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Anyone Can Train Their Dog
By Art Hess
Teaching the Basic Heel
The final step of our basic off leash “lure and reward” training is to teach Shep to heel off leash with a simple hand signal. As you see in the first photo we have Shep on our left side (as I explained before we are using a leash for this demonstration only because of where we shot the pictures). By now he knows to look up when I move my hand in his direction because he has been rewarded for looking up and performing certain tasks.
As he looks up I step off and let him come along and very soon you will note that he looks up and assumes a proper heel position. As long as he moves along freely in this proper position I will keep walking. If we can do ten or twelve steps like this I’m happy. When we stop I give him the hand signal for the sit and he begins to learn to sit quietly beside me whenever we stop. In most instances it is this simple.
I proceed in small sessions always rewarding for correct performances. If I go slowly with small segments I won’t worry about my dog charging ahead or dragging behind because I’ve created a situation where he always succeeds and is not rushed or pushed too quickly into situations where distractions will become more interesting to him than the proper performance of the task at hand.
Shep is young and we have lots of time so it’s easier if we do many small and successful walks instead to striking out to go to town to “get the mail” and encounter all the inevitable annoyances like bikes and skateboards, overly friendly dogs or yappy ankle biters. It’s much easier to go slowly than to rush out and create new challenges and problems and then be faced with fixing your mistakes while you’re trying to move smoothly ahead with your training.
If I was working with this dog several times a day on a daily basis I would be at this stage by the end of about a week. I hesitate to cast these things in stone because then we have owners putting marks on their calendars and phoning with possible unrealistic expectations. Remember just because the pup will perform these tasks pretty well with me in an environment without distractions doesn’t mean he will be ready to do “show and tell” when Mommy comes to see him.