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Tip #3        Teach your dog to heel beside you

Dogs are lead by their senses. Their sense of smell, sight, sound and even by touch. So to teach your dog to stay by your side while walking means you are at odds with all the distractions that lead your dog away from you. 

When teaching your dog anything new, it’s important to teach them in an environment that has the fewest possible distractions.  I have all my students begin inside their house. 

I teach heeling in stages.

Stage 1:  get the dog in to a sit and then maneuver yourself to the right side of your dog with your leg at the dog’s shoulder.  For some the dog may move away from you as you try to move into position. Be patient and re-sit your dog; hold a treat in front of the dog’s nose and move into heel position. Once you are in position, click and treat your dog.  Practice this for 5 minutes at least twice a day (three and four times a day is even better). 

Stage 2: get the dog to position his sit at heel. We do this by luring the dog with the treat into position.  The dog will follow your hand if it has a yummy treat in it. Do not give the dog the treat until he has successfully positioned himself into heel, then click and treat your dog.

Stage 3: teach the watch command. Once the dog is in sit at heel take your left hand with the treat up to your forehead. When the dog looks up click and treat the dog.  You can continue to treat the dog while he is at heel.  It’s important to dish out the treats generously during this learning period.  Stage 1,2 & 3 can be taught in the first day. Once your dog is up to stage 3, practice this for 3-4 days. 

Stage 4: add a step to stage 3.  Get the dog into sit at heel position, click and treat, then with your left leg or the one closest to the dog, take one step. Encourage the dog to come along by showing him/her the treat in your left hand or the hand closest to the dog. Lure the dog into sit and watch (by moving the treat above the dog’s head and then up to your forehead). When the dog sits and looks up, click and treat the dog. Repeat this stage 2 -4 times a day for at least 3 days then add a step every couple of days until you are doing up to 5 steps. 

Important note: mix up the number of steps you add in for example. one step, stop sit; three steps, stop sit; one step stop sit; two steps, stop sit; four steps, stop sit.  A sequence like this will keep the dog thinking and not anticipating your next move.

This process will not only teach your dog to stay by your side, it will teach them to sit the moment you stop. We call this the automatic sit.