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One of the first commands your dog learns should be the “HEEL” command.
This command will be helpful in insuring the safety of your pet while out in public and will make you look like the owner of a well-mannered and lovable pet. To add to the beauty of all this, the command itself is quite simple and almost any dog can learn the meaning of the command with 30 minutes or so of effort.
So what is the function of the “heel” command?
This one word command tells your dog that the animal is to walk directly at your side, not before or after you. This provides safety for your pet in public places as well as for yourself.
The command keeps your pet at your side rather than running through the picnic blankets of park goers and, if you own a larger more menacing breed, makes you seem a less approachable target to would-be criminal elements.
Wow, that sounds great…
How do I teach my pet?
Well, it isn’t as difficult as you might think. There are two general methods of training. One uses only positive reinforcement and the other uses a mixture of both positive and negative tactics.
First we will discuss the positive reinforcement method.
In this method, you must first place your dog on a short leash and procure several of the dogs favorite food treats, a few pieces of dry kibble from the animals dog food is normally suitable. Decide which side you prefer your dog to walk on and train from this side in the following manner.
With the dog by your side, facing in the same direction, place a treat in your hand next to your hip. In a firm, yet gentle voice, say “heel” and walk forward. When the dog responds by stepping with you, praise them and reward them with the treat.
Remember to be consistent and not to reward before the action is carried out, yet always reward for a good performance. With a lot of patience, this method will work well for most dogs and results in a close bonding of the pet to the owner.
However, some dogs are just naturally harder to train, just like some people. If you are blessed with one of these independent and strong willed pets then you might have to avail yourself of a different method of training, which was mentioned earlier in this discussion.
To use the second training method, you must start with a slightly longer leash of approximately seven to ten feet. Allow your pet a few moments to explore the boundaries of the leash and understand how it works. Then call the animal to your side and position yourself as before with the animal next to you, facing the same direction. In a firm voice, say “heel” and walk forward.
At this time, the dog will probably not walk with you. It will, instead, begin to explore most likely running in a different direction than where you are leading. To correct this behavior, turn in the opposite direction of the pets’ direction of travel and take a few steps forward, quite briskly, as you raise the leash to shoulder height and let it play out behind you.
The result of this action will be seen as the animal quickly reaches the end of the leash and their forward momentum teaches them the age old physics lesson that “Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.”
The animal will quite quickly learn that to disobey the heel command results in a discomforting feeling from the sudden stop at the end of the leash and, after a short while, will learn to obey the command.
When the pet reaches the state of obedience, be sure to reward them with lots of positive reinforcements, such as play time and treats, along with rich verbal praise.
Whichever of these methods you choose in the training of your pet, the “heel” command is sure to go a long way in making you a much happier pet owner who will be proud to show your pet anywhere.
Remember to train with love, patience and consistency and your pet will reward you with loyalty and many, many years of companionship.
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