Heeling is an advanced form of loose leash walking where the dog is under command to stay in an exact location by your side. This is helpful for situations where your dog needs to be right next to you because of safety concerns, crowded areas, to avoid distractions, or because it’s required for a specific activity such as competitions. In this ultimate guide, we will explore everything you need to know about heeling.

What is heeling training for dogs?

Heeling training is the process of teaching your dog to walk calmly by your side, without pulling, lunging, or leaving the heel position when under command. It involves teaching your dog to follow your lead, paying attention to your movements, and walking on a loose leash all while in an exact location by your side. The goal of teaching heel is to create a specific place the dog knows is safe and comfortable by your side. 

The Benefits of Heeling

There are lots of reasons that teaching heel would be beneficial for you and your dog. First would be because of safety. Some activities will be safer for you and the dog if they know there is a specific spot they needs to stay in. Running is a great example of this, a dog constantly changing positions on a run often results in getting tangled in the leash, tripping, or falling, risking injury to you and the dog. Being able to heel for activities like this helps everyone stay safe so you can enjoy your time with your dog! 

Heeling also provides another level of focus above that of a loose leash walk. because it is a command to stay in a specific location by your side it is helpful for navigating busy and crowded areas, or areas with lots of distractions. Heel is a command that helps the dog know it needs to stay very focused on you and the task at hand. 


Start Heeling

Before training heel it is important that you have developed the three lines of communication with your dog, and have a good loose leash walk. Our extensive online video courses go into detail showing you how to develop these three lines of communication and how to use the leash so you can effectively train heel and many other crucial behaviors.

If you have built this ability to communicate with your dog, use both positive and negative markets, and your dog knows how to follow the leash then heeling can be a relatively easy skill to train. Remember to be consistent and clear with you communication and you’ll be off to a great start teaching heel!

One on One Class

Tools For Training Heel

Leash – having a good leash is crucial for heeling. We recommend using the “slip lead”, found in our shop. This is because it allows you to communicate with your dog at a much lighter level than a tradition leash and collar. It is designed to give immediate and constant feedback to the dog to clearly communicate when it is in position or out of position. 

Location – We recommend you start your training in a familiar area for the dog so it is comfortable and happy. Then as it understands how to heel and be successful start venturing out into new areas and increasing the distractions. This tactic of starting slow and familiar then working your way up to bigger more distracting situations will set you and your dog up for success and build a dependable heel.

Tips For Successful Heeling

Keep training sessions short: Just like people, dogs learn best in short frequent sessions rather than long infrequent ones. 

Be consistent: Use the same commands and techniques each time you train your dog to avoid confusion.

Be patient: Develop dependable behaviors can take time so be patient with your dog. Enjoy the journey of teaching your dog!

Reward good behavior: Use those positive markers! It’s easy to tell the dog when its out of position and forget to tell it when it is in position.

Use distractions: Gradually introduce distractions to make the training more challenging and the heel more dependable.

Why Choose T's Doghouse?

At T’s Doghouse, we are passionate about helping dog owners achieve their training goals, and we have a proven track record of success. Our online dog training courses are designed by experienced dog trainers, and our methods are based on positive reinforcement techniques. We offer personalized support and feedback to ensure that you and your dog are making progress, and our courses are flexible and convenient, allowing you to learn at your own pace.


Most frequent questions and answers

This really depends on your goals with your dog. Heeling can be taught at any age and anytime, however many people are happy teaching their dog to loose leash walk and never need to teach heel. If you have a need for your dog to heel then we recommend starting right away! Remember that time builds consistency and proficiency. The sooner you start training the sooner you can have a consistent and dependable heel. 

Rather than thinking in terms of punishment and reward it is beneficial to think in terms of communication. With heeling it is important to be able to communicate when your dog is in the correct position using positive markers, and when it is out of position using negative markers. Being able to communicate the correct AND incorrect actions helps the dog have a complete understanding of what you want and how it can be successful in what you’re asking. 

In our experience it is rare for a dog to be disobedient because it is “stubborn or vindictive”. The dog is almost always acting in a way that it believes is best, so if its behavior is not in line with what you are acting then somewhere there is a breakdown in communication. If you are doing your job of communicating effectively then the dog will respond correctly, if it doesn’t then think about how you can communicate differently, or more clearly to your dog. 

This depends on your and your dogs experience levels. Heeling is an advanced form of loose leash walking so if you and your dog have already been through our training course and mastered loose leash walks then you both should quickly pick up on heeling. If you haven’t been through those courses yet we recommend you start there and then work up to heeling!