Help needed for heeling problem


New Member
I'm considering entering my 2-1/2 yo German Shepherd bitch, Kella, for her first official obedience trial. She's proficient and quite reliable at all of the requirements except for one problem I'm having trouble correcting.

When heeling she lags a bit behind, not really dragigng the chain but would certainly lose points for not being in the correct heel position.

She's a casual, laid back dog and I've tried various things like treats, trying to rev her up a bit and running so she has to keep up more but when doing obedience work she always drags the chain that little bit too much.

Does anyone have any advice? I'm new here and notice clickers mentioned a lot. I'd never heard of them but will be purchasing one soon. If using a clicker is a suggestion for this problem could someone please tell me how to go about it.

Any advice would be gratefully appreciated. :dogsmile:


Honored Member
Staff member
What method did you use to teach her to heel initially?
The clicker is used as a marker to help the dog understand exactly what you want them to do. You can use the clicker in perfecting her heel by clicking only when she is in the perfect position, and immediately giving her a treat. Never click when she is behind or ahead, but only when she is right where you want her. Subscribing to the classroom could really help you understand how and when to use the clicker and make it more comfortable for you. Timing is very important with clicker training, and you can practice this with your basic tricks to help you improve.

One suggestion that I've heard from another member here is to start with her sitting at your left, and turn quickly so you are facing to the right. Since you said all of her other aspects are good, she should stay at your side and sit. Turn right again so that now you are facing opposite of the direction you originally started. Again, she should stay and your side and sit when you stop. Continue this. With this exercise, it's a bit difficult for her to actually lag. Does she lag from your first step off, or after a few steps?

After this circle exercise, progress to just one or two steps. Progress in very small increments. Since you are continuing through the heel with her lagging rather than helping her perfect it, she doesn't understand that she isn't in proper position and you are kind of reinforcing her throughout the imperfect heel. Pay close attention to the length of your stride. You could perhaps shorten your stride if this is natural and comfortable for you. This way, you could actually put her into proper position just by taking shorter strides. If you haven't competed before, you may have unintentionally lengthened your stride a bit or have an inconsistent stride length. If this is the case, she may not know exactly where she's supposed to be. I would run through your heel several times in your NORMAL routine to see if you have a consistent, normal stride. Walk without your dog up and down a sidewalk perhaps, and compare this stride length when you practice the heel with your dog. If these stride lengths are different, then work on it.

Hope this helps, and good luck to you! :)


Well-Known Member
I agree with tx_cowgirl to just do a few steps correctly and reward rather than trying to do long stretches of heelwork.

I'd be inclined to throw her toy/food forward when you reward her to encourage her up. Also, doing little tricks during heelwork can improve motivation.


Honored Member
Staff member
Another tip: One thing I've done with my BC when she starts to get a bit lazy is to just run away from her. If your dog has a consistent recall and will stick with you off-leash, then this could help. Otherwise get a 20-50 foot lead so that she can't run away.

Mud sometimes just gets a little wore out and distracted during training, and will lag a little off-leash. When she does I give a smooching noise and say, "Come on!" or "Hurry!" in a veeerrry excited tone while running away from her. She thinks I'm deserting her I guess, lol, cause she'll pick back up to my side and slow as I do.

If she's a toy lover, you can put her in a sit-stay and wildly toss toys ahead of her while ensuring she doesn't break the stay. Not only is this good for her distraction work, but will also get her adrenaline going. With her favorite toy still in hand, begin the heel. She should be very willing to get moving and will stick with you. Do it for a few steps, then reward her with the toy(s). You can do this with food as well. Of course, you don't want her too excited, so figure out what it takes to get her going without losing her focus on you.


