By: Paul Ramponi
In this lesson we will now teach the dog to stop consistently in the proper heel position.
In this drill you will need three 24-inch pieces of 3/4 inch plastic pipe that you can purchase from a local hardware store for a few dollars. This is also a perfect time to use your e-collar to enforce this command for the dog once a basic understanding has been reached.
With the previous lesson, you have practiced having the dog starting from one-step behind you and calling with the “Heel” command. The dog would meet you at your side in the proper heel position. However, many times handlers are sloppy with where this heel position is and the dog tends to stop just ahead of the handler. The term for this fault/flaw in the dog is called: "Driving the Bus!!!"
All dogs will take every chance when presented to be in charge or act as the pack leader. It is your job as a handler to watch for this in your dog and remain in charge. If you feel yourself slipping into the back seat you are no longer driving the bus. Throughout these lessons try to remain in the front seat.
During your blind retrieves you will need to see exactly where your dog is looking to properly evaluate when to release him to retrieve. If the dog is sitting out front past the proper heel position this becomes virtually impossible for you to see where the dog is actually looking.
To correct this forging behavior in the heel position we will first place a piece of plastic pipe on the ground one step ahead of us. With the dog under control at heel, on lead, and in the “Stay” command position, you will next take one step forward and place the arch of your left foot on the end of the plastic pipe to raise the opposite end just slightly off of the ground.
At this point you will call the dog to heel to meet you with the dog staying properly behind the plastic pipe. At first, you will guide the dog with the lead into the proper position. Each time you step forward, you again maintain control and stop the dog behind the plastic pipe. With repetition the dog will understand the proper position each time you call the dog to your side.
When the dog is reasonably proficient with stopping behind the plastic pipe, reinforcement can be obtained through the use of the e-collar. When you call the dog to meet you at the heel position you will again watch for the dog to stop behind the plastic pipe.
This time, however, if either of the dogs paws move past the plastic pipe, you will immediately push the "Low" Continuous button on your e-collar as you say the word “Heel” while simultaneously backing-up one step. This will position the dog again properly behind the plastic pipe. The collar pressure shall end the moment the dog has all four feet behind the plastic pipe.
Each time you call the dog to heel you will begin to see the dog slow down to keep from advancing ahead of the pipe. This drill will be invaluable to your progress of correct positioning during your blind work.
Once the dog is proficient at stopping properly behind the pipe you may now advance to using two different pipes and adding the holding blinds in preparation for walking to the line as preformed during a test.
With the dog located behind the holding blind panel (preferably in a down stay) you will locate one piece of pipe at the right corner of the holding blind. With the dog in a down stay behind the blind, you will now command “Stay” to the dog as you move to assume your position again at the end of the plastic pipe. Once you are ready, you will call the dog to your side by using the command “Heel”. The dog should come from a down stay position and again stop properly behind the plastic pipe as in previous practice sessions. At no time should the dog leave the holding blind with you. The dog should remain behind the holding blind until you give the command “Heel” for the dog to meet you at the pipe position.
To continue, you will place another piece of plastic pipe near the retrieving line. From your position near the holding blind you will again command “Heel” and begin walking your dog to the next piece of plastic pipe. When you reach the second piece of pipe you will stop and the dog should stop again behind this piece of pipe properly at “Heel”.
To advance further you can leave the dog at this second position with a “Stay” command and advance without the dog to sit on the handlers stool. At the stool you will again position a piece of plastic pipe just under your arches while seated. When you are completely ready, you will again call your dog with the command “Heel “where the dog should again meet you at the bucket properly behind the plastic pipe.
In all these lessons, please understand that a dog's perspective is black and white. There is "no" gray area of learning in the canine world. As you practice these drills over and over it will become apparent when you should no longer need the plastic pipe as a tool. If, however, you training starts to slip, you can easily bring your pieces of plastic pipe back out and review these lessons at any time in the dog’s life.
REMEMBER: “You Drive the Bus!!