German Shepherd Heeling Training: 5 Easy Steps + 8 Expert Tips



German Shepherd heeling training is good for two main purposes:

1) It makes it much easier for either on leash walking, or off leash walking if your German Shepherd adult dog or puppy has some idea of heeling by your side. 

2) German Shepherd Heeling is an essential part of any skills or obedience based dog competition

Below you will find a summary of the objective of German Shepherd Heeling training, and 3 Easy Steps to teach your GSD how to heel by your side.


a) German Shepherd Heeling Training Objective and Tips 

The objective of your German Shepherd heeling, is to have your GSD walk by your side OFF the leash in an environment with other distractions.

Here are a few expert tips to help with your heeling training:

  • #1 – You should pick one side for your GSD to heel. It’s not good if your dog or puppy keeps switching sides because with a leash it gets tangled around you, or without a leash you can trip over your dog. It also just adds to the inconsistency.
  • #2 – If you compete in dog shows, you will heel the dog to the left as this is the side most competitions heel the dog t. So, best to pick the left.
  • #3 – Your GSD should know how to ‘sit’ before you teach it how to heel. If not, it will be extremely frustrating for both of you.
  • #4 – You can choose to do your German Shepherd heeling training with a clip leash on or off your GSD. You obviously want to work towards off leash heeling, but for very young pups and dogs who lose concentration quickly, a leash may be necessary to begin with.
  • #5 – You can perform heeling training anywhere you have the space, but the ideal place is a hallway if you have access to one.
  • #6 – Although you will likely start out training with treats or food rewards, you want to progress to a stage where your GSD responds to commands rather than food
  • #7 – Heeling (like on and off leash training) can be a mentally draining activity for both you and your German Shepherd. If you only train in 10-20 minute blocks, you decrease the frustration and keep concentration high for both of you. You want to focus on quality over quantity, especially to begin with.
  • #8 It can be beneficial with any training you do with your GSD, including German Shepherd Heeling training, that you have a ‘release’ word. You use this word at the end of training, and use it to communicate to your adult dog or puppy that training is over.Act excited and encourage your dog to go off and play. It increases the positive association your GSD has with training and obedience.



1)Step One: Preparation and ‘Sit’

Go to an appropriate training environment free of distractions to begin with. Prepare yourself by arming yourself with treats, and clip on your GSD’s leash if necessary.

You want to start by having one treat in your right hand. Face forwards, and get your GSD to sit by your left side by baiting him or her with your left hand (present your hand to GSD pretending to have a treat enclosed in your palm or fist) and giving them the ‘Sit’ command.


2) Step Two: Move and ‘Heel’

Now you want to get your German Shepherd to do the ‘heeling’ part of the training.

To do this, bring your right hand down to your left hand which you used to bait your GSD into sitting. The purpose of this is to get your GSD’s attention onto your right hand.

Bring your right hand up in the air (your GSD’s attention should now be on your right hand with the treat). The next part is very important…

Say ‘Heel’, give your GSD the ‘Heel’ signal with the right hand (the one with the treat in it) and take 4 or 5 big strides forward immediately and swiftly. It is very important that once you give the heel command, you move forward instantly and with some urgency so your adult dog or puppy learns that must also respond quickly.

The most common response to this with German Shepherd heeling training is that your dog or puppy will either stay sitting or run around to your right hand side to get the treat. It is very important you don’t act frustrated at this. Simply say ‘no’ in a calm voice and reset to the sitting position and practice again. This is where having a leash and training within an enclosed hall can make heeling training a little easier.

If your GSD does follow you swiftly and meets up with you on your left side (without running around your front to get the treat when they get there), give him or her the treat immediately in an excited tone, and immediately go back to your original position.

Repeat this process to re-enforce the behavior.


3)Step Three: Extended Heeling

Once your German Shepherd is comfortable heeling for one repetition over short distances, extend the distance, and the number of repetitions.

Remember, you want to decrease your GSD’s reliance on treats as you progress with this, and ultimately do it without a leash.


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