Teaching Heel (or Walk Nicely by My Side)
Like the skill and art of dancing, the benefits of heeling stretch well beyond the exercise itself. Dancing is a wonderful form of recreation on the dance floor, but the posture, alignment, controlled energy, balance, and poise practiced in dance movements spill over into everyday tasks.
Similarly, the heel command teaches the dog to walk at your left side, regardless of your pace or direction, and to sit when you stop. Gone are the days of her pulling ahead or dragging behind, weaving from side to side, or getting underfoot during walks. As she learns to heel and you learn how to teach her to move precisely, a deeper learning takes place for both of you. To remain in position, the dog's awareness, watchfulness, and willingness must grow. Since you need to watch your dog very intently during the process, you'll develop a sense of what the dog is going to do before she does it — otherwise known as reading your dog. Trust and respect develop as you and your canine partner master the art of heeling. This bond will help you channel the dog's energy more efficiently.
Done properly and consistently, mastering the heel takes time. The precision and attention a solid heel demand are beyond the capabilities of a young puppy, and even a young but immature dog. If you get too demanding with this one, it can backfire on you, leaving you and your dog frustrated and confused. Keep it simple for your puppy.
If you are using a slip collar, make sure the active ring (the one the leash attaches to) comes across the top of the right side of your dog's neck. This is to ensure that the collar will loosen after corrections.
When you begin to practice heeling, hold the leash in your right hand with your right thumb through the loop and four fingers holding the slack just as you did during leash-length sneakaways. Command (Dog's name) Heel as you begin walking. Prepare to stop by grabbing the collar with your right hand and using your left to place her rear end into a sitting position so her right front foot is alongside your left ankle.
As you walk along preparing to halt, control your dog's position using the fold-over maneuver. Grab the leash with your left hand and hold it taut over dog's head, then use your right to grip the braiding or stitching of the leash just above the snap. Next, take your left hand off the leash and use it to place dog in a sit in perfect heel position as you halt.
If your pup forges ahead, do a leash-length sneakaway. Drop the slack of the leash, grip the handle, hold your hands at your waistline, and run away. As the dog returns to your side, return to the original leash grip, holding the slack, as you continue walking.
If your pup lags behind, say Good Dog! as you spring ahead by taking a puddle jump with your left leg first. As you do this your left thigh will pull the leash, and your pup, back to heel position. The jump ahead will also prevent her from crossing behind to the right side.