Egad! December is upon us and, with it, all the dog-oriented topics to be discussed, from handling them around company to conveying that decorations are not chew toys, and then onto the topic of the holiday puppy. In light of the fact that last week’s lesson was a bit of a cliff hanger, discussing the topic of using the direction HEEL in the public arena, I will try gracefully to segue into holiday highlights without leaving the topic entirely.
I left you practicing HEEL around increasing more distracted environments, using quick leash tugs when your dog was distracted, and praise to underscore your togetherness. First you will teach HEEL to say “I’m the leader follow me,” using a tone that is directive, eye contact that surveys what is in front of you, and a body posture that conveys confidence.
Take your dog into town. If he’s a little overeager to escape the confines of the car or is bouncing to and fro on the way, secure his leash to a backseat headrest leaving only enough slack to allow him to sit/lie comfortably. Another viable option is to crate him: safety must be your first priority, sanity (for both of you) a close second.
As you exit the car, take the leash in hand and instruct him to HEEL. Prepare for the bound and sniff. It is natural for a dog to smell his surroundings in order to feel safe; however, this is not an option. Unleashed, such an impulse would leave your dog in grave danger. In a human’s world, full of incomprehensible activities and fast moving transportation, your dog needs to put your judgment ahead of his own. Once that concept is learned, a natural trust will develop between you.
Now, let’s get walking. Decide the pace and direction and go. Using treats, clicks, praise, toys, etc… to motivate your dog’s enthusiasm, call his name, HEEL and walk on. He may pull in any or all directions in his excitement to take everything in: stress that he focus on your first, the environment, second…
Don’t expect your first ventures to look pretty. I’ve walked into a bench, a telephone pole and more people than I can name. I’ve tripped in a cross walk, dropped the leash (fortunately my dog thought it riotous, jumping all over me), and lost more business in those early ventures than I care to recall: “You’re a dog what???” Swallow your pride, ask spectators to give you a little space, and keep at it. Compare the first outing with the fifth, then the tenth, and you will be quite proud of the two of you!
Here we will instruct HEEL as a position next to you: specifically next to your HEEL. Leaving a short drag leash or hand leash on your dog, instruct him to come to your HEEL throughout the day. You may use treats or toys to lure him or, with your right hand on the leash, bring it to your left side as you guide your dog’s waist around with your left hand. Again—stress the positive! When he gets there, let him sense your pride: love him dearly. Hearing HEEL should welcome your togetherness.
Now when the bell rings or you’re expecting company, use this direction to give your dog a framework. You want to include your dog, but discipline only adds to the chaos. By instructing him to your side, you are letting him know your expectations, keeping him close enough to interrupt his impulsivity and relaxing him with the warmth of directed inclusion.
On to the holiday puppy!!! Things to consider before tying the bow, as well as hints for young dogs experiencing the rush of the holiday season for the first time!!!