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Teaching The Heel Command
The first thing you want to do before letting your dog walk off leash is to have him walk with you on the leash. Many dogs walk well on the leash as long as you are moving in the direction he wants to go, but he'll fight or pull or tug if you defy their will and move away from their intended target. These dogs need to learn how to heel before beginning off-leash work.
To teach your dog to heel, use a slip collar or a good quality flat nylon mesh collar instead of a choke chain or prong collar unless absolutely necessary. In some cases, these collars can seriously injure a dog if not used correctly. Have your dog sit, then attach a lead or leash to the collar.
From here, you want to:
Give the heel command & move away from the dog. He will naturally get up and follow you. If he doesn't get up, jiggle the leash or give a very short, gentle tug on the leash lasting for about one second, and say heel. Never tug or pull on the dog.
Once your dog is up and walking with you, keep moving. don't stop or this confuses the dog. Focus on moving forward with the leash loose, not pulling or tight on the dog. Hold only the end of the leash and don't worry for right now if the dog is behind or beside you, that will come later.
If the dog starts to walk ahead of you or changes direction, say "heel" and simply turn 180 degrees and keep walking. When the dog gets to the end of the leash say "heel" and they will have to return to the right place or they will have no where to move. Do not stop moving.
Once your dog is in the heel position, praise him and keep moving, returning to the original path.
Keep this constant until your dog realizes that by staying by your side, the leash is always loose & he is being praised.
Once your dog is comfortable heeling on the leash, it's time to start working around heavy distractions. Use the leash and continue the training until your dog consistantly stays in the heel position even on busy sidewalks, around other dogs, and other areas.
At this point, you will be ready to start working off leash, using the exact same commands & changes in direction. Encourage your dog to sit when off leash every time you stop. Usually off-leash behavior is much easier for older dogs & may just be to challenging for excitable puppies.
By Kelly Marshall, Head Author - Oh My Dog Supplies
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