Mastering the Loose Leash Walk and Heel: Why You Should Teach Both

heel training tips Apr 02, 2024
blue merle australian shepherd heels nicely by owner on greenway

Are you tired of your dog pulling on the leash during walks? You're not alone. Many dog owners dream of strolling with their furry companions without the constant struggle of tugging and pulling. It is important to teach your dog the concept of yielding to leash pressure vs pulling against it. After you teach your dog this fundamental concept,* then the question arises: should you also teach a more formal heel command?

The answer might surprise you. While it's true that you don't necessarily need to teach a heel to have a dog that walks nicely on a loose leash, there are compelling reasons why you should consider it.

For us, teaching dogs to heel is just as important as teaching a loose leash "let's go" walk. When they're in a heel position, they're completely focused and attentive. Positioned at our left or right side, they're not distracted by the allure of new scents, sights, or people. Instead, they move in sync with us, mirroring our pace and halting when we stop. This level of obedience is invaluable, especially in public settings, as it reinforces the message that they should prioritize their attention on us.

Moreover, having a dog in a heel position allows for quick and efficient feedback. Whether it's a gentle correction or praise for good behavior, having them close by enables us to communicate effectively and reinforce desired walking habits.

However, that doesn't mean your dog can't enjoy a more relaxed stroll. During "let's go walks," they have the freedom to explore, sniff, and meander to their heart's content—without the accompanying pulling on the leash. The key here is to instill the fundamental skill of yielding to leash pressure, ensuring that your dog understands how to respond appropriately to guidance.

Ultimately, by teaching both loose leash walking and heeling, you equip your dog with a versatile set of skills. They learn to adapt their behavior based on the context, whether it's navigating crowded streets with precision or enjoying leisurely outings with freedom.

So, if you're striving for harmonious walks with your canine companion, consider incorporating both loose leash walking and heeling into your training routine. With patience, consistency, and positive reinforcement, you'll pave the way for enjoyable and stress-free walks for both you and your furry friend.

*We recorded a live webinar and mini course on leash walking to help you start changing those walks from unpleasant to what you look forward to every day!



Get news, training tips, and group class schedules delivered to your inbox.