by SAM HYER
Once you have mastered the “heel” with your best fur friend, next is “heel, sit.” This is another command your dog needs to learn, and it is best taught at the same time as the “heel.”
Your pup needs to learn that every time you stop, she is to immediately sit down by your side, and remain sitting until you release the command. This looks very impressive to people who are unfamiliar with dogs but, in fact, it can be taught easily.
Every time you stop moving when your dog is heeling, immediately say, “Sit, Benny”—ok, maybe not Benny; please use your pet’s own name. And give him or her a quick, gentle tap on the hindquarters. A stubborn fur friend may need a little push into the sitting position, while a very stubborn child needs a jerk upward on the choke collar plus a push down on the behind.
Every time your dog sits, praise him lavishly. And if he should decide to stand up before you are ready to begin again, give him an immediate correction. Soon your dutiful child will sit automatically when you stop.
Next, let us try the “stay” command. Begin by placing the dog in a “sitting at heel” position. While holding his leash tightly in your left hand so that he cannot follow, step directly in front of him so that you are facing him. Holding the taut leash behind and over his head, show him the palm of your hand while you give the command “stay.” Then step backward, still holding the leash. If he starts to come toward you, correct him by saying “No, stay.” After about three tries, you should be able to take a few steps backward before he moves. If he remains in position, you are ready for the recall. Say “Benny, here,” and give the hand signal to come to you by holding your arm straight out from your side, then swing it in until your palm is flat against your chest. If you need to, you may give a little tug on the leash, but at this point most dogs are more than happy to come over to you.
Once the dog arrives beside you, guide him to a spot directly in front of you so that he is facing you, and put your hand under his chin. Tell him to sit. Then tell him what a wonderful fur friend he is. Then repeat the whole thing over.
Patience and repetition are the keys to teach your fur child to stay, and chances are your dog will be no exception. But the rewards are more than worthwhile.
We are doing so well with our best buddy, let’s try one more, the “down” command. With your child in the sitting position, kneel beside him and give the command “down.” At the same time, keeping your left arm around his body, gently lift his front feet off the ground and ease his body down until he is lying on the ground. The down command can sometimes become a power struggle with an older dog or a stubborn, aggressive dog, because the dog tends to view the down position as submissive. If this happens, try to remain calm, and by your tone of voice and non-threatening behavior, convince your dog that it is only another stage in his obedience work. It is best not to struggle with your dog over the down command. If need be, leave the training of this command for another day.
The last command we will touch on will be the “stand” command. The final thing a well-trained dog should learn is to stand on command and accept the attention of strangers, such as the groomer, vet, dog show judge, or your best human friend.
To teach your fur buddy to stand-stay, begin heeling as usual, but after a few steps slow down, bring your right hand down in front of the dog’s nose with your fingers pointing down to the ground, and give the command “stand, stay.” While doing this, move to the end of the leash (which, by the way, should be in your left hand), stay there for a few seconds, and then give the dog the verbal and hand commands to stay. Now walk around his left side, behind him and back into the heel position. Resume heeling for a few steps before repeating the stand-stay lesson. If your dog tries to move off, correct him with the choke collar. If he begins to fidget, correct him with a firm “no.”
If your fur friend starts to sit as you begin to leave, you are undoubtedly taking too long to give him the hand signal and step away. Try again. If you are moving quickly and he starts to sit, you can either hold his hind leg up while you give the stand command or prop your foot under his stomach. Either way, he will find it impossible to sit. If your best friend tries to sit when you circle around him and return to the heel position, get him back up, give the stand command, and circle around again until he remains on his feet. When you do return to his side, stand with him a few moments so that he understands that he is not to move until you give another command.
Training your dog can be hard, but it is immensely rewarding. It gives both you and your fur friend peace of mind that you can trust each other and that you know what the other requires to enjoy a long loving relationship. Most dogs are happier when they feel useful—when they have a task or job—and training will give your dog something to focus on. Have fun and enjoy the healthy air and exercise that you and your fur friend get while training and bonding.
Sam Hyer is owner of Hyer Luv Kennel and Groomers, Mid Michigan Cocker Rescue founder, ISCC life member, Rockford Chamber of Commerce member, American Boarding Kennel Association (Pet Care Services Association) member, guest speaker and lecturer on companion animal topics throughout the country, proud breeder of Oprah’s first cocker Solomon, behavior consultant, parent, grandparent and pet mom. Sam may be reached at 874-DOGS (3647) or firstname.lastname@example.org.