Dog Manual

Lesson Eight - Heeling Free


The Sign—With his left hand the guide slaps his left leg.

HEELING FREE is identical with the First Lesson save that the exercise is performed without the leash. At the command HEEL the dog follows closely at the guide's left knee.

The execution and correction of this lesson, being so closely related, can be explained in one chapter. For the dog that has been correctly trained by instructions previously given, HEELING FREE becomes an easy and quickly acquired lesson. All through the course of preceding lessons I have claimed that dogs may have lacked confidence in their guides. Now I turn the tables and blame the guide for those faults he fears; faults which in reality do not exist. This I will prove satisfactorily in the forthcoming explanation.

In several of the lessons already learned, the dog has been free of the leash.   He has learned to come when called, he stays for a specified time, all without benefit of the leash; but now when we wish to walk him uncontrolled by the leash, the guide fears to set him free thinking he may run away. Why? Clearly, from lack of self confidence. The guide doesn't trust his dog, though he expects the dog to trust him!  What can we do about it? For a moment let us refer to the explanation of CONCENTRATION. Read it once more carefully for here lies the only solution to the problem, the only hope of attaining success in this lesson. If the guide is forever obsessed with the idea that once the dog is loose he will run away, then it may be advisable to let him run for of a certainty he 'will do it. But if, on the contrary, the guide is dominated by the conviction that the dog has learned obedience, that out of love and confidence he will follow wherever the master chooses to go, then the dog will just as surely stick close to the guide whatever may come. This psychology the guide must use: he must start off absolutely convinced that his dog will stick close at his left side. Only this, and the fear of losing the dog will never materialize!

Now, at the usual speed, and with the dog on leash, go through a few exercises like HEEL, SIT, DOWN, STAY. We are walking straight forward, talking to the dog and every once in a while patting his head. Without stopping we detach the leash as we go and, under continued signalling by clapping our left leg and issuing the command HEEL, we keep right on going.
By virtue of lessons already learned, the dog by this time should follow so closely that we can feel whether or not he is at our side. Should the dog hang back and not follow closely, walk a trifle faster, even begin running a little, always encouraging with that friendly spoken HEEL, or with words of praise "That's good!" and with petting. But do not stop, otherwise the dog will go immediately into the trained sitting position. Should he walk too rapidly, or get too far out in front, then slow down and raise the right arm across your body to left-elbow level, the palm of the hand turned inward toward the dog's face.  This is the sign for him to slow down.

We are still walking forward. Now comes the right turn which is the hardest. As mentioned a little while ago, never make a move without telling the dog, in the form of a command or a signal such as HEEL, accompanied by petting. When making a turn to the right, pet his head with your left hand, keeping him on your left side and bringing him around to the right in the turn. Continue walking and petting him until the turn is completed and he is going straight ahead. After a few paces, stop. The dog sits. Petting under the rather long-drawn-out command HEEL, again we go straight ahead. Now follows the left turn. Once more say HEEL as we make a left turn toward the dog. He will follow this better because he is on the guide's left side just as during the right turn.  In the event that he pulls forward or that he does not make the turn, he will naturally bump into the guide's right knee, and this causes him to remain at the left side close up to the guide. Again pet him if he follows closely. Adjust your pace to the dog, by which I mean, go faster if he lags, slower if he proceeds too rapidly.

Once more let me emphasize that many guides make the unfortunate mistake of adjusting themselves to the direction in which the dog wants to go, wherefore instead of the dog following the guide, the dog is in reality leading him. Look back a moment to CORRECTION EXERCISE 4 in the Seventh Lesson; in other words, never adjust yourself to the dog's direction, but go in the opposite direction with increasing speed and the dog will follow at once.

When the right and left turns are properly executed, then comes the full or ABOUT TURN. After the command HEEL, the full turn follows with the signal or sign, in this case the slap on the guide's left leg, the turn being executed as previously described.

As I have remarked before, the faults committed in connection with this lesson are mostly those of the guide, because so often he thinks the dog is not following. CONCENTRATION is the only solution. To be avoided also is too much slow walking, too much looking back to see whether the dog follows: this confuses the animal unnecessarilv.   If the initial lessons are correctlv carried out, HEELING FREE will occasion no difficulty. Suppose, for the sake of argument, the dog does not follow in the manner desired! We have only to ask ourselves the reason. Self examination will surely supply the answer. If it should prove to be lack of confidence on the part of the dog, then petting and kindness are needed: if it be lack of confidence on the part of the guide, the cultivation of self confidence must be practised.

It is not at all advisable to feed the dog during any part of this lesson. Training through the stomach is never a reliable method so do not start it. True, many an amateur has tried it only to come to the conclusion that it is wrong. For trick dogs it may work, but in obedience training it will surely end in failure just because the dog's interest, being held by the bribe, cannot be held by the command HEEL. Also, feeding is not permitted in field trials, consequently the dog trained first by feeding will suffer disappointment when he does not receive his expected reward.

It helps a great deal when a dog is a naturally peppy retriever. Here we can effectually excite his interest and joy in his work by showing him the dumbbell in conjunction with the command HEEL. We can attract his attention and hold it all the time, but the dog will consider the dumbbell as reward for good work when he is afterward granted the fun of playing with it by retrieving.
Certainly all exercises must be connected in some form with the dumbbell. In fact I have enjoyed the greatest amount of success with dogs trained either personally or under my direction, when the SIT, DOWN, STAY, etc., lessons are practised in such a manner.

The time limit of twenty minutes is not to be extended until the guide is certain the dog is dependable, and that all exercises are understood by the dog with only one command, and without hesitation or undue delay.

Obviously all orders, all commands must be used in the house, out of doors, whenever and wherever opportunity offers, this to insure against making a machine of the dog. Likewise response to all commands must be given in various types of places and not restricted to a certain field or yard. Such an unfortunate tendency is frequently observed at dog shows where some competitors prove excellent performers in the ring but, in truth, nowhere else.