Friday, November 6, 2009
By Ruthie Bently
“Heel” is one of the most essential commands you will want to teach your dog. It is used for your most basic exercise, a walk, and your dog should be able to do it correctly. You don’t want them to stray into traffic if you are walking along the shoulder of a road or on a narrow sidewalk. When your dog is heeling correctly, they will be standing (or sitting) at your left side, depending on what command you gave them.
To teach your dog the heel command, gather your leash in your left hand and get your dog to stand next to your left side, with their shoulder against your left leg. With the leash still drawn up, begin walking slowly and repeating the word “heel” to your dog. I have found that using this method works very well, as the dog does not have enough leash to stray away from you. Do a few circuits of your yard or living room, and come back to your original position. When the dog stops next to you again, tell them “heel” and then offer them a treat such as the CANIDAE Snap-Bits™. Do this for a few days, with about three training sessions per day, and reward the dog every time they do the command correctly. If you don’t want to use biscuits, you can just praise your dog or offer them a favorite toy (although giving them a toy may distract them from the rest of the training session).
After two or three days, begin letting out the leash. If the dog begins walking away from you or straying from your side, stop moving. At this point, the dog usually looks around at you to see why you stopped, so say the word “heel.” Sometimes the dog will come back to you, sometimes not. If the dog does not immediately come back to you, begin reeling up the slack of the leash until the dog is again at your left side in the heel position and repeat the word “heel.” It won’t take long for your dog to get the idea.
“Stand” is another very important command for your dog to learn. If you have a large dog, getting them to stand in the bathtub while you are bathing them is a blessing, not to mention brushing them after their bath. It is also easier for your veterinarian to examine them if they will stand on the table or the floor so the vet can look them over for any health issues. If you have a show dog and are going to show your dog in conformation, you need to teach them to stand. The judge examines the dog’s teeth, coat, spine and general physicality when the dog is standing, and they should not move.
I teach it by putting the dog at heel while standing and then telling them to “stand.” I walk in front of the dog while they are still standing and tell them to stay while putting my hand in front of their face, and back slowly away while still facing the dog. I practice this command several times, and use praise and a cookie when the dog obeys. If your dog is lying down you can reach under their tummy and raise them up into a standing position. If you do this, you need to steady your dog as you are raising them up. Once they are standing in one place, give the command “stand” and praise them when they stay still. Again you will need repetition if your dog doesn’t get it right away.
It takes lots of love, patience, praise and treats to be successful at teaching your dog these and other commands – but the rewards of having a well-trained dog are worth it!
Read more articles by Ruthie Bently