The Difference Between Heel and Sit: Understanding Canine Behaviour

The command "heel" in dog training encompasses more than just the action of walking alongside their owner. It goes beyond simple movement and involves dogs maintaining a specific position on their owner's left side, with the option to default to a sit when not in motion. However, it’s important to note that heel position may vary, as some individuals prefer their dogs to be on their right side. Nonetheless, both left and right sides are accepted as acceptable heel positions in training.

Why Do You Say Heel to a Dog?

Now, lets dive into the origins behind using the term “heel” in relation to dogs. The use of this command can be traced back to traditional dog training methods.

Teaching a dog to heel is essential for various reasons. Firstly, it enhances control and safety when walking your dog in public spaces. When a dog is by your side and attentive, it reduces the likelihood of them getting into any potentially dangerous situations or creating disruptions for others.

This can help in building a strong bond of trust and respect between you and your canine companion.

It’s a concise and uncomplicated sound, making it easy for both dogs and humans to recognize.

So, next time youre out for a walk with your furry friend, feel confident in using the “heel” command, knowing that it’s a rich history and purpose behind it. Embrace the opportunity to train and communicate with your dog, strengthening your relationship and ensuring a harmonious walking experience.

The Benefits of Teaching a Dog to Heel

Teaching a dog to heel has several benefits. Firstly, it improves their safety by keeping them close to you and away from potential hazards such as traffic or other dogs. Additionally, it promotes good behavior and obedience, as the dog learns to focus and follow your lead. Heeling also creates a stronger bond between you and your dog, as it requires trust, communication, and cooperation. Lastly, it provides mental stimulation for the dog, as they need to listen and respond to your commands, which can help keep them engaged and happy.

When it comes to heeling, it’s important to establish the proper position for your dog. Ideally, your dog should be at your left side, with his spine aligned straight and parallel to the direction you’re moving in. This position promotes control and allows for clear communication between you and your canine companion during walks or training sessions

Where Should a Dog Be When Heeling?

Ideally, your dog should be positioned close to your left leg, with his shoulders in line with your leg. This ensures that both you and your dog have a clear line of communication and can easily maintain control during heeling exercises. It’s important to note that the heel position may slightly vary depending on the specific style of heeling you’re practicing, such as competition heeling or everyday walking.

When heeling, your dogs head should be held high and focused on you, the handler. This allows for better attention and engagement from your dog, ensuring that he follows your commands promptly. Additionally, your dogs tail should be relaxed and not tucked between his legs. A relaxed tail indicates a calm and focused state of mind.

To achieve the correct heel position, you may need to use various training aids such as a leash or collar. These tools can be used to guide your dog into the desired position and maintain it throughout the heeling exercise. Positive reinforcement techniques, such as treats or praise, can also be employed to encourage your dog to stay in the correct heel position.

During the heeling exercise, it’s important to maintain a consistent pace and avoid sudden changes in direction.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Heeling With a Dog

Heeling with a dog can be a challenging task, and it’s important to avoid some common mistakes to ensure success. One mistake to steer clear of is inconsistent leash handling. Dogs thrive on consistency, so maintaining a steady grip and maintaining appropriate tension on the leash is crucial. Additionally, it’s important to avoid pulling or tugging on the leash, as this can cause discomfort and resistance from the dog. Another mistake is failing to provide clear communication. Dogs rely on signals from their owners, so using consistent verbal cues and hand gestures will help them understand what’s expected of them. Lastly, avoid relying solely on treats or rewards to motivate the dog during heeling. While treats can be beneficial as a training tool, gradually phasing them out and using other forms of positive reinforcement, such as verbal praise or playtime, will help develop a more reliable and attentive heel.

Source: Defining “Perfect” Heel Position – Fenzi Dog Sports Academy

Training your dog to heel sit can be a rewarding experience that strengthens the bond between you and your furry friend. To start, it’s essential to establish a solid foundation by teaching your dog to stand in a certain position. In this case, standing beside you in the heel position is the goal. By using positive reinforcement techniques like the clicker and treats, you can effectively guide your dog towards understanding the desired behavior.

How Do I Teach My Dog to Heel Sit?

Continue to practice having your dog stand in the heel position and reward them with a click and treat every time they achieve this. Gradually, start introducing the verbal cue “heel sit” as you click and treat. Be consistent with your timing and ensure the click and treat happen immediately after achieving the desired behavior.

Consistency is key when teaching your dog to heel sit. Establish a regular training schedule and practice the exercise daily for short periods of time. This will help reinforce the behavior and make it more ingrained in your dogs routine.


While "heel" refers to a specific position on the left or right side, "sit" instructs the dog to assume a sitting posture. Ultimately, the choice of side is inconsequential, as long as the dog understands the command and complies accordingly. It’s crucial to emphasize that the underlying objective isn’t solely limited to walking, but also entails maintaining the designated position, which defaults to a sit if there’s no movement.

Scroll to Top