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By AKC GoodDog! Helpline Trainer Christie Canfield

Teaching your puppy or older dog to heel can be easy and fun. Use this directed shaping technique to help your dog learn to love to walk beside you.

  • Get a lot of yummy treats, cut up into small pieces. Start inside the house and walk around a spacious room or up and down a hallway.
  • Call your dog’s name and point to the side that you want him to walk on (whichever side you choose but left is in the traditional heel side).
  • As soon as your dog comes alongside you, use a clicker or say “yes,” then reward. Do this a couple of times, then stop calling him and pointing your side and allow your dog to willingly come up beside you. Mark and reward for each time your dog comes into position.
  • Pretty soon, you will need to increase your pace, turn, or zig-zag in an effort to “lose” him so he can find his position again.
  • As he gets better and better at this, start adding eye contact (“Look” or “Watch Me”).

Handy Tips:

  • “Heel” is traditionally on your left side for obedience and rally competitions.
  • Hold your treat hand at your chest. This will prevent luring (dog just following the food) and jumping while walking if your treat hand is just out of reach.
  • Be sure to treat with the hand next to your dog to prevent him from crossing in front of you to get the treat.
  • Always tell your dog when he is correct with a click or a “yes.”

Need some help training your dog? While you may not be able to attend in-person training classes during COVID-19, we are here to help you virtually through AKC GoodDog! Helpline. This live telephone service connects you with a professional trainer who will offer unlimited, individualized advice on everything from behavioral issues to CGC prep to getting started in dog sports.