How to Teach Your Dog to Heel in a Day

Is your dog walking YOU? This how-to will help you keep your dog from pulling at the leash, bounding forward, and make taking a walk fun again.

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Tucker, one of the best dogs in the universe.

Understand your dog's brain does not work like yours, despite his big heart. Dogs are social creatures, much like humans, but unlike humans, who are able to grasp the concepts of peers and equals, dogs can't.

They need to find their place: either up or down -- submissive or dominant. If your dog is racing ahead of you, it means that HE is trying to lead YOU. That's not acceptable. YOU need to take control. HE should ALWAYS follow YOU.

DO NOT FEEL BAD about this. The dog will be happier. He will know his place, even if it IS at the bottom. All dogs want to know is where they stand. In a human household, it NEEDS to be at the bottom. That's cool with the dog. It needs to be cool with you, too. So the first step is understanding the behavior of the animal.

Secondly, remember that dogs, are, well... dogs. Creatures of habit, big time. Try to repeat the same routine every time you go for a walk. Same time if you can, same command -- and if you can, make it a single syllable, or two, at the most. Accompany this with a hand signal. Dogs can't talk, remember? They understand body language even better than words. Soon you'll be able to make the gesture alone and the dog will be ready to go.

Make the dog sit at the door and wait for a few seconds. Any dog in the sitting position is automatically in a submissive frame of mind. The universal sign for a dog to sit is to outstretch your hand, palm up, slightly above his face. In a firm voice, tell him "sit."

If he won't, there's a trick to get him to sit. DO NOT PRESS DOWN ON THE SMALL OF HIS BACK. This can damage his spine.

But what you CAN do is feel with your fingers in between where the tail joins his back. Press on these spots and you'll see the dogs legs virtually collapse under him. He CAN'T HELP but sit -- and you're not hurting him.

He'll get the point.

Don't let him get up until you've got the leash on his collar.

If he's a big dog, or you feel he'll be difficult to control, use the Halti® leash on his muzzle. This is NOT a muzzle; his mouth can open fully. It does not hurt him, and it does not leave a mark on his face, like the Gentle Leader® can. It works like a bridle does on a horse, because where the nose goes, so does the animal. He cannot fight you with this on him. Have the salesperson at PetSmart show you how to put it on -- at PetSmart, you can bring the dog right into the store.

Once he's saddled up and ready to go, you need to give him a "release" command to let him get up. "Okay" works well. Now he can stand.

YOU GO OUT THE DOOR FIRST. This is another symbol of dominance.

If he sneaks out first, go back inside and try again.

Depending on the size of the dog, you'll need to hold the leash a certain way. Either way, for the sake of your hands, you may want to wrap the extra portion of the leash around your hands a few times.

For a small dog, hold the leash straight up, firm, but don't choke him.

For a big dog -- one, say, which reaches to your hip -- you want to hold the leash right at the clip.

The heel position is on your left side. Consider a two-foot box next to you. Anytime the dog steps out of that box, you want to correct him.

Take great care when correcting your dog, however, to do it properly, because dogs can get their feelings hurt and then their training won't work.

Correction, then praise when they get it right. Praise works a thousand times better than correction. Always remember that.

Begin with the dog at your left side. Say "heel" and begin to walk forward. Naturally, the dog will bound ahead.

Spin around suddenly and begin walking the opposite direction. The startled dog will have no choice but to follow you, and will remain -- necessarily -- in the heel box. Again, say "heel."

Praise him for being in the right place. Say "Good DOG!"

Remember: you are the intelligent, intrepid human. As soon as you feel him begin to pull, spin around again 180 degrees.

Again, the dog will have no choice but to follow. "Good Dog!"

You will feel foolish walking back and forth in front of your house, turning suddenly and cooing to your dog, but this works really, really well, and your dog will catch on fast.

Before you know it, you will be walking farther and farther.

Once you feel as though you can begin to take an actual walk, you can try the "jerk correction" -- pull sharply on the leash and say "no" just as sharply. He should return to the heel position.

If he does not, turn around, say "heel," then turn around again.

Keep doing this until he gets it. Won't take long.