Dog Training – Teaching Your Dog to Heel

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 50,141
    Dog trainer Carla Nanmack-Wenger demonstrates how to teach your dog to heel.

    Carla Nanmack-Wenger

    Carla Nammack-Wenger is the owner of Country Club Kennels & Training located in Fauquier County, Virginia. She is also the founder of The Chance Foundation, an all-breed, non-profit dog rescue organization specializing in taking in abandoned, abused and neglected dogs and providing them w/ medical care, socialization and training in an effort to find them permanent, loving homes. Carla has been training dogs of all breeds and temperaments since 1991. She started Country Club Kennels & Training in 1996 with the goal of offering her clients an attractive alternative to standard boarding kennels. The facility is located on her beautiful, 45-acre property in Catlett, VA. All the dogs are taken out a minimum of 6x/day and social, friendly dogs are turned out in supervised playgroups for their outings. Bedroom accommodations are also available for special needs dogs. Carla has spent years studying dogs and dog behavior. She is well known for her gentle yet effective training techniques and has acquired a reputation for being able to help dogs who have been deemed “beyond help”. Carla’s passion for what she does is demonstrated on a daily basis as she works with the homeless dogs in her care as well as her customer’s dogs. Carla is the trainer of choice of many rescue groups as they send her their “most difficult dogs” in hopes that with her love, patience and understanding, they will become adoptable. She has never met a dog that couldn’t be helped. Carla and her husband Ed are the proud owners of twelve, wonderful rescue dogs all of whom live in peace and harmony together.

    Carla: Hi there, my name is Carla, and I'm here with you today at country Club Kennels & Training. We are doing a video on some basic dog training techniques and leadership skills. In this segment, we are going to cover some basic ideas on how to teach your dog how to heel, and by heel I mean walking on your left hand side, going your pace, your direction.

    I'm going to use a dog named Alley(ph) with me right now. She is one of our wonderful Chance foundation dogs. She is available for adoption, and right now I'm going to do the first basic exercise in teaching a dog to heel. Number one, it's very important that the dog see you as a leader, you want to come across as confident, in control, the dog wants to see you as a leader and take your lead. You don't want the dog walking you; you are going to walk the dog. It's going to be fun for her. I'm not going to drag her, pull her, and correct her. I'm going to make it exciting for her to be with me. I'm going to say the dog's name Alley followed by the command heel and when I'll say heel, I walk off. I'm not going to wait for her to see if she is going to move. I'm going to walk and she is going to follow my lead. So here we go, Alley heel, good girl. Alley, heel, good girl. Alley sit, good girl. When I'm walking, my hands are down by my sides. I'm not holding leash tense and tight like this, which many people do. I don't want tension on her. I want it to be completely relaxed and then she feels relaxed with me.

    So hands down by your sides wherever they drop naturally, slacking her leash, where I'm not forcing her, I'm not pulling her, I'm not correcting her. I'm going to make it fun for her to walk in place. So, here we go. Alley heel, shoulders and head high, moving forward. I'm not staring at the dog. When I'm making U turn I'm going to say, Alley, Alley, good girl, sit, good girl. When I'm making a U turn, I want her to know that I'm about to change directions. I don't want to have to pop her with the leash unnecessarily. So, when I'm about to turn, I'm going to say her name to get her attention, and once her head turns she sees that I'm changing directions and she wants to catch up to me, I'm going to praise her for taking my lead. If she does not turn with me and starts to pull the other way, then I'll give her a quick little leash correction and/or a verbal correction.

    It can be hey, it can be ah, it can be she, but don't say her name as a correction; you want her name to always to be a positive thing, but if she doesn't follow my lead, quick little correction and move. Don't wait for her, don't wait for her, don't let her make you stop. She is not training you, you are training her, and when you want to move on that heel, remember her name followed by the command heel, if I want to turn left, I'm going to give her a verbal clue I'm going to say slow, which means slow down, get out of my way because I'm coming around you. If she doesn't get out of my way, my knees are going to bump into her body and make it very awkward for her to be in my way.

    When I want to make a U turn to the right, I'm going to say her name and then enthusiastic tone of voice which let's her know, hey watch me I'm changing directions and I better catch up, so when she does she gets praise for that, and again when you come to a halt just have her sit, Alley sit, good girl, down, good girl. If you are giving her a treat, make sure you use it effectively, so you want to have it in the hand that's going to give a hand command, so dog is going to watch that hand, she smells it, she knows it's there.

    Right now, I'm going to let her know I have got this treat, Alley because she is getting bored. It's hot out here and she is, I'm trying releasing her tension span but now she has perked up. Now using treats, there is a difference between using them as a bribe and using them as a reward. They are very effective to use as a reward when teaching a dog something new. Give them occasionally, not every time. If you give them every time, then you get that dog that will only perform for that treat. So you want to eventually wean them off, always be generous with your verbal praise, sometimes you can praise with your pat, as long as it is not too excitable of a dog, and here we go.

    I am going get her attention. I hold this treat right by my belly button which teaches her to watch me, so Alley heel. Alley, good girl, Alley good girl, Alley heel, Alley, sit good girl. When she sits you can give her a treat, alright well that's basically some, very basic simple techniques for teaching your dog how to heel. There is a lot more, you eventually you want to add distractions, work in bigger areas, but right now start with the baby steps, the dog is your friend, your companion, you want it to be fun for them and fun for you. So relax, be confident, and enjoy your walk.