Question by Bridget: Teaching a dog to heel?
I have 2 large breed dogs, one is 5 years old and the other is 7 years old, and they don’t know this command. I’m having some trouble teaching it, and I’m just looking for some advice or resources on POSITIVE methods of training a heel.

Best answer:

Answer by Elaine
What I do with my dog (and you can use your variations. For example, my boyfriend uses his left and I my right), I make him sit in the proper position. That means his spine is parallel to mine, and his head is in line with my thigh. If he does not sit “properly”, I will physically move him (I only did that a few times before he picked it up.) Now, I always walk him on my right side (consistency is key! and i’ll let you know why in a bit), so when he is in sitting position (which we will now refer to as the heel position), I will take a step forward with my right foot and say the command, “heel” (step left foot first if the dog is on the left side), and we will start walking. I have him on a short leash (don’t worry, when he learns to heel, he will not have a a short leash and can actually walk without one, although it is not recommended where him or others could be in danger). I relax my arm, he will be roughly 6 inches from me, and I’ll add 2 inches and that is the length at which I will hold the leash.
When he walks ahead of me, I will give a quick tug until he is back in position (head where thigh is), and you just keep doing that until he stays there. Try not to let him do a long continuous pull, as they can get used to it and just keep pulling, even though they are now wheezing. If I have to give quick shirt tugs for 10 seconds straight, I will, as it has a better affect. This will take a few days to get the hang of it, but remember, praise the action. (good heel, or good heel ! as opposed to good boy/girl, good . You want to be able to remind them of the action so they keep doing it while praising them. If your dog lags behind, then you would pat your thigh and offer words of encouragement so they keep up (come on, , let’s go). When you want to stop walking, take two slower steps and stop. Your dog cannot read your mind on when you want to stop, so the slowing down is an indicator (we never give our dog the opportunity to fail, if we can help it =D ) and therefore it won’t be such a surprise to him and he won’t just keep walking. You make him sit in the proper heel position, once again saying the word “heel”. He should be in the position we previously spoke of. Wait 2 seconds, then pet your dog and praise him. It is important not to pet him during this walk, but only to praise, because sometimes they view the petting as you relieving them of the command, so it’s best to do it at the end, or when you stop the heel. When I first started, we would heel at the end of every block, whether it was our right of way on the street or not, and stop the heel and pet him. If you do it during the walk, he will likely see it as a release and walk however he wants again.
Now about that foot thing. If you have you dog on your right side, you take a step with your right foot to start the heel, but if you want him to so a sit-stay or a down-stay, you lead with your left, indicating that he is not to follow. Of course it’s the opposite if he is on your left side.

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