Puppy Training - Beginning to Heel

Puppy Training: Beginning to Heel
with Apprentice Lena

Lena pushes open the heavy door to the kennels and leads her fellow apprentices into the room. She lets the door swing shut behind the class, then smiles. "Today, I am going to teach you the proper way to train a canine." She steps to the left and lifts the hatch of one of the many cages, releasing her own pup, Anais. "Anais here has already been housebroken, but she still needs obedience training. So I thought we could use her as a real, untrained example." She grins at the eager pup as she turns to the wall to grab a collar and leash. "First step in training a young canine is getting her used to wearing a collar and leash. But," she looks down to smile at Anais, "this good puppy has already mastered that trick."

"The best time to begin training your pup is when she is between 5 and 8 weeks of age. It is better to start young, rather than waiting until their…" she chuckles softly, "more difficult ages." Lena bends down towards Anais with the plain leather collar held in both hands. "When the pups are young, you should be gentle with the collar, to avoid making them afraid of wearing one." She unbuckles the collar and brings it around Anais' chubby neck. "You don't want it too tight, or she'll become angry and frustrated, however at the same time if it's too loose, there's the chance she could find out how to take it off." She slips the small brass arm on the buckle into the third whole. "Alright, the collar is on. Now time for the leash." She reaches to the ground to pick up the short, leather leash, then looks back up at the class. "When training the pup, you don't need or want a long leash. It is good to keep her near you, and to be able to cause her movement when you tug on it." She pauses for a quick moment as she extends her right hand up to the front of Anais' collar, below her chin. "The ring on the collar is moveable," she demonstrates by sliding the ring up and down the collar, "so it doesn't much matter where you hook it onto the leash." She takes the end of the leash and hooks it onto the small brass circle, then stands back up and wipes her hands together.

"Okay," she continues her lesson, "now time for the actual training." She pauses a moment, then looks at the class and says, "The three basic commands with canines are 'heel,' 'stay,' and 'down.' First of all, you must pick a side to always work with. Such as, if I want Anais to heel," she moves her hand to her right side, "Anais knows to heel when my hand is at my right side, and I say 'heel.' I picked my right side because I am right-handed, however a leftt-handed person could choose the left side, or vise versa. It doesn't matter to the canine, but you need to pick a side and stick with it."

"Now," Lena says to her class, "since Anais already knows the 'stay' and 'down' commands, I'll teach her to heel with you guys to watch and learn.

"The first thing you must know is that canines, and many other animals for that matter, respond the quickest to rewards. If Anais knows that," she raises her voice for a quick word, "down," Lena points to the ground, and Anais sits obediently and looks up to her owner, "will cause her to be rewarded," she pulls out a small piece of bread from her pocket and tosses in front of the pup, "she will most likely obey." Lena smiles and reaches down to give her obedient pup a sweet pat. "Now. The 'heel' command is the most difficult of the three basics, but it is quite doable. It just takes some patience." She turns to the door, and then back around to her class. "If you would all follow me into the stables and then outside, we could have more room to move around and teach Anais." She pulls open the door and holds it open until the last apprentice has walked through.

Outside with her class, Lena continues. "Okay. Teaching a pup a new trick can be easy, frustrating, tiring, and rewarding all at the same time," she chuckles silently to herself, "Anais is a good girl, so she shouldn't be too hard." She tugs on the leash a bit to make sure her subject is still with her. Anais jumps slightly and looks up at Lena and blinks. "Anyway," she grins, "time to train her." She turns to look at Anais for a moment, then looks back up at her fellow Apprentices and begins her lesson. "The first step is to get her to figure out what it is she's supposed to do, and in this case we want her to stay by my side while I'm walking. So," she takes a couple steps forward, "as I step forward, I'm going to firmly tell Anais to heel, while dragging and then pointing my hand to my side, indicating a path for her to follow." She lowers her right arm to the point at ground beside her, "Anais, heel!" The little black pup looks up at her expectantly, without moving. "As you see, this process must be done over and over, for she is not going to know right away what to do." She looks back at Anais and repeats the command several times then finally, "Anais, heel!" She points to her side. Anais scurries over to Lena's side loyally. Lena grins, "Good girl, Anais!" She bends down and pats her head lovingly, then reaches into her pocket to toss her some bread. "Now I need to make sure she knows that heel means she walks with me." She takes a few steps forward, "Anais, heel!" The dog runs up to meet her, and Lena continues to walk forward, with Anais at her side. "Good girl!" She rewards the dog once more, then turns around to the apprentices again.

"And that, my friends," she grins, "is how you train a pup." She leads Anais back into the kennels with the other Apprentices close behind. She sits down on the ground in front of Anais to unclip the leash and unbuckle the collar, then stands back up to put them on the wall. "It is good to have these sessions about once a day, for approximately ten minutes each session. You don't want to overwhelm the pup with new commands, so stick to the same one until she has mastered it." She smiles and pets Anais once more, "And that's it."

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