Side vs. Heel

© 2013, Jerry D. Patillo, CPDT-KA
Phoenix Behavior Consulting

For my dogs and customers’ dogs, “Heel” means “walk along with me at my left side.” Some trainers teach that “Heel” also means “approach me, turn yourself around if necessary, and end up sitting at my left side.”

When I teach a dog a cue, I want it to mean one thing and only one thing, each and every time. I feel that using a word or expression to mean different things at different times adds confusion and frustration to you and to your dog.

So, I prefer to use the prompt “Heel” to mean only “walk along with me at my left side,” each and every time. I use the cue “Side” to mean “approach me, turn yourself around if necessary, and end up sitting at my left side.”

If you prefer to use a different word or expression as your cue, such as “Finish” or “Schnickelfritz,” that’s fine. Just make sure your prompt means the same thing every time.

A. Introduce the Behavior

Step A1.
Step A2.
Step A3.
Step A4.
Step A5.
  1.  With a bunch of delicious treats in your left fist, have your dog stand or sit in front of you. Don’t say anything just yet. That will come later.
  2. Keeping your right foot still, step backward on your LEFT foot. Lure your dog to follow your left fist as you step backward.
  3. With your fistful of treats, lure your dog to turn TOWARD you, not away from you.
  4. Step forward, luring your dog forward with your treats.
  5. Now, using your fistful of treats if you need to, have your dog sit at your side in heel position.

B. Introduce the Verbal Cue

C. Phase Out the Luring

D. Introduce the Visual Cue


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