Lesson One - Heeling On The Leash
means that the dog
accompanies his guide, walking at the guide's left side. All too often
we find that the novice guide follows after the dog, allowing himself
to be pulled here, there or wherever the dog wills to go. That habit of
letting the dog take the lead will have to be broken and the dog taught
to HEEL, in other words, to
follow the guide with no pulling or
straining at the leash.
Fasten to the dog's collar, (a training collar if necessary) a good,
strong leash of about three feet in length. A leash longer than three
feet would give the dog more liberty which is exactly what we wish to
avoid. The dog will be taught to follow closely at the left side,
therefore the long leash would prove a handicap by allowing too much
freedom of movement. This would tend to confuse him with regard to the
use of those signs and signals which later on replace verbal orders.
Moreover, the liberty permitted by the extra long leash enables the dog
to veer to the right or the left, in front or perhaps suddenly behind
the guide; and before the animal can be drawn back to position, he may
have become tangled up with someone approaching from the opposite
direction. Or he may have wound himself around a tree or a post, all of
which can be successfully prevented by the use of the short, three-foot
Considering the fact that as training advances, the leash will be
controlled by the left hand alone, it should be held only for the
purpose of guidance. It is therefore quite important that we handle it
properly. Correct handling of the leash while teaching the HEEL
exercise will have considerable bearing on the success of the exercises
to follow. So by all means let me advise the guide to follow these
instructions to the letter.
given by the guide's left hand against his left
At the command HEEL, the dog
should follow as closely as possible, with
slack leash, at the left side of the guide, the dog's shoulder being
close to the guide's left knee.
Hold the leash in the right hand, with the hand dropped at the side.
With the left hand, give SIGN,
then grasp the leash near the collar,
holding the hand close to the left side, the grip loose so that the
hand may be slipped back and forth cither to shorten or to lengthen the
leash as may be necessary. Study the illustration below. Starting off
at a fast pace, though not a run, and keeping the dog's head
near the knee, utter the command HEEL
at intervals. Prolong the sound
as indicated, and speak distinctly. What is the immediate reaction? The
dog will attempt to pull away, to forge ahead, stop, pull backwards or
to one side. Or possibly he will not walk at all.
correct starting position.
Reactions such as those just mentioned are usually due
to the fact that the guide gives the dog too much leash, or that he
changes the position of his hands and arms. The left hand and arm must
be held quite stiff and, if the dog is large, the hand should be near
the collar. If on the other hand, the dog is small, then the hand may
be farther away from the collar.
But step off quickly and do not stop even when the dog resists. Just
continue to walk, carrying him along with you. Don't stop. Don't look
behind you. Don't look at the dog. He will follow as long as you are
moving. You can tell well enough whether he is close beside you as he
should be. Should he balk or try to forge ahead, shorten your hold upon
the leash in order to keep him from falling behind or from pulling
ahead. It need not disturb you if he does develop these traits, just
keep on going. Very shortly he will learn that he is much more
comfortable if he stops pulling and follows amicably.
Here is another method that may prove useful. If the dog lags too far
behind, change the leash to the right hand, at the same time keeping
him at your left side. Let the leash drop ever so slightly in front of
you so that your every step will cause a jerk on the collar, reminding
the dog that, if he would avoid this self-inflicted punishment, he must
keep up with his guide. If he walks too rapidly or pulls forward, the
identical method may be used except that in this case the leash is
passed behind the guide instead of in front of him.
Practise this lesson for about ten minutes when first you start out,
and use right and left turns occasionally, at each turn commanding HEEL
to attract the dog's attention. From the very beginning, these
be executed at a rapid pace in order to keep the dog in a peppy
condition. If the guide is slow-gaited, easy going, the dog will
reflect his attitude and never be a snappy worker. No one likes to see
a dog respond to commands in a sleepy sort of way, and at field trials
and obedience tests the peppy dog will invariably win over the slow,
more deliberate performer. Let me repeat, then; if the guide would have
a snappy worker under his hand, he must put snap into his own actions.
dog close to the guide's left side.
on a loose leash.
Another way in which a dog may be kept close to the guide's side when
passing a tree or a post is to lead him right up to it. He will try to
go around it only to find himself trapped. Stop for a moment and let
him wiggle himself out of his predicament but on no occasion go back to
him. Next time he will stay close beside his guide and make no attempt
to deviate from his course.
Now this is of particular importance: Always remember to repeat the
command, HEEL from time to
time, according to the character of the
dog. Should he react slowly or give evidence of fear, issue the command
in a voice designed to encourage, to pep him up. Add to the command a
few, shall we say rousing words, such as "That's fine!". . ."That's
it!" or something of the kind. On the other hand, if he starts off in
high strung fashion, as it were, over-loaded with electricity make an
effort to quiet him down to prevent too much pulling. Slow down your
pace, use your right hand at the height of the left elbow and at the same
time give the command HEEL,
The dog is on the wrong side. He should be close at the guide's
The leash is too long; right hand gives the sign Down.
The leash is too short and the dog is pulling.
Personally, I like a peppy dog much
better than a slow one; with him, I
believe more satisfactory results can be obtained. And keep in mind
that previously mentioned admonishment of the stiff arm, to wit, if the
dog jumps up on his guide, use he stiff arm to hold him down.