Heel Tips: Teaching A Dog To Heel In Simple Stages
In this post I will share with you some tips on teaching your dog to heel. You may think that you have learned everything there is to know about training your dog, but sometimes it’s good to refresh yourself. So here are my top 10 tips on teaching your dog to heel!
1) Teach Your Dog To Be Gentle With Other Dogs And People
When you first start out, it might seem like the other dogs and people around you are constantly barking at each other or even attacking one another. But don’t worry; they’re just having a bad day. They’ll get over it soon enough.
Just keep doing what you were doing before and eventually they’ll all calm down too.
2) Don’t Force Your Dog To Do Anything
You might think that if you yell at your dog, he’ll immediately stop barking. Wrong! If you force him to stop barking, then he won’t learn anything because he’ll associate the sound of his own voice with pain.
Instead, try using positive reinforcement (i.e., praise). Praise him when he does something right and punish him when he does something wrong. If he does something wrong a couple of times, then show him how to do it right.
3) Be Consistent
Your dog needs to know what is and what isn’t acceptable behavior. So if you tell your dog not to bark at the postman one day, then you can’t let him bark at the postman the next. If he does bark at the postman the next day, then you need to ignore him until he stops barking.
Ignoring him simply means not giving him any attention for doing something wrong. He’ll catch on pretty quickly.
4) Be Patient
Sometimes you’ll be patient and your dog will run circles around you, barking all the while. Other times, you’ll be patient and your dog will continue to sit there calmly as if nothing is going on. Don’t expect your dog to learn in a day or even a week.
This is something that could take months.
5) Be Consistent (Again)
Many people make the mistake of being too lenient with their pets. It’s important to be consistent with your dog. If he does something wrong, you must punish him every single time without fail or else he won’t learn.
If you don’t punish him one time, then he’ll think that if he does it again, you MIGHT punish him. Which of course, you probably won’t. Which means he’ll do it again. Eventually you’re going to have a hard time getting him to stop doing whatever it is that you don’t want him to do.
6) Don’t Expect Miracles
Even if you follow the tips above, your dog may not even learn his name or how to heel at all! Genetics and environment play a large role in how your dog is going to turn out. If you have an old family dog that sleeps all day and never listens to you, then chances are he isn’t going to learn very much no matter how hard you try.
Always keep this in mind. There’s only so much you can do.
If you don’t succeed the first time, try, try again! Many people give up on their dogs way too soon. Never surrender!
7) Be Prepared to Be-Aunt a Large, Loud and Annoying Dog
When your dog finally does learn his name and how to heel, he’s going to do it excessively! He’s going to run around and around and around and around and around you, barking at the top of his lungs. He won’t listen when you tell him to stop.
He won’t sit still when you tell him to sit. He won’t pay attention when you tell him to pay attention. And he certainly won’t heel when you tell him to heel. This can become quite stressful at times, especially when there are large crowds of people around. You may even find yourself yelling at your dog for barking and not listening to you out of frustration rather than out of anger.
If you’re anything like me, you may even end up kicking your dog in an effort to get him to listen and stop barking. Yes, I’m ashamed of it and no, I don’t suggest you do it, but we all have our moments.
This is called ‘Auntification’ or ‘Auntifying’ and is a very common problem faced by many dog owners.
The cause? Well that’s obvious, isn’t it?
You’re now a proud owner of a large, loud, annoying dog! Congratulations!
8) Don’t Give Up!
I know I’ve said this already, but it’s very important so it’s worth saying again. Even after your dog has learned his name and how to heel, he may still have occasional lapses in behavior. This is to be expected.
What is important however, is how you deal with these lapses.
If you start getting angry, frustrated or start using abusive methods of training, then you run the risk of ‘Auntifying’ your dog which can lead to even worse behavioral problems.
What is important is how YOU deal with the situation. So if your dog starts acting up in public or just generally being annoying, remain calm.
Think to yourself, “What would Auntie do”?
Then proceed to calmly correct your dog’s behavior in the most appropriate manner. Chances are, if you’ve done everything right up to this point, then correcting him should be a simple process.
As for your dog, he probably just wants attention. All dogs love attention after all, so if he’s bothering you or others, its because he thinks that if he acts annoying enough, you’ll pay more attention to him. So give him attention, but in the way that he should be getting it.
Give him praise when he’s behaving well and give him a good rub behind the ears or on his chest when you think he’s been behaving nicely. This is usually enough to calm him down.
If at first this doesn’t work, then you’ll have to try something else. Some dogs just don’t respond to praise and attention, instead they need something a bit more…well…physical!
Sources & references used in this article:
- Journeys with the Black Dog: Inspirational stories of bringing depression to heel (T Wigney – 2017 – books.google.com)
- Making the Dogman heel: Recommendations for improving the effectiveness of dogfighting laws (J Ross, B McKinney – 1995 – Macmillan)
- A standardized behavior test for potential guide dog puppies: Methods and association with subsequent success in guide dog training (F Ortiz – Stan. J. Animal L. & Pol’y, 2010 – HeinOnline)
- Your Labrador Retriever Puppy Month by Month: Everything You Need to Know at Each Stage of Development (L Asher, S Blythe, R Roberts, L Toothill… – Journal of Veterinary …, 2013 – Elsevier)
- Learn more now: 10 simple steps to learning better, smarter, and faster (T Albert, D Eldredge, D Ironside, B Ironside – 2016 – books.google.com)
- Teaching Your Cat Simple Tricks: Storey’s Country Wisdom Bulletin A-272 (ML Conner – 2004 – books.google.com)