Obedience Training: Reinforce the HEEL Command

There are two potential reinforcements with the HEEL command: reinforcing the HEEL zone and reinforcing the automatic SIT. We will begin with reinforcing the HEEL zone.

Give the command HEEL and begin walking (slow pace first). As long as your dog’s head is in the HEEL zone, praise with “good HEEL.” Once your dog’s head reaches the outer boundary of the zone, give a quick corrective snap (toward the HEEL zone) with NO and re-command HEEL. Once your dog’s head returns to the zone, praise.

Do not use the leash to restrict your dog’s movements. This is called TOWING because you are literally towing your dog around. Towing your dog is cheating! If he doesn’t maintain the zone on his own, give a NO correction and re-command HEEL Praise when he returns to the zone.

Review the leadership meaning of HEEL described in chapter Establishing Leadership. If you let your dog too far out of the HEEL zone prior to correcting, you may end up giving more corrections instead of one properly timed correction.

Another redirection tip is to remember that there is no part of the HEEL zone in front of your left leg. If your dog begins to curve his head in front of your left leg, correct outward to your left and re-command.

The second reinforcement of HEEL is the automatic SIT. When you are ready to finish moving the HEEL zone by walking, slow down so your dog focuses his attention to you. Slowly come to a full stop and if your dog does not SIT, correct upwards with NO and command SIT. Praise when your dog sits.

Avoid commanding your dog to SIT when you stop moving. If you get in the habit of commanding SIT, your dog will adopt the idea of waiting to SIT until being asked. To build the respect inherent with the HEEL command, the SIT must be automatic.