leash to remind him of what he is supposed to be doing. You can also do this when he goes to the side too. Remember to reward him when he is being good.
There’s a lot of training tools that you can use. Slip leashes and choke chains are not recommended cause the trachea can become compressed. For small dogs with tiny jugulars you can use a harness. I usually recommend martingale type collars such as starmark collar or the prong collar for the big pullers.
I like the prong collar because it simulates the correction of the mother and it applies equal pressure, meaning it will not compromise the neck. You can also use the Halti for less pressure and more control. Any type of training collar should be always fitted up the dogs neck since that makes our training collar touch pressure points that are essential in our communication .
Now, always start with enough pressure your dog will need to make sure he performs the action. We never want him to feel uncomfortable . If your choice of collar is too much for your friend try a going down a notch. Starmark’s are used for sensitive dogs and it works great on puppies. Flat martingales are a great option too.
Start to walk in different areas. Your dog works more when he is thinking, so expose him and get him out. He will become good at what he practices, so the sky is the limit!
If you want your dog to heel next to a stroller or a wheelchair add the object slowly by letting your dog smell it first, then putting the food next to his nose and showing him were to go. If he is scared work on having him close to the stroller, pricing him when he smells it or shows interested. Work on this 5-10 minutes a day until he associates the big object with good things. Then you can start moving it and starting short walks .
6.Fading out of the treats:
After a few weeks, start giving less treats slowly until you reward him only at the end of the walk.
1)Dogs communicate better with us through training. Dog training helps us to enhance the bond with our furry friends.
2)Always end a training sessions on a good note. You want your pup to want to go back to it happy.
3)Make it fun!