How to Train Your Bracco: Walking to Heel
Slip leads, flat collars, half choke leads, choke leads, figure of 8, harness….there are so many options of various leads, collars and other tools when it comes to helping you achieve a good walk to heel …. We are sorry to tell you that the lead and collar you choose in itself is, in some parts irrelevant to achieving a good and consistent heel. A good heel, like so many other parts of any good dog work is going to take some time and I
am afraid there is no quick fix
Ideally teaching a good heel starts with your young puppy, this is certainly a lot easier, however can still be achieved with an older dog, it just might take a little while longer.
Patience, consistency and commitment with all dogs is key to good training. To start I would recommend a flat collar, or half choke collar with a flat, comfortable to hold flat lead.
If you wish to use treats, then this can be a great way to help incentivise a good heel especially with a young puppy, or food motivated dog and can always be phased out and removed at a later date.
To start, have the dog, or puppy on the side you are wanting them to walk, those who may wish to work their dog under a gun, normally choose the opposite side to the side they would hold their gun or, maybe if you are left handed you would have the dog on the right side and vice versa.
Sit the dog with his shoulder level with your knee, facing the way you want them to go. Lead in the opposite hand, so if dog on left, the lead should be in right hand.
To help with later training try and move off using the leg closest to the dog, in the future using the other leg might be a signal for you to leave the dog at Sit/Stay (but this is another episode :-)). Moving off with the closest leg to the dog, give a slight tug on the lead and the ‘heel’ command. If you are using a treat, keep the treat at nose level with your left hand if the dog is on the left, keeping the dog close to the desired position. Walk at an even, slower pace if possible. Over time you can move quicker or slower to test your heel work. After a few steps reward with the treat, increase number of steps gradually and encourage the dog to sit next to you when you stop. You can do this by raising the treat above and over the dogs head, towards his bottom and giving the dog the sit command.
Keep sessions short, so with a puppy, or inexperienced dog, just one or two minutes, building up to 5-10 minutes over time. Keep giving lots of verbal praise, (A good boy) keep repeating ‘heel’ (but only if the dog is in the right position not at any other time) verbally an maybe ruffle the dogs ears if in the desired ‘heel position.
What to do when the dog moves out of position.
If and when the dog moves out of position to start with and with a young puppy be gentle and re start the process. Remember you have a lot of time, trying this technique a few times a day (short periods of time) over a week or so should start to show results.
As the dog becomes older and perhaps is testing you once it knows the command of ‘heel’ then don’t be afraid to change direction with a sharp tug of the lead, or just stop and wait for the dog to stop, returning it back to the desired position.
If the dog becomes older and or more challenging over time, then increase the sharpness of the tug and repeat as necessary until the dog realises the only way they get to their destination is if they heel.
Dependant on the dog, this may take some weeks, or months but if you maintain a consistent approach, be gentle and patient, firm but fair, you will have a great dog that is a joy to walk at heel and on any lead, or, collar combination you so choose.
Good luck and happy training.