Everyone knows corgis love an adventure! But when danger lurks, it’s important that your favourite dog stays safe by your side.
That’s the power of the heel command.
Heeling is when you get your corgi to walk next to you – with the leash held loose.
In competition, the head of your dog needs to match your left knee. For us non-professionals, it doesn’t matter which side. And they don’t have to be nose to knee perfect!
The great thing about the heel command is that it makes walking with your corgi easier.
So, let’s dive in with this step-by-step guide on how you can train your corgi to heel.
1. Put your corgi on their lead and have them walk around you.
The first step to training your corgi to heel is getting them onto the leash.
This should be fairly straightforward. But if you’re working with a new puppy, it may take some coaxing and rewarding before they feel comfortable.
Start your training by standing still and having your corgi wander around you on their leash.
When they stop and pay attention to you, you can reward them by giving them a treat.
2. Introduce the heel command.
You should now only reward your corgi when they are standing in the heel position. That is, when their head is beside your knee.
Now, you can introduce the heel command.
When they are standing in the correct position (by your knee), say the command: ‘heel’. If they stay, reward them for their efforts. Do not reward them if they walk away while giving (or soon after) the command.
This step is the foundation for the next steps moving forward.
3. Start to walk forward
Once you’ve got your corgi’s attention, you can begin to move.
Slowly start walking forward, keeping the leash close to you. This will help keep your corgi in tight and in the correct position. Do not drag or pull on your corgi to get them to move. They should be making the decision themselves to move.
Use the heel command in an upbeat voice and encourage them to stay alongside you.
Walk a few steps, then reward them while you have their attention. Do not wait too long after they have done the correct movement before rewarding. If you do, you will reinforce the wrong actions.
4. Get your corgi to adjust their behaviour as you reward them
Keep your corgi close by your side as you train them in this command.
If they run forward, or hang back, stop, and wait for them to return to you. You need to be moving together in parallel.
Do not give them treats until they have returned to the right spot. You do not need to punish them for incorrect behaviour.
This will be a slow and steady process. Do not get discouraged at this stage, as it will require lots of drilling for your corgi to get it right consistently. Remember, they’re only young!
5. Increase the challenge by moving in less obvious ways
You can begin to progress their training by slowly upping the challenge of the task. These are things that they would normally encounter when doing the trained command.
Try turning in a big circle, or turning corners, to increase the difficulty.
You can do this slowly, a few steps or turns at a time. You can also begin to turn around, or switch direction suddenly. This forces them to pay attention to you and adjust their behaviour.
6. Reinforce the new behaviour
You can now also begin increasing the challenge! This is by introducing distractions in to the environment.
This is an important step that you should consider before taking your corgi into the big wide world.
Try having a friend or family member nearby with their favourite toy. If your dog continues to heel, reward them with the toy. This will teach them that it is important to wait, and do as told, if they want to be rewarded. And that they will get their reward faster.
By now you should have locked in your training phrase. For most people, this will be the word HEEL.
Make sure you don’t start introducing new commands for like same action like WALK, STANDBY, or COME. These may have other meanings for your dog, depending on training, and will make it harder for them to learn. One phrase to one action is key!
You also want to start reducing the number of treats you give them. For example, where you would once reward them every step, now reward them every ten steps. This is important, because otherwise, you’ll have a corgi that only responds to food, and not commands!
7. Take it outside into the field
It’s finally time! This is the moment where you can take your heel command outside the home.
Find a nice safe area like a park or field for your corgi, with minimal distractions. Even though they’ve been trained, you still want to make it as easy as possible (for you and the dog).
Continue to give the command in a happy, cheery voice to encourage them to follow. If there’s danger, reverting to an angry or scared tone will only flow those emotions onto your corgi – which is not what you want.
And have fun! One of the best parts of owning a dog is getting to take them on adventures.
Final Thoughts on How to Train Your Corgi Dog to Heel
The heel command is one of the most important when training your corgi.
While it may fight against your corgi’s natural inclinations to sniff, scratch and explore – it’s critical for their wellbeing. They’ll be safe by your side, and you’ll feel safe in the knowledge that they are too!
If you haven’t started training, scroll back and follow the steps above and you’ll have a trained corgi in no time. And if you have, congratulations, you now have a heeling corgi!
Here are a few more skills you can teach your corgi.