Introducing heeling with small dogs can present some special challenges due to the fact that it’s very
uncomfortable to bend over so far in order to lure them along with a treat. This is where it’s really important
to use a killer treat to help your dog target it and maintain her focus while moving. Also, you’ll have to
alternate between reaching down and sticking your treat right in your dog’s face to refocus her and then
bringing it back up to your waist in order to help her learn to target the treat. If this gets tedious or painful,
try the peanut-butter-on-the-spoon trick, described next.
Before starting your heel, focus your dog on
the treat in your target hand.
Once you’ve got her focus, pull the treat
up to your waist, maintaining your dog’s
attention, and say, “Heel.” This teaches
her to target your treat throughout the heel
exercise. Maintain her focus as you walk.
At any point, feel free to deliver a treat
and say, “Good heel,” to help maintain her
enthusiasm. If you’re upbeat and animated,
there’s a good chance your dog will be also.
This one went airborne with enthusiasm
during our photo shoot.
As you get ready to stop, maintain your
dog’s attention on the treat and pull it back
over her head while saying, “Sit.”
The moment she’s hit the sit, say, “Good
sit,” and deliver the treat.
During turns, maintain her focus as in
previous exercises. Often, this means
bending down to deliver a treat as you
move through the turn. In this picture, I’m
halfway between having just put the treat
on the dog’s nose and pulling it up to my
The Peanut-Butter-on-the-Spoon Trick
Bending over to teach a small dog to heel can get really old really fast, especially if you’re very tall or have
back or mobility issues. Here’s an old-school trick to help introduce heeling to small dogs. All you need is
some peanut butter, a cooking spoon, and a sense of humor. Once you’ve done this a while, you should be
able to have your dog target the treat, as in the previous exercise.
Start with some peanut
butter on a long spoon.
Then simply lure your dog
with the peanut butter in
precisely the same way as
with a larger dog. Get her
focus and say, “Heel,” as
you start walking.
Before you stop, bring the
spoon back over your dog’s
head and say, “Sit.”
Then the moment she sits,
give the reward, and say,