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How to Teach Your Dog to Heel

Updated: Nov 15, 2022

Okay, your dog is comfortable on a leash. Teaching your puppy to heel is the next step! Join our Director of Training, Cian, for a two-minute training session in teaching your dog to heel.

Breakdown of Training:

Before you begin, it is important to name the behavior so that your dog becomes familiar with the command word, "heel." Then, take a treat in your right hand and hold it up to your left shoulder. This will allow you to maintain eye contact with your dog during the exercise.

With your dog on your left side, begin walking in very small counter-clockwise circles. It is important that you keep your dog at your knee, which should act as a natural barrier in case they try to run out in front of you.

From there, you'll want to begin training your dog to automatically sit when you stop walking. Once you've used the "sit" command and your dog has completed this action, reward your dog with the treat.

Next Steps:

Once your dog has become versed in this behavior, begin walking in larger, more oval-shaped circles. This begins exposing your dog to walking in straighter lines in this manner. Finally, when your dog has mastered this step you can begin walking in completely straight lines.


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Training and Nurturing Puppies at Project 2 Heal:

At Project 2 Heal, we breed Labrador Retriever puppies for the purpose of donating these animals at 8 to 12 weeks of age to one of our partner organizations. From there, our puppies are trained extensively in service dog work and matched with an individual in need.

Our process begins with Early Neurological Stimulation, which are exercises conducted during the first two weeks of life—beginning at only 48 hours after birth!—that slightly stress the puppy's nervous system and allow them to become less reactive to novel stimuli as adults. This process includes the following:

  • Tactile stimulation: Stimulating puppy paws through touch our tickling.

  • Holding the head of the puppy erect.

  • Holding the head of the puppy pointed downward.

  • Supine position: Resting the puppy on its back in the palm of hands.

  • Thermal Stimulation: Placing feet of puppy on top of a cool, damp towel and allowing the puppy to move about.

Service Dog Scent Training:

Also occurring during the first 14 days, service dog training includes a process called early scent introduction. This training exposes dogs to smells it will encounter during working life. During this process, trainers pay close attention to the way puppies react to various smells. This helps identify which puppies may not be suited to work as a service dog.

Service Dog Clicker Training:

Championed by Karen Prior Academy, clicker training service dogs is a method that teaches puppies about associations. Puppies learn commands through a combination of rewards and clicking sounds. During service dog training, high-level tasks are broken into smaller tasks, after which puppies are rewarded with food and stimulated with sound from a handheld clicker.

Eventually food and clicking sounds are phased out so that puppies are able to execute tasks upon command.


Supporting Our Mission During Giving Tuesday:

For the past two years, we've celebrated the giving season with an incredible marathon of puppy videos known as Pup-a-Thon. This year, we're counting down our all-time greatest videos captured since our founding, each day for two weeks leading up to #GivingTuesday! Pup-a-thon 2022 will kick off on November 15th, with our all-time greatest video being announced on Giving Tuesday, November 29th!

This year, we're working toward fundraising goals in three major categories: Puppy Operations, Facility Maintenance, and our World-Class Labrador Breeding Program. Each of these areas of funding are imperative to our success as the only organization in the United States committed to breeding, nurturing, and training Labrador Retriever puppies, for the purpose of donation to service dog partner organizations nationwide.


$50,000 is our goal this Giving Tuesday. Help us sustain our life-saving work into 2023!

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