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How to teach your dog to walk by your side - Stop my puppy pulling on the lead-Train my puppy walking to heel.

Updated on May 13, 2018

Walking to Heel

One of the most common problems with training a new puppy is getting him to walk on a lead, this article will hopefully help you understand why this is and how to correct it.

Dogs especially puppies hate walking to heel, walking to heel is no fun and stops him from exploring his new world.

From your point of view walking to heel is a must, not least because it let's your dog know you are the boss, you are in control of your walks and you decide when your dog has fun.

How to teach a dog walking to heel is the next part in our puppy training program. In this article we will explain how to teach a puppy to walk to heel on and off the lead. Why you should teach your puppy to walk to heel and problem solving with dogs who have gotten into poor lead walking habits.

Teaching a Puppy to Walk on a Lead

Puppies DO NOT like wearing a collar and when you add the dog lead into the equation he usually freaks out. Don't worry all is not lost; he will get used to it.

Choosing the correct collar and lead is important, make sure it is padded, not to heavy but strong enough for your breed of dog. Under no circumstances use a choker collar on a young puppy and personally I am completely against collars that deliver an electric shock to any dog especially puppies.

Once you have chosen your puppies first collar and lead, let him wear the collar around the house for a day or so. It is quite normal for him to be unhappy and try and remove it, the best way to train him to wear his new dog collar is to distract him, play with him; he will soon forget he is wearing it.

Once he is happy attach his dog lead and let him play with it for a short while, supervise him and make sure he doesn't get tangled up or snags himself on the furniture, this will only frighten your puppy and delay your training.

When your puppy is settled and has forgotten about his collar and lead it's time to move onto the next stage in walk to heel training.

Dog walking to heel

Large Dog Walking to Heel  Courtesy of:
Large Dog Walking to Heel Courtesy of:

Puppy Walking to Heel on a Lead

The actual process of teaching a puppy to walk to heel is simple, simple but time consuming.

When you first start using a collar and lead on your puppy stay indoors were you can control the environment, remove all distractions and have patience.

Puppy will probably pull in every direction, he may even throw himself to the floor, call him towards you; notice I said "call him" not "pull him". Call him towards you in an excited voice and he will follow you, he will almost instinctively walk by your side.

As his confidence grows he will forget he is on a lead and want to get ahead of you, this is were the heel training begins.

How to Teach a puppy to Walk to Heel

  • Take a few steps forward
  • Puppy comes with you
  • Puppy gets his head level with your knee
  • Praise puppy and say "Heel"
  • Keep walking
  • Without saying a word do a right or left turn
  • Puppy has no option but to follow you
  • Puppy learns to keep his eye on you in case you turn, he knows he can't do it if he is ahead of you
  • Repeat the above steps again and again until puppy makes no effort to pass you

Do not drag your puppy, simply encourage him too follow you, when he gets level with your knee praise him. The reason we don't want his head in front of your knee is that this is a sign of dominance, you are the leader not him. The worst thing you can do is pull him in one direction when he is going in the other, it's dangerous; it is better that you do 90 degree turns.

Repeat this exercise over and over until your puppy simply walks to heel at all times. If he tries to get ahead do a right or left turn and walk in that direction, in the early stages of puppy training you might spend some time not actually walking very far but it will pay off so stick with it.

Once your puppy is stable at walking to heel it's time to teach him walking to heel off the lead.


Puppy Walking to Heel off the Lead

Give your puppy plenty of opportunity to be successful walking to heel on the lead, after a while when it becomes second nature to your puppy it is time to teach him to walk to heel off the lead.

As you will imagine walking to heel off the lead is much more difficult because there are so many distractions. Your patience will be tested to the limit but he will grasp it if you have patience and be consistent.

Have a handful of your puppies favourite treats; you will need them and teach this exercise in a safe and secure place.

How to teach a puppy to walk to heel off the lead

  • Walk your puppy to heel on the lead
  • If he is doing well stop and command him to sit
  • Reward and praise him
  • Still in the sit position undo his lead
  • Keep him in sit position
  • Reward and praise him
  • Keep some treats in your hand make sure puppy knows they are there
  • Keep your treat hand by the knee you want puppy to heel to
  • Take a couple of steps forward and say "heel"
  • Puppy will come with you, if he knows the treats are there he will stay close
  • Stop after 2 or 3 steps
  • Command puppy to sit and stay
  • Reward and praise
  • Repeat these steps while increasing the distance you walk
  • As you are increasing the distance add in your left or right turn, puppy knows this is walking to heel

As this exercise is more difficult it may take a little longer to master. Do not scold your puppy simply put him back on the lead; do some heel work then try again off the lead, patience, practice and reward. 

