Teaching the Heel

Tradition says a dog heels on the owner's left side.....that's from long standing field work, but unless you are interested in obedience competitions, you can have the dog on whichever suits you.

If your puppy is not leash-broke, just put the lead on him and follow him around the yard. Then get a pocket full of goodies and show the treat to him and let him follow you around awhile......There! That's what lead training is and you are on your way to teaching the HEEL.

I don't think it's necessary that the dog be in a sit position to start the heel exercise. Just have him on the side you have decided on and call his name ( We always call the name to get his attention.) and give him the command "Heel". Start off straight ahead, stepping out with the leg next to your bad,encouraging him with the treat and your happiest voice. Go about 10 or 15 steps, straight ahead, then stop and praise, praise, Praise! Do a couple of heels in a straight line and add stops. If your puppy is charging ahead, try small gently tugs on the leash to get his attention, when he slow down and stays with you tell him "Goood puppy"!!! Remember Praise, Praise, and Fun. Do not let him constantly pull you, he should walk by your side, not ten feet in front. In obedience competitions the dog is required to automatically sit when you stop, so if you like that idea, then ask your puppy to sit when you stop. The puppy should be doing sits fairly consistently before you try it from the moving heel exercise.

Once you and the puppy are moving together with the puppy by your side and not charging ahead or hanging behind you, get out those treats and encourage him to go left or right with you. As in any exercise, one thing builds on the other. Prime yourself for success by mastering one part before starting the next.

As you gain experience, you can add more turns, circles, go around objects like trees, lawn furniture and give a more realistic nature to your training. Also add all those other commands you've learned......instead of a sit, ask the puppy to down. While you're heeling, stop, have the puppy to sit and tell him to stay. Step in front of him, count to 30, return around behind him and praise. Just like us, dogs get bored, too! Vary your exercises so neither of you will get bored. Young puppies have short attention spans, so make your sessions short - say 10 or 15 minutes at a time. Better to have two short sessions a day than one long one.

Authored and contributed by Sandra Fikes-Kalahari Ridgebacks.

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