Experienced Member
i got a huge jump in focus and in position heel when i started, at the suggestion of my trainer taking two steps, click, stop, treat. two or three steps, click, stop, treat. be sure to click before stopping so that it is in the natural flow of a heel. this makes the dog think harder, engage more, and need to figure out quickly what you are doing. these short unpredictable but sort of predictable changes get the dog to buy in faster and with more focus. the biggest thing i see when there is a lag or lead is that when you up the click/treat frequency you get better compliance. you'll fade that as you get the success you want. also you can spit the treat at the dog making her want to watch your face more. Make sure and have good quality meaty stinky treats or something the dog LOVES not just likes.

No need to talk and distract, some people think this poisons the cue, heel, and click. I have a hard time not talking but the click/treat is sufficient, faster, and more consistent.
Start with low distractions and work up as you succeed. Remove toys and other distractions and notice where the dog swings wide or avoids you. Work harder on engaging in those places. For example on our deck my puppy swings toward the door every time by b/c the other dog is inside watching and she’s avoiding a bit of work. So I upped the c/t by the door and stopped shorter distances instead of going the entire length or half length of the deck. Train in different areas and add distractions, because dogs don’t necessarily generalize well. What works great in the yard on the grass or the house may not work on the street, or in a show ring. So do this same thing everywhere you can.

be sure to stop before the dog tires or gets bored of the training and take frequent play, tug, fetch breaks. best of luck.


Experienced Member
i had this problem with koda recently she is laidback too (so strange when you been used to a hyper dog that needs calming to one thats just goes quietly along)

what we did was heel for a couple of steps then reward and break it off with a play then go straight back into heel, so you ask "koda heel" two steps "good girl YAY!!!" break with play or big pats then "koda heel" two steps "GOOD GIRL YAY!!!"
that way they dont really think its learning and she gets interested in you and what your doing cause everynow and again you randomly play with her, also you really have to start straight after patting or playing you have to be quite fast and it can make you abit confused at first but it does work and you lengthen it after she gets excited so she doesnt learn after two steps you play, it when you want to

babysteps first (also i had my trainer watching me and telling when i lost her and when to release her at the beggining, maybe you could get someone to watch you and help with it) standing back they see it differently


New Member
I totally agree with high reward schedule, no more than every 5 seconds until it becomes reliable!

One other thing to remember is your body position. Do you look at your dog whilst heeling? If so, you are giving your dog mixed messages by your voice saying heel walking foward and your body saying "get back" as you will be leaning back slightly and with that making the dog lag.
It is therefore important to walk upright and look where you are going, not where your dog is!!! :-)



New Member
I am new here and I am training my puppy Bella on heeling. I know its too early because she is only 4 months old. I just read in the book. I keep her sit by my left leg and say bella heel at the same time move my left hand and left leg forward. take a 3 steps and stop then say bella sit. when she did that i gave her treat and say good bella with happy voice. of course sometimes she move ahead of me then i stop and she comes back to sit by my left side. then we start all over again. after a few minutes of it practicing I end the work with happy voice of " all done". its working so far. My goldie that passed away she will not heel at all. she will sit by my left good but as soon as i move forward she bolt. So i am doing better with bella because i started early on her.
Good luck,


New Member
That method never worked for any of my dogs. What I tried was keeping a short leash on them, then as soon as there was any tension, I'd walk the opposite direction. Worked like a charm!


Experienced Member
The only thing I'd add to the turning, which does work, is that you don't jerk or leash pop when you do it. Even turning step by step in a low distraction place helps. Start low distraction like in the house and move up slowly to the back yard etc. Don't go straight to the dog park and expect your pup’s ears to even be turned on. For some dogs a short leash may work but for many it teaches pulling is okay or excites them. Pulling is the technique used for tracking dogs to excite them. That's why you mostly see them in a tracking harness and leashed so they can pull without hurting their tracheas. In the end it's what works for you and your dog and involves it being his idea that it's more rewarding to come with you than to pull and freak out. :dogsmile:

For a clicker a great method is in my previous post step by step so to speak.

Go visit the classroom here. Great stuff! is also helpful and a good site