Problem Solving - Dog won't Walk to Heel

Some dogs walk to heel without too much effort others prefer to be the leader, the problem with this is that he will get hurt. Constant pulling of a collar on his neck can cause no end of problems to his breathing and joints.

Problems walking to heel on the lead

If your dog continues to drag you on the lead there really is only one solution to this problem. Keep him on a short lead, walk a couple of steps, command heel, do a left or right turn and praise him. You may spend a lot of time going in a small square, from experience your dog will get bored with this and soon realise that the only way to get anywhere is to stay by your side.

Problems walking to heel off the lead

Young puppies find this difficult, keep repeating the steps above, if he simply isn't getting it stop until he is a little older and practice walking to heel on the lead. Your puppy is like a sponge absorbing all of this information, don't overload him; give him a chance to mature.

This answer may seem like giving up but as I have said before, patience, practice and reward will always get you the desired results.

If he fails too often off the lead were you have limited control of him; you are going to actually teach him to fail so stop and come back to this exercise when he is perfect on the lead.

Puppy Walking to Heel Summary

Training a dog to walk to heel is probably the most frustrating exercise to teach, it's the easiest but most frustrating. Put yourself in your dogs position, you are stopping him from having fun and exploring. He needs to learn that the only way is your way.

Another good tip is don't be predictable, your dog should not at this stage be able to preempt what you are going to do, vary the direction of your turns and when he is walking to heel reward with a treat intermittently.

If you have enjoyed and found this article useful; take a look at my other puppy training articles:

Basic puppy training rules

How to teach a puppy to sit stay and wait

How to train a puppy recall

How to teach a puppy to retrieve

Choosing the correct dog food bowl

Choosing the correct collar and lead for your puppy


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© 2010 Aiden Roberts


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    • Aiden Roberts profile imageAUTHOR

      Aiden Roberts 

      7 years ago from United Kingdom

      Thanks sweetguide I am glad you like it.

    • sweetguide profile image


      7 years ago from River side

      Thank you very very much for sharing such a Great Information

    • Aiden Roberts profile imageAUTHOR

      Aiden Roberts 

      8 years ago from United Kingdom

      Thanks Dog car seats

      Hubpages really is a great site for free information.

    • profile image

      Dog car seats 

      8 years ago

      IIt's nice to see a cite that gives good informantion...with no charge

    • profile image

      Melbourne Boarding Kennels 

      8 years ago

      Hi Aiden

      Watched a great video the other day where the owner dropped treats behind their heel and the dog was keen to stay at heel, this is working well for me as well they showed a way to pass the lead under neath and this controls the dog.

      after many years i am we are now star6ting to enjoy our walkies without the constant pulling...

      thank you for helping out...

    • Aiden Roberts profile imageAUTHOR

      Aiden Roberts 

      8 years ago from United Kingdom

      You are right patience is the key to training a dog to walk by your side.

    • profile image

      dog obedience tips 

      8 years ago

      Teaching dog walking on a heel is mot an easy thing to do. This one needs a lot of patient pulling and leading you dog on a certain direction. Thanks for sharing advices that would make this training successful.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      What an awesome blog! You've taught me significant information from this article. I appreciate you for taking the effort to extend this topic so comprehensively. I look forward to learning more on your upcoming posts. Thanks.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      This has been a very significant blog indeed. I've acquired a lot of helpful information from your article. Thank you for sharing such relevant topic with us.

    • Aiden Roberts profile imageAUTHOR

      Aiden Roberts 

      8 years ago from United Kingdom

      Thanks Greatlife

      Teaching a puppy to walk by your side without pulling is one of the most rewarding things in the world.

      People often forget that a dog that is pulling is hurting himself and quite often hurting your back.

      Practice makes perfect :)

    • Greatlife profile image


      8 years ago

      A comprehensive list and some good and practical pointers here that I never knew. Thanks for sharing.


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