Four Phases to the Perfect Heel [Back to Training Tips]
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We’ve all seen it, an 80 pound dog taking his owner for a walk! Nothing is more embarrassing than having your beloved pooch pulling you around the neighborhood, swamp, dog park, vet clinic, etc. Sure there are some new fangled contraptions that promote “gentle and humane” ways to “cure” the problem. No my friend, don’t be fooled, these leads don’t always work and they may not have any long term results. They put a bandaid on the problem. Here is my method to ensure your K-9 will walk smoothly by your side! Oh, and by the way, the only thing more embarrassing than an 80 pounder pulling you off your feet is the yorkie- poo lunging and gagging itself down the road!
My methods to teaching your dog Heel are simple, straight forward, and only take a few minutes a day for a few weeks, then on into the rest of their life.
First, get yourself a slip lead or choke chain. You don’t need a special prong collar or anything fancy. A good old fashion choke chain works wonders. Put the choke chain or slip lead over the dog’s head so it forms a “P” when it slides on. The P will allow the chain to release and slide freely from correction to no correction without any unwanted choking or pressure. Here is a link for a 30 second video explaining the P.
Phase One: Now that you have the collar on the dog, begin walking a straight line in your front or backyard with minimal to no distractions. You can add distractions as your progress in training. While you’re walking the dog in a straight line, keep the chain loose, no tension. As soon as your dog veers off course to sniff the flowers, pull ahead, or lag behind you, POP the choke chain. An abrupt snap and release. Command them to Heel. When they get to your side, a quiet, gentle praise is enough. Too much praise can excite them and they’ll begin pulling again.
My straight line is usually only 20 yards or so. If the dog pulls ahead, I do a sharp 180 degree, about-face turn, away from them. Allow some slack in the lead then give your POP. The pop gets their attention and snaps them back around. If you pull them into your side, the effect isn’t as great as if you create a sharp, quick, pop. If they stay behind you, continue popping the leash until they catch up, remember, don’t pull… pop! If they continue to lag, increase your spead and use a happier voice to encourage them to pick up the pace.
Once you see they are making progress, begin Phase two, which is turning into them. Use your knee and lead to guide them into heel. This will add new challenges. Remember to mix things up. Turn into them, then away. Keep them on their toes!
Phase three would include figure eights and back peddling. Back peddling is cool! You will pop them until they get back to heel and begin moving forward once again.
The fourth phase is adding distractions. Take them to a dog park and hang outside the fence. The distractions of other dogs playing only 50 yards away will blow their mind and yours! Work through it. Go through it all over again and maintain control.
Here is a link to watch me perform Heel with a young Labrador Retriever. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out!