Heeling on leash

Heeling and walking on a loose leash are two different exercises. When you take Buddy for a walk to give him exercise, or in order to do his business, he's on his own time. He can sniff, look around, or just aimlessly wander about, so long as he doesn't pull. For those times when you walk him on a busy sidewalk or in an area with traffic, Buddy needs to learn the "Heel" command.

Heeling means Buddy has to walk at your left side, the traditional position, while paying strict attention to you and staying with you as you change direction or pace. When your dog is heeling, he's now on your time. Buddy's responsibility is to focus on you, and you have to teach him to accept that responsibility. Buddy has to learn to heel whether you make a right turn, left turn, do an about-face turn, run, or slow walk. The key to teaching heeling is to get Buddy to pay attention to you.

Heeling is used for walking your dog in traffic — when you need absolute control — and for competitive obedience events. The American Kennel Club (AKC) definition of heeling is walking "close to the left side of the handler without swinging wide, lagging, forging, or crowding," either on a loose leash or off leash.

Teaching your dog to sit at heet

Before teaching Buddy to heel with both of you walking, you're going to teach him what to do when you stop, which is called the Automatic Sit at Heel:

1. Attach your leash to the live ring of your dog's training collar and have him sit at your left side with both of you facing in the same direction while you put the leash over your right shoulder.

3. Take a step forward on your right foot, and then a step with the left past the right; drop down on your right knee, put your right hand against your dog's chest, and fold him into a Sit at Heel position.

Use the same technique to sit your dog described in Chapter 2, and avoid the temptation to push down on his rear end. Keep your hands in place as you tell him how clever he is.

Buddy already knows the "Sit" command, but you're now showing him exactly where you want him to sit. Practice the Sit at Heel about five times or until both of you feel comfortable with this maneuver (see Figure 8-1).

Teaching heeting

To teach heeling, choose a location relatively free of distractions, preferably a confined area, such as your back yard, and follow these steps:

1. Attach your leash to the live ring of your dog's training collar and have him sit at your left side with both of you facing in the same direction while you put the leash over your right shoulder.

You need to allow about four inches of slack so there's no tension on the leash when you start.

2. Make a funnel with both hands around the leash.

Keep both hands about waist high and close to your body. The object is not to touch the leash until necessary.

Figure 8.1:

Preparing to teach heeling on leash.

Figure 8.1:

Preparing to teach heeling on leash.

3. In a pleasant, upbeat tone of voice, say "Buddy, heel" and start to walk.

Move out briskly, as though you're late for an appointment. Walk in a large, clockwise circle, or in a straight line.

4. When your dog leaves your left side, close your hands around the leash, and bring him back to Heel position.

You'll notice that as soon as both of you are in motion, Buddy wants to get ahead of you. Close your hands on the leash, and firmly bring him back to your left side. Work on keeping his shoulder in line with your left hip. Anytime he gets out of position, bring him back and tell him how clever he is.

5. After about ten steps, stop and place him into a Sit at Heel, and verbally praise him.

It'll take you a few tries to get the hang of it. At first, you'll be a little slow on the uptake. Buddy is joyfully bounding ahead of you, the leash has fallen off your shoulder, and you're scrambling to get it back. Just start over, and work on anticipating what your dog is going to do.

When heeling your dog, walk briskly and with determination, as though you're trying to catch the next train home. The more energy you put into your pace, the easier it is to keep your dog's attention focused on you. If you dawdle, so does your dog. By paying attention to your dog, you'll discover when you need to bring him back to Heel. If you can see his tail, you've waited too long.

Your initial goal is to be able to heel Buddy for ten paces without having to touch the leash. How long it takes you depends on

1 Your dog

1 What your dog was bred to do 1 His response to the training collar 1 Your attitude

Generally, if you have a Shetland Sheepdog, you'll reach that goal in maybe five minutes; if you have a Fox Terrier, you'll work on it considerably longer.

When Buddy heels without you having to touch the leash for ten paces, gradually increase the number of steps before a halt. Bring him back to heel whenever necessary, and then praise him. After about five training sessions, he should be getting the idea, at least in an area relatively free from distractions.

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