How to Teach Your Puppy to Heel
Training a puppy requires patience, consistency, and a clear understanding of the fundamental cues. We get our pups ready to become highly skilled service and guide dogs by inviting a wonderful group of volunteer puppy raisers to bring them into their homes for up to a year. Why? Because before our pups can learn to be guide dogs, they need to learn how to be good dogs.
This takes learning a few important commands – or cues as we prefer to call them here at Southeastern Guide Dogs. A signal to perform a desired action, or a cue, is the best description of what our extraordinary dogs learn before changing the lives of the humans who need them most.
We create special training videos for our big-hearted puppy raisers to help them raise bright, happy pups. The techniques shown in this video were created for our puppy raisers, but we’d like to share them with you as you perfect your pup!
Understanding the Heel Position:
The heel position is defined as having your dog stand or sit on your left side. For guide dog puppies, it is crucial to establish heel as a default position. This position serves as a foundation for other cues such as sit, down, and stay. By practicing these cues consistently at your left side, you build a strong communication channel with your puppy.
Grabbing Your Puppy’s Attention:
To start training the heel position, it is essential to gain your puppy’s attention. Face your puppy and make eye contact to engage them fully in the training process. Holding a treat in your left hand, with your fingers pointed down, you are ready to begin.
Introducing the Cue:
Speak your puppy’s name to ensure their focus, followed by the cue “heel.” For example, “Bud, heel!” As you say the cue, take a step back with your left foot, gently luring your puppy towards your left side. The treat serves as a lure to guide them.
Leading and Turning:
Continue leading your puppy backward until they are positioned on your left side. Once they are in the correct position, say “yes” and reward them with praise or a treat. Gradually, your puppy will associate the word “heel” with the desired position.
Reinforcement and Practice:
Consistency is key when training your puppy. Regularly reinforce the heel position by practicing it during your training sessions and daily routines. Remember to face your puppy, hold the treat in your left hand, and use the cue “heel” to guide them to your left side.
Each time your puppy successfully positions themselves at your left side, celebrate their achievement. Praise them with enthusiastic words such as “good boy” or “good girl,” along with a treat or a gentle pat on their head. Positive reinforcement plays a vital role in motivating your puppy to repeat the desired behavior.
Mastering the heel position is a fundamental step in training your puppy. By establishing this default position on your left side, you create a solid foundation for other cues. Remember to be patient, consistent, and reward your puppy’s efforts. With time and practice, your pup will become proficient in the heel position, ensuring a strong bond and effective communication between you and your dog.
We wish you luck, joy, and a lot of puppy hugs as you teach your furry friend how to heel!
If you love seeing those little lightbulb moments and watching cuddly pups grow into intelligent life-changing dogs, puppy raising might be for you. This rewarding volunteer opportunity with Southeastern Guide Dogs prepares our puppies to achieve their destinies. Learn more about puppy raising, getting a monthly dose of puppy love delivered to your inbox, and other dog training tips right here on our website.