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Why Doesn’t My Dog Heel?

When people ask me this question the first response is because yo11393008_10155670444180284_6880412006113010125_ou haven’t taught the dog to heel. Putting a choker collar on a dog and punishing it when it moves away from you doesn’t teach the dog to heel. Dragging the dog around by the leash doesn’t teach the dog to heel.

First we need to address the handler – You. Do you know what heel means?

Before you start teaching a dog to heel you need to understand a few things.

  1. Heel means your dog is beside you – on the right or left.
  2. Heeling taught in many obedience schools is for competition only. It has almost no relevance or practical application when walking down the street.
  3. Heel means that the dog is watching you close enough that it knows when you are going to turn.
  4. Heel means that you tell the dog what you want. You communicate through hand signals, verbal cues, and body language.
    1. When you are going to stop
    2. When you are going to turn
    3. When you are going to speed up
    4. Even, what way you are going to turn.
  5. Heeling means you have given your dog the coping skills needed to handle stress and distractions when walking down the street.
    1. Your dog has learned what to do when passing another dog
      1. Do you allow a greeting?
      2. Do you want it to come closer and focus on you?
    2. Your dog has learned what to do when you stop. Do you want it to stand and be ready? Do you want a sit or down?
    3. Your dog has learned that it may only explore when you give it permission to explore.
  6. You have created 2 or 3 different walking protocols
    1. Heel – precision, close, ‘pay attention to me’ heeling
    2. Walk with me – relaxed, loose leash, don’t pull on the leash
    3. Release – dog can go do what it wants, except pull on the leash
  7. You have learned how to regain control when your dog starts to pull without punishing the dog or endangering yourself.
  8. You have determined that you are in control, not the dog.

The next step is for you to develop consistent behaviors and commands. If you are not sure what you want from a puppy then the puppy or dog will not be able to give it.

When we teach the heel we don’t start with the movement. We break the commands down and teach one at a time.

  • Look at Me
  • Follow me
  • Stand at my left/right
  • Leave it
  • Turn left/Right
  • Turn around
  • Stop
  • Tell me when you are nervous and do not want to enter a situation (ie, do not want to approach another dog)
  • We teach dogs how to redirect back to us
  • We teach dogs how to fix their position and return to the left side if they move too far ahead
  • We teach dogs a command that means ‘go check it out’
  • We teach positions: left side, right side, come front and look at me, walk behind me

Heeling Primers and Heeling Articles:

Want An Obedient Dog? Stop Yanking The Leash!

How to Teach the Heel?

Download Dog Heeling Primer

Stubborn Dogs

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