Dog Obedience Training


HEELING – off lead

By Dennis Fisher.

This article is one of a great many articles written by Dennis Fisher about a very wide variety of subjects concerning different  dogs, such as obedience training, breeding, showing, health matters, training problems and other subjects.  All these articles appear on Dennis Fisher's websites.   Visit the site that has been set up specifically for German Shepherd Dog enthusiasts, or  if you interested in a breed   other than German Shepherd Dogs


It’s very impressive indeed to see a dog walking down the street with its owner, heeling free, without any lead attached to the collar.  This is not as difficult as it may seem.  It can be accomplished with regular training.


Before attempting to have your dog walk at heel at your left side, without any lead attached to his collar, make sure  his heeling is perfect.  With practice the dog will know exactly when you are going to turn left, turn right, or about turn and will be able to do this without any pulling or snapping of the lead on your part.


 Of course this does require quite a bit of work and practice on your part.

When you commence walking with your dogs  always make sure that you step off with your left foot.  Because your dog is on your left side, this is a good indication to the dog  that you intend starting to walk.


 In fact, as you progress with  your training, you’ll find that when you want to leave your dog at the sit and want him to stay, you will always walk away from him with your right foot.   You will give him the command “stay” when you leave, but the fact that you have stepped off with your right foot is another sign to him that he has to stay.



In advanced obedience tests, no commands are given.  The dog has to stop and sit immediately you stop. All this is accomplished by body signs that the dog instantly recognizes.


Of course at this early stage of training you should give  verbal commands to the dog.  But it is very useful to combine your verbal commands with body commands.


Your dog is on your left side,  so your left leg is constantly in his view.   When you turn left, while walking, step forward with your left leg – perhaps a little further forward than you would normally  step -  swivel on your left foot as you turn and swing your right leg around.


If your dog is unprepared for your left turn he would be slightly ahead of you as you turn left.  As you swing your right leg around you can lift your knee and bump his body with your right knee.


You don’t have to do this with any great force, just a slight bump.  You can accompany your turn with the command ”heel” at this stage.  Afterwards the command won’t be necessary because your dog will be watching your feel.    Give the “Heel” command in a pleasant, voice.

The fact that you have bumped him  is not to be interpreted by the dog in any way as a reprimand.  He will get the impression that it was his fault by being in your way.


When you  turn to the right  your feet once again will  give the dog an indication of what you intend doing.  Accompanying your command “heel”, you extend your foot forward, fairly far and swivel  to the right. 


 Your about turn is similar.  In this case, in order to make it a little easier for the dog turn around briskly, you pause a little before you turn around.


Once your dog is heeling very well, you can gradually introduce the heeling off lead.


It is important to have a clip on you  lead that can be removed very easily without a great of fussing and fiddling.  


As you walk with the dog in the heel position, close to your left side, release the clip on your lead  as unobtrusively as you can and carry on walking.  Let the lead hand over your should as you walk.


 If  you  prefer, fold the lead and keep it in your left hand and let the lead hang loosely by your side.  If the dog has become used to heeling on a loose lead, it will not make much of a difference if the lead has been removed. In any event  he is not quite sure that is has been removed.


Pat your left hand against your left side and enthusiastically and confidently  encourage the dog to heel as you continued walking, calling his name as you do this.


If you are using food as a means of persuading the dog to keep close to you on your left side, continue to do.  Let your dog smell your left hand and continue walking.



Practice this regularly and  after a while the heeling off lead will become second nature to your dog.


It is also a good idea to attach a  small length of very light cord – very light but very strong -  to the clip of your lead and also the ring of the dog’s choker chain.  When you detach your lead from the dog’s collar,  the dog is unaware of this  bridging length of cord, because it is so light.

If, by  chance your dog suddenly decides to break away from you, because he feels that his lead has been removed, he will get a surprise to find that he is being jerked back into position.


He will uncertain in future, whether  he  is completely free or not and won’t take the chance of breaking away.