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Thread: When to teach "Heel" to a gun dog...or any dog?

  1. #1

    Default When to teach "Heel" to a gun dog...or any dog?

    I own a 4 and one 1/2 month old English Setter and am confused about when I should start training her on to "Heel". Several of the gun dog training books I own don not even mention teaching heel until the dog is at least one year of age. Well, if I can't/shouldn't teach her to heel until then what do I do for now while she is pulling me on our walks. What do other people do when their dog pulls on a walk?

    Jason

  2. #2

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    I start teaching heel at about 8-12 weeks old.
    If the puppy can walk they can begin to learn to not tug on a leash.

    To stop the dog from pulling, give her a whack on the butt or shoulder every time she walks in front of you.

    In time she will learn to stay behind you, keeping a nice slack leash

    I never let any dog pull even once. Get her used to the idea now so she doesn't develop any 'bad' habits.
    "When the time comes for a man to look his Maker in the eye, where better could the meeting be held than in the wilderness?"

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    I used to run labs for both a hunting partner and as a hunting dog.
    I believe one of the most important things that your dog has to learn is obedience. If he is never in the right place when traveling to the hunting area you the hunter will be frustrated. If the dog does not do what he is told to do then you the hunter is frustrated again. If the dog will not sit still in the blind then again you the hunter is frustrated.
    Now keep in mind all of the above is true then you will not get many shots off because of the dog. Again frustration.

    If the dog does nothing else but what he is told to do then he is your new hunting buddy and the rest will come in time. If it doesnít then he is still you hunting buddy. I always found that some of the best times I ever had was what I could teach one of my lab. So the moral of the story is teach them to obey first. Itís endless what you can teach a dog and if you what them to start to learn to heel then teach the basics and keep the training time down to short sessions.

    Good luck

    Sweepint
    Wasilla, (when not overseas)
    '' Livn' The Dream ''
    26' Hewescraft Cuddy, twin 115 Yam

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    Now! for you and your dog, start now!
    Dont mean to sound flippant, but I agree. Start them young with obedience / yard work.
    The books you reference might be talking about waiting to teach the "serious" bird / field work until they are a year old which is common practice for pointing dogs.
    Last edited by Burke; 05-18-2011 at 21:10. Reason: add

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    Yep! I teach them all sorts of things when they are quite young. You're actually training the pup from the first moments you spend together and right up until the last few moments of his life. The books, and others have told me I'm doing it the wrong way all these years, that I'm expecting too much from a pup. But I'm not buying into it the way I do it. Keep everything FUN for the pup and you. Don't force pup to move on to something too difficult for him to understand and accomplish. Don't be afraid to move back one step to end a session on doing something pup does understand and know how to do. He'll thank you for it, believe me. Pup will tell you if you are asking too much of him. Just listen closely, go slowly, and have fun at all times. My dogs have always guided me through this process and we've had a fair share of success.

    Geeesh! We could post the same sort of information on some child rearing forum!

    Best of luck to both of you. Please let us know how you get along with all this training stuff. It's not all that hard. I can even do it!

    Jim

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    There is a OKAY video... Training Setters and other Continental Breeds. It helped with my Setter. Might be worth a look.

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim McCann View Post
    You're actually training the pup from the first moments you spend together and right up until the last few moments of his life.
    I like to think I know what I'm doing, but I know little compared to Jim. His knowledge/wisdom and experience are evident in this sentence.
    "When the time comes for a man to look his Maker in the eye, where better could the meeting be held than in the wilderness?"

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    Tailwind,

    Your words are very kind and much appreciated. But anything I know I learned from others. Let's see...there was Joe, Success, Tess, Wyatt, Blue, Star, Ginger, Justin, Gretchen, Max, Buddy, Rusty, Rudy, Charlie...and many others that taught me a few tricks and lessons. And I'm still learning.

    Jim

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    "To stop the dog from pulling, give her a whack on the butt or shoulder every time she walks in front of you." a puppy? aaaa.... no. Unless you want that jumpy dog that shrinks from a hand movement. Very old school and not very effective on most puppies, but Im sure Tailwind will disagree.
    I do agree that all this "training" is really part of life and living everyday. Obedience is the basis for all other training but there is absolutilly no good reason to hit a puppy. I'm training myself out of that kind of dog handling and not only am I getting a better dog, I'm having more fun. There are many ways to teach heeling and the dog will lunge ahead for various reasons. You have to teach it in various locations with ever increasing distractions but the main thing is to make being next to you the best place to be for treats or pets or not allowed to get what they want until you release then. Other than out in front when told to hunt it up.
    I'm learning more from fixing rescued dogs than people these days.
    Linda Henning

  10. #10

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    First lesson I learned as trainer-Women have the key to many areas I do not.

    There are a hundred ways to do any dog training. My area of expertise is rehabing problem dogs, so I lean more towards a more aggresive, hands on style. Your style may be more gentle and better for some dogs.

    I use physical touch from the first day of life just like their natural pack leader would.
    It's communication just like an E-collar, not 'hitting'. I never use touch out of anger.

    I never 'ask' a dog to behave, I expect it, and when they don't, they get a correction. Plain and simple.

    I've said it a million times, I would rather work with a snarling human aggresive pit any day.
    The shy dogs are where I have trouble.

