Now that you and your dog have the hang of easy walks, you can begin to work on having your dog walk closer to you. This isn’t a formal heel position but it should be close enough that you can deliver a treat at your side without having to lean out.
We use this behavior in order to get by something or someone where we need our dog very close to us to either stay safe or not bother with something in the environment.
We will shape this behavior.
- When out for a walk imagine an invisible circle that surrounds you. Start with the circle being about a 3 foot radius. It’s best to pick a side that works best for you and stick with that. For these instructions, I will use the left side of handler but you can use either side.
- Now stroll around your yard or other safe low distraction area. Do this without a leash on the dog.
- Every time your dog comes within that 3 foot radius on your left side (think 3 feet from your left shoulder, slightly behind, directly to side and a little in front of you), click and treat at your left knee from your left hand.
- After treating, your dog should wander off again. Wait, and the next time your dog enters the circle, click and treat.
- If your dog doesn’t seem interested in you, wait it out a bit. If that doesn’t work, get your dog’s attention by noise or fast movement to get them to come closer to you.
- If your dog won’t leave your side, then toss a treat or toy out. Change your direction and repeat when your dog enters the circle.
- After your dog understands this 3 foot wide circle, up the ante. Now you want your dog to look at you when they enter the circle. So hold off the click until your dog has entered the circle and looked at you.
- Now we’ll up the ante again. This time we want your dog to enter the 3 foot radius while looking up at you as they come in closer before they hear the click. So hold off on the click until they move in closer to you. Continue in this fashion until your dog runs all the way up to you while looking at you and you both can take a few steps together.
- Add the cue. Once your dog is walking for a few steps in just the position you like, you can add a cue. I use the word “close” but any word or phrase you aren’t already using for another behavior will work great.