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Heeling and Obedience

I have an 8 month old lab.This is my first dog and am a novice on training methods. I have been working with him on basic commands; sit, stay, come. He has mastered all of these. I have two questions. The first question deals with getting my dog to heel. I take him on walks nightly. I usually let him roam without a leash. He walks about 20 to 25 feet in front of me and will stop on command but I cannot get him to heel and walk next to me for an extended period of time. What should I do to correct this problem?

Next question deals with field drills. I am hoping to have him in the field with me this dove season. I am in Texas and the season starts in September. Max will be 13 months old. I work him with canvas dummies in the back yard and at a neighborhood pond, but I feel like I should be doing more. Are there some drills I could do to further his development or should I send him to school? I would like to continue his training on my own and hope that he will be ready to hunt this fall. I have not introduced him to guns yet. Is now a good time? Thanks in advance for your help.



The answer to your heeling question lies in the description of the problem. By letting your dog roam off leash, you have taught him that off leash is for roaming, not heeling. You need to make heel, a habit, then re-enforce it so that the dog no-longer has the chance to blow you off.

At eight months, this pup is ready to have demands placed on him. Here's what I would do:
  1. Make the dog heel, on leash with a correction collar, for extended periods of time. Correct any lapse in performance and praise for progress and performance.

  2. Heel for short periods off leash and reward often with a ball or bumper. This will energize your off-lead work and make him more focussed.

  3. Leave a leash on the dog, on a flat collar, when he is allowed to roam or romp. You now have the ability to correct the pup if he refuses to come, heel, or sit and he will learn that off leash does not mean out of control.

You might visit my website at and take a look at my Obedience Book, it will help.

Your desire to train the dog yourself is commendable but I don't think you understand the scope of the undertaking.

In order for your dog to be under reasonable control, be steady to shot, mark the fall and deliver to hand it would take most pro trainers several months of daily work. In addition it will take your dog a season or two to get the idea. This brings you to the most basic level for a hunting retriever.

Add multiple marked retrieves, handling for blind retrieves, honoring another dog, and you have an intermediate dog after many more months of daily work.

I don't mean to discourage you but it can be a lot of work. You might consider sending the pup to a pro at least for the basics. If you are set on training the dog yourself, I would recommend that you locate a retriever club and get with them. Training your own hunting dog can be a rewarding effort or it can be an incredibly frustrating one. Training with experienced handlers in a club can really help.

Best of luck

Bill Corcoran
Highland Retrievers
Highland Retriever

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