Want your gundog to be 'glued' to your side? Read on.
If you want to take your gundog out into the field, then you need to have walk at heel training nailed before you venture out there.
You might think hand signals, retrieves and using the stop whistle are priorities but a dog that won’t or can’t walk at heel won’t be welcomed at a shoot.
If your dog is reliable at heel work it’s safer. You know you won’t need a lead to keep the dog by your side and you’ll know where it is.
As everything else with gundog training, don’t rush it. Take things slowly or you’ll knock the dog’s confidence.
Think about whether you are right or left-handed. If you carry your gun over the crook of your right arm, it makes sense to teach your dog to walk just behind your left knee, and vice versa.
Walk at heel – eight key steps
- If the dog is pulling on the lead then his attention is not focused on you. You must develop eye contact with the dog so that he looks to you for instruction rather than trying to make him do things.
- Treats can be invaluable for developing eye contact.
- Teach the dog to sit using your voice and a hand signal. Lure his head with a treat concealed in your hand, and when he is looking at the hand, which should be positioned in line with his eyes and yours, then give him the treat.
- Practice this until the dog is focusing on your hand, then delay the treat and his eyes should be set on yours.
- Once he has become focused, you do not need to treat him every time, but make him earn it.
- Sit him at your side with a slack lead, move your right foot forward, tell him to stay and use the hand signal as before.
- Slap your left leg as you move it forward and give the heel command, luring him to your side with a treat in the hand and giving it to him as he looks up at you.
- That is the first step to heelwork. Gradually progress to teaching two steps, then three, then four, until he will follow by your side, focused on you and with no pulling.