In competition obedience training, “heel” means the dog is walking on your left side with his head even with your knee while you hold the leash loosely. Puppy training can be a little more relaxed with the goal being that they walk politely on a loose leash without pulling. Some trainers prefer to say “let’s go” or “forward” instead of “heel” when they train this easy way of walking together.
First, make sure your puppy is comfortable wearing a leash. This can feel strange at first, and some puppies may bite the leash. Give your puppy treats as you put the leash on each time. Then, stand next to your puppy with the leash in a loose loop and give him several treats in a row for standing or sitting next to your leg. Take one step forward and encourage him to follow by giving another treat as he catches up.
Once your dog can stay, you can gradually increase the distance. This is also true for the “sit.” The more solidly he learns it, the longer he can remain sitting. The key is to not expect too much, too soon. Training goals are achieved in increments, so you may need to slow down and focus on one thing at a time. To make sure the training “sticks,” sessions should be short and successful.
Bring your puppy to the crate for naps and quiet-time breaks so that he can “unwind” from family chaos. Start in increments of 10 minutes and work up to longer periods. Offer treats when he goes inside, and distraction toys, like a stuffed KONG. For years, this author has been giving her Yorkie a treat every day as soon as he goes into his crate and sits. Now as an adult dog, he runs to his crate each morning in anticipation of the goodie.
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Always remember that you are dealing with a very immature young animal. Be realistic, flexible, patient and always fair during puppy training sessions. Your puppy doesn't just automatically know this stuff! It's all new to him and he is bound to have the odd slip up and mistake along the way. Don't worry about these mistakes, just move on and do your best to prevent them in the future.
Remember that training is an ongoing process. You will never be completely finished. It is important to keep working on obedience training throughout the life of your dog. People who learn a language at a young age but stop speaking that language may forget much of it as they grow older. The same goes for your dog: use it or lose it. Running through even the most basic tricks and commands will help them stay fresh in your dog's mind. Plus, it's a great way to spend time with your dog.
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