    Thanks for the insight Linda, your experience is priceless for us dog folks
    "When the time comes for a man to look his Maker in the eye, where better could the meeting be held than in the wilderness?"

  11. #11

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    At the age this pup is at I would start a training lesson called " Follow the Leader"
    I use a long line and attach it to the pup with either a flat buckle collar or a choke chain. The flat buckle collar must be tight enough that it doesn't come over the dogs head.
    Start by walking forward and allow the pup to go ahead of you. The pup will slide out 5 to 10 ft but that's ok just let the rope slide through your hands. Now change direction 180 degrees. Use the rope to change your dogs direction. A few light tugs should do it. You don't stop or wait for the dog. You just keep moving and tugging until the dog changes course towards you. Use what ever verbal command you want to. In the retriever world we use heel and here to mean two different thIngs.
    Now the pup is going to come by you and fly right back in front again but then you be ready to go 180 again. Doing the exact same thing using your chosen command. After a few repititions you will start to see the dog to be more at your side and less likely to go up front. It literally where's them down.
    This drill does two things. It reinforces a consistent recall and teaches dogs to not be in front.

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    Thanks Tailwind - when I revert to more physical pressure on these dogs I just see bad reactions to dogs who have already been hit. I don't know how to handle really people agressive dogs and question some methods to train them, if they every really can be rehabed. Most of what I see from the rescues is bad manners from lack of training or shy, worried, unusual fears and fortunatly that is mostly cured by careful, positive encouragement. I tried a heeling stick with Jack, our DNA confirmed LABRADOODLE, and the first time I tapped his chest he hit the ground. Just holding it in front of him made him freak.

    I am doing what Baron describes. While waiting for an oil change in my car I had him in the park, with all the distraction of gulls, kids, dogs, cars I was totally dizzy but ultimatly he gave in. Add the nuttiness of a Poodle to a Lab and it takes a lot of repetition to win over them. I added treats for remaining in heel and sitting to overcome all the distraction. We walked another 2 or 3 miles around Wasilla, fairly in control, sitting at cross walks, changing direction if he pulled, speeding up if he stopped to sniff something. He really could drive the sainest person to throttle him so it's a challenge to stay positive, especially in full public view. For me, being in public, away from my private yard, is a good way to manage my own frustration with him. I was exhausted. He slept 15 min on the way home and was ready to go again. :-P,,,

  13. #13

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    Thanks for all the great advice folks!
    My problem is that I cannot take this poor little setter for a walk with a loose leash. As soon as I put the leash on she pulls, pulls, pulls. I have started using a trick I learned in an obedience class years ago that goes something like this. Start with a treat in your left hand and the leash in your right. Hold the treat down in front of the pup's face and say "Heel" as you begin to walk together. After a few moments of her trying to lick the treat free from your grip, give it to her and give praise. She will stay by my left kneee as long as I have a treat at the ready.
    True, maybe I should have started "Heel" training a bit earlier but, I have been so focused on the early field work with her and developing trust that something as basic as heel just slipped past me. But it is time. I have a husky mix that has learned to stop pulling with this method, this Setter can to!
    I will give the "Follow the Leader" trick a try tomorrow Baron. Thanks for that.

    Jason

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    Setter, Linda and Baron make a sound "argument" with their tactic to get a dog to heal. Remember, Teach, Train, Test. Since you've waited this long to solve the question regarding healing, teaching will be a little more difficult as now you have to break a bad habit, or, change a habit you no longer tolerate.
    Teaching is done with very little if any "pressure" and if you have to correct at this stage, corrections should be minimal. Building your foundation works best when done on positives. Later, in the TRAINING phase, corrections are warranted. That is likely where Tailwinds method might be used if needed. The training phase should reinforce what was taught.
    You said that "I cannot take this poor little setter for a walk with a loose leash". You can't if you don't change how you handle the dog. Right now your pup is not focused on you, and that is what you need to change. Treats are one method. If that helps to get her focused on you that is GREAT! I agree with Baron and Linda on how they walk and use the leash. If I have a larger older dog that is a bit unruly, I'll go to a 6'-10' leash. I make the dog sit, hook it up, give the command "HEEL" and walk forward. As soon as the dog darts past I spin on the ball of my foot 180 degrees the opposite way before the leash gets taut. I command HEEL again just as the dog gets to the end of the lead. I might spend 5 minutes not walking further then 15 feet or so. By changing direction every time the dog moves out front and reinforcing the command to heel with the taut lead, pretty soon the dog will start to look at me. I keep the dog off balance so to speak so they never know what is coming next. As the dog starts to shorten up, I shorten up the lead. I never hold it taught, but instead of 10' of loose lead, I'll choke up on it so there is only a few feet loose.
    As the dog starts paying attention, use your voice to keep her attention. Baby talk her. High pitch, happy tones, relaxed body posture. Then if she needs a correction, go back to your command voice. If you have to keep making corrections, you are doing something wrong. This method, in a fairly sterile working environment, should have a dog walking significantly at heal in short order.
    Watch the dog. Her posture will tell you how she is doing. Tail down, ears low, slinking, scared eyes, all tell you she is way too stressed and you are using too much pressure, even if you don't feel like you are. You want her attitude to stay up. You want her bouncy and happy. Again, treats might help you keep her there. You just have to know your dog and how to balance things out.
    ARR

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