Teach a Dog to Heel! in 4 steps

Teaching your dog to walk at heel is part of the basic education of every furry nosed pet. Doesn't it look great when you see a four-legged friend walking attentively next to their owner? And not only that: this command is very helpful in all kinds of situations and not difficult to train!

Dog running next to master
Table of Contents

Why Is the Heel Command So Important?

Every dog should learn to heel at an early age. But why do you actually need this command? This question is easy to answer: there will always be situations in which your darling should be next to you. It doesn't matter if you're in a downtown pedestrian zone, on a narrow sidewalk by the street, or on a dirt path where another person with a dog is walking toward you.

In such moments, this command represents the essential bridge to safety . Your dog walks close to you and is focused on you. This way, he does not hinder other people who want to pass you and is also better protected against someone bumping into him. The pure concentration on you additionally supports that your dog does not greet a person or dog without permission. You will be much more relaxed in your daily life with this command, once it is firmly anchored in your sweet little dog's head.

4 Steps to a Safe "Heel”

Dog runs at heel

It's important that you practice in a low-stimulus environment at first. This way, there are hardly any distractions for your dog and it is much easier for him to concentrate on you and your training. Your home is ideal for this. Also, make sure to practice in short sessions. If the training sessions are too long, your pelt-nose will lose concentration and not be as successful.

Step No. 1

First, decide if you want your dog to walk on your right or left side for this command. Take a treat in your hand on the side you want your dog to walk on. If you practice indoors first, you don't need a leash. Outside, however, it is advisable to use one. Next, get your dog's attention by talking to him and showing him the treat.

Reward your dog for looking at you. Especially if he does this without you talking to him. The praise you can give him is a mixture of treats, verbal praise and petting. Don't be too hectic and excited - you don't want him to jump up on you!

Step No. 2

If your dog is sitting or standing on your desired side, give him your "heel" signal and take 2 to 3 steps forward. The signal can be a tap on the side of your thigh or a signal word like "heel" or "by me". Fewer steps are better in the beginning.

Your dog will follow you because he is focused on the treat in your hand. As a result, he will also automatically maintain the correct distance. Stop again and give your dog the treat when he has done it correctly. Give him additional verbal praise.

Make sure your furry nose does not jump up at youto get to the piece of food. When this happens, stand still and wait until your dog is calm again next to you. Then repeat the exercise. Successfully perform this short step several times - preferably even in several training sessions - before moving on to the next stage.

Also, always make sure to end the command with a verbal release signal such as "done" or "okay". This way, your dog knows when he's done with the exercise and doesn't have to decide for himself when it's over.

Step No. 3

Increase the requirements step by step from now on. . First, simply extend the distance that your pet has to walk. Be sure to do this in small intervals and repeat each exercise several times with success before increasing the distance further.

It is also a good idea to include running around curves and obstacles in your training. This will make it easier for you in everyday situations later on, since you are unlikely to be running exclusively straight ahead in open spaces. You should also vary your pace: Sometimes you creep slowly, sometimes you walk normally, and sometimes you jog.

You can now also hold the treat less conspicuously in your hand so that your dog learns to focus on you, rather than just on his coveted reward. You are the key to the jackpot! In this step, you can also begin to incorporate small distractions. Let an acquaintance walk past you or place your four-legged friend's favorite toy clearly visible near you.

Your dog should continue to walk beside you and focus on you, rather than paying attention to the enticements or running toward them. Practice these circumstances successfully several times in a row before you increase the difficulty of the training again. By the way, regular breaks are just as important for success as successful repetitions of the exercises.

Step No. 4

If the previous steps work well, you can move the workout outside and slowly incorporate incidents that you might encounter in your everyday life. Among other things, you can ask your dog to walk at heel while another dog walks past you. You can also walk past a playground that is full of children playing.

Only you can judge how good your dog is at this command . If you trust him, you can also walk with him in foot command through the marketplace. However, this is very difficult for your pet because there are exciting distractions all around.

It requires a lot of training and patience until your pelt-nose can manage this command. Don't be angry with him if something goes wrong. Just practice again in a less exciting situation. As time goes by, you can reward him with treats less and less . When your dog has internalized the command, verbal praise will be enough.


Successful Training

Frequently Asked Questions

This command is used to make your dog walk close beside you on command. This is useful in many moments of everyday life - for example, when you have to walk through a crowd of people or you want him to walk next to you while you pass another dog.

Your dog never does anything wrong on purpose! At most, he doesn't yet understand what exactly is expected of him or can't yet resist the interesting distractions so well. However, this is not his fault - it is in his nature to want to sniff and discover! Therefore, patience, many repetitions, small increases and of course praise and reward are the ingredients for sustainable training success.

It is important that you practice in small steps. Start in the beginning in an environment where there are hardly any exciting distractions. Over time, you'll increase the level of difficulty. For more detailed instructions, feel free to read our article.


"Heel" is a useful command that can – with a little patience – be fairly easy to teach . It should be part of the basic training of every four-legged friend. A dog that can walk at heel not only looks beautifully well-behaved, but can also benefit from the command. He can strut through everyday life safely and with significantly less stress!

With these tips, this training is guaranteed to work:

  • Practice in small steps
  • Always reward directly after a successfully completed exercise - this is the only way your dog will associate the praise with walking next to you!
  • Have patience! No one is perfect on their first try.

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Written by Anja Boecker
Written by Anja Boecker

My name is Anja Boecker, and I am a certified dog trainer and behavior consultant. With these articles, I want to help you to understand your dog better and to build an inseparable bond.

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