Your dog should be happy to walk at heel, both on and off the lead. However, he cannot be expected to do this if you don’t take the time to teach him where the heel position is.
The heel position is next to your left dog, with your dog’s close to your left knee. You should be able to link this command to others, such as ‘sit’ or ‘down’. If you have more than one dog, they obviously won’t be able to walk with you in this position and it is usually the more dominant dog that will try to get there first. The other dog will then make do with walking close to your right leg. Going along with this arrangement should make it much easier to control the dogs.
TRAINING Heel position
- With your dog standing in front of you and slightly to your left, hold out a treat towards his nose.
- Take a step back with your left leg and use the treat to lure the dog in an arc around you, until his nose is just behind your left leg. Aim for him to step his hindlegs to the right and as soon as he does, click.
- Now bring your feet together and lure your dog forward in line with your knee. When he is standing in the correct position, give him the treat.
- Stand in front of your dog and repeat the exercise. As he begins to understand, you can build in a verbal command such as ‘dose’ or ‘heel’.
- Practice this on both sides but mark each position with a different command, perhaps using ‘close’ for the left side and ‘heel’ for the right side.
As your dog becomes more proficient at getting into position he win begin to develop ‘back end awareness’. He win soon be able to swing his hindquarters actively around to get in close to you as quickly as he can.
The more your dog focuses his attention on you, the less likely he is to be distracted by other dogs, sights and smells while out on a walk. Teaching him to say close in the heel position will help to achieve this.
TRAINING Walk on
Now that your dog understands where he should be, you can begin to walk with him and as you give the ‘close’ command he should maintain the heel position.
- Hold a treat in your hand, down by your side, and walk around the room together. Without stopping, occasionally give him the treat and immediately retrieve another one from your waist bag. Your dog should always be focusing his gaze and his attention towards you in the hope that you will give him a reward.
- Eventually you can try walking in more complicated patterns, such as circles or figures-of-eight.
- Vary your pace from fast to slow and then back to fast again. Gradually build up the pace until you can jog or skip from side to side with the dog remaining in position, next to your leg.
If you’d like more information on unwanted behaviors that your dog’s exhibiting, you’ll probably be interested in taking a look at SitStayFetch. It’s a complete, A-Z manual for the responsible dog owner, and deals with recognizing, preventing, and dealing with just about every problem dog behavior under the sun. Feel free to print out these instructions to use as a reference, just check your printer ink levels first.