The advanced heel command extends beyond the basic heel, where a dog walks beside its handler. It encompasses the dog’s ability to maintain this position with precision at different speeds and directions. This level of training is not just about discipline but also about deepening the understanding and communication between a dog and its handler.
At the foundation of teaching a dog to heel at different speeds and directions lies the understanding of the basic heel command. Once a dog has mastered walking calmly beside the handler, the next step is to introduce variations in speed. This begins with varying the walking pace, from a slow amble to a brisk walk. The key is to ensure the dog adjusts its pace to stay in line with the handler’s left leg, neither lagging behind nor striding ahead. This training requires patience and consistency, as dogs naturally have a different walking pace than humans.
The introduction of varying speeds should be gradual. Starting with a moderate pace, the handler can then switch between speeds randomly during walks. It’s important to reward the dog when it successfully adjusts its pace to match the handler’s. Treats, praise, or a favorite toy can be used as rewards, depending on what motivates the dog the most.
Once the dog is comfortable with varying walking speeds, the next phase is introducing changes in direction. This involves the dog maintaining the heel position while the handler turns right, left, or pivots. Initially, these turns should be made slowly, allowing the dog to understand and follow the new path. Over time, the handler can introduce more abrupt changes in direction. This part of training tests the dog’s attentiveness and ability to follow the handler’s movements closely.
Advanced heel training also includes practicing in different environments. A dog that heels perfectly in a quiet room might struggle in a park or a busy street. Therefore, it’s crucial to practice in various settings with different levels of distractions. This not only reinforces the heel command but also builds the dog’s confidence in different situations.
Throughout this training, communication is key. The handler’s body language, voice tone, and cues all play a significant role in guiding the dog. It’s important to be clear and consistent with commands and signals. For instance, a specific command can be used to indicate a change in speed or direction, and this command should be used consistently.
In advanced heel training, the ultimate goal is for the dog to be so in tune with the handler that it responds to subtle cues, such as a change in the handler’s pace or a slight shift in direction. Achieving this level of synchronization requires a lot of practice and an understanding of the individual dog’s learning style and motivators.
In conclusion, advanced heel training at different speeds and directions is a complex but rewarding aspect of dog training. It enhances the bond between the dog and its handler and ensures better control in various situations. Such training not only benefits the dog’s discipline but also contributes to its mental stimulation, making walks and outings more enjoyable and safe for both the dog and the handler.