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Helping You Get the Most From Your Hunting Dogs

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So far all we have been doing is starting and stopping. Your dog should be associating your command and the stimulation together. If he is making that association, this sets us up for the next step. Start alternating the times you stimulate: meaning give the heel command and walk without giving any stimulation. Your dog should jump forward as if he had stimulation. If he does so, he is conditioned to your command. If he does not, then you need to spend more time on the heel, stimulate, walk exercise.

When you start intermittently stimulating your dog in this exercise you should ease into this by giving the heel command and stimulating two times in a row and then skip stimulating once. Then stimulate again and skip one. Then stimulate and skip stimulation twice. What we would like to achieve is to stimulate the dog on every third or fourth command only. This will get your dog responding to his commands in an eager, confident manner.

Let’s go on to the next part of the heeling exercise. We have taught the dog to start to heel on command. Now let’s teach him to stay at heel. To do this you will have to use your lead and choke chain. Start the dog out by giving the heel command. You can stimulate if you want to; it doesn’t matter at this time. You have started your dog and are walking along. When you have walked twenty feet or so make a right turn. As you do so, give the heel command, pull on the lead and stimulate all in one motion. You want the dog to key off your leg when turning. By turning away form your dog and giving the heel command, your dog will need to be paying attention to you and should not be looking at anything else. Once you have your dog turning to the right, start turning to the left. Do the same as if you were turning to the right. Give the heel command, turn, pull and stimulate. You can start alternating turns. You will want to phase out the lead just as you did with the starting exercise. Once you have done this, leave the lead on the dog but let it drag on the ground. When starting your dog out in this exercise, the procedure should be heel, stimulate, and walk. Always give a verbal command first. Your dog should walk beside you at heel just as if you were holding onto the lead. As you walk, going through your turns, remember to say heel first, than stimulate. Your dog should follow you through all of your turns. You can start to intermittently stimulate your dog through these turning exercises. Your goal here is to get the dog to walk at a heel with you through this whole exercise. One thing that you should have noticed is that nothing was said about taking the lead off your dog yet. You may have to use it to back up and show your dog what you want him to do. Don’t be afraid to do this. It is a lot easier to back up than to dig yourself into a hole. We don’t want to turn this into a big fight. Just back up and show the dog what you want. Remember that once your dog responds to your command stop stimulation immediately.

One thing you’re probably asking yourself is how long should these sessions be? You have to know and be able to read your dog. When I’m collar conditioning a dog I generally spend ten to fifteen minutes with each individual dog. This doesn’t seem to be very long. And sometimes it seems to be too long, however you’re looking at it. My experience is anything shorter will take you longer to condition the dog and anything longer will put too much pressure on the dog, resulting in a sluggish performance.

At this time your dog should be walking at heel and turning with you as you turn with or without a command. If this is so, we will advance to the next step, conditioning your dog to sit.

In the next issue, I will review the techniques on how to condition your dog to sit, how to enforce the sit command, and how to teach the recall or come in command.
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