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 Dog Behavior Library

Basic Dog Obedience
Teaching the HEEL Instruction

The HEEL Instruction ("Walk directly at my left side, at the pace I set.")

First Choice Method:

1) If the dog does not already know SIT, teach that Instruction before teaching, HEEL.

2) Using your left hand (containing food), lean over, and lure the dog into heel position with food held just in front of his nose.  Line the dog's head with the left outside seam of your pant or leg. Hold the leash in your right hand, but only use it to prevent the dog from leaving.

3) Say your dog's name (ONCE) followed by saying, "Heel," in a happy tone. Begin walking with your left foot.

4) Clearly pronounce the word, HEEL. At first the dog will merely follow your hand trying to get the food. This is okay at first. Go ahead and release small pieces from your hand intermittently to reinforce keeping the dog's head in position - just to your left side.

Do not stop if your dog lags behind. Instead, speed up,  pat your side and encourage the pup with high happy tone, baby talk, "let's go...smooch-smooch-smooch".

5) Do not stop if your dog lags behind, speed up and make appealing baby talk noises, and pat your side. If your dog turns away, turn the opposite direction and try to become more appealing by a high happy voice. If the distraction is too appealing, you may need to temporarily use the leash in the right hand to keep him from running away. Use the food treat to get his attention again, and start over.

6) Initially, you will have food in both your right and left hands. Periodically stop. When you do, swing your right hand around to your left side in front of his nose and lure slightly up as you say, "SIT." When you do this you should be still facing forward with the dog at your left, but you are leaning down and around to your left to give the verbal and hand signal for SIT.

7) Because your dog knows sit, you can keep his/her attention by asking for a sit every few paces. Gradually phase out the food, and replace it with praise alone.

Second Choice Method:

Use the leash at first to keep him in position on your left side, so that you can praise him for doing right.

It is permissible to lightly "pop" the collar to get his attention. Avoid any heavy jerks on the lead, since that will only make the leash (and you!) unpleasant associations.

As he is doing well, begin to slack the lead, and use it only to steer him back into position.

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