Lesson Eight - Heeling Free
his left hand the guide slaps his left leg.
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
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
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
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
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,