Speed Train Your Dog to Heel

Teaching Your dog to Heel using the Koehler method:


Twenty -eight years ago I found an obedience training book by William R. Koehler. It was the ‘Koehler Method of Dog Training: Certified Techniques by Movie-land’s Most Experienced Dog Trainer’. In his book is a very effective and fast way to teach your Pup to heel. I have used the method to teach about a dozen dogs to heel. Pups as young as 12 weeks can be taught to heel very quickly.
There are many different philosophies in use today to train dogs. Some are time-tested and some aren’t. The method in Mr Koehler’s book is time-tested and highly effective. You can teach the average dog to heel on lead in less than an hour, of course the heeling won’t be pefected in that short amount of time, but you’ll have a very good start in that direction.
You can teach your canine to heel off lead as well. Just combine Koehler’s method with an electronic collar.


Koehler’s Method:

Items needed; 12 foot lead,  6 foot lead, electronic collar.

Start out with the 12 foot lead and open area with at least 50 by 50 foot dimensions, perferably  larger than 50 x 50.

Begin by walking in any direction and let the dog pass by you.  Without saying a word and before the pup reaches the end of the lead turn around and head in the opposite direction.   Almost every pup will hit the end of the lead and turn and run past you again.   Just before the pup hits the end of the lead turn and head the opposite direction once again.  Most likely the pup will do the same thing again.   Keep doing the turn, just before the pup hits the end of the lead.  Be sure to make your turns as quickly as possible. This method may seem harsh, because by necessity hiting the end of the check cord needs to hard enough on the dog to get its attention. The plus side is this method is so effective that the pup will retain the training for months if not years.

It won’t be long before the pup begins to pay attention to your movements.   The amount of stubbornness inherent in the pup will determine how quickly it begins to pay attention.  They will start to watch for your turns and turn as you turn.  You  can make a couple of reinforcement turns and call it a lesson.   Praise your dog and give it some fun time.  It is better if you can do two or three lessons the same day.  Just be sure to keep the lessons to around 10 minutes.

Start out the next lesson with the 12 foot check cord.  Repeat as before until the pup is paying attention to your movements.   You now switch to the 6 ft check cord.  Repeat the turns making sure there is slack in the cord before the pup hits the end.  This forces the pup to pay closer attention to your movements.  By now the pup should be keeping one eye on you most of the time.  He has learned that unless he pays attention to his master’s movements, unpleasant things happen.

Doree’s third lesson demonstrating her progress using the Koehler method @:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fmOwCJ-pUvU



Now is the time to steer the pup to your left side. Use the lead to direct him to your left. By now the pup should be staying close to you, watching to see what you are going to do next. At this stage I introduce the HEEL command. The ground work has been laid. The pup has been trained without any commands to pay attention to your movements. The rest of the training is about refinement. Teaching the pup to stay by your side when commanded. Not in front and not behind you. This stage takes longer and requires commitment to the training.
Doree’s third lesson part 2- demonstrating the Koehler method @: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RS63CTZoJVI

Common issues you can run into when teaching heeling. One: They almost always want to be in front of you. They still haven’t given up the idea that they are the BOSS. If the dog is out front just a bit too much. Turn left into their head, bumping the head with your leg. He will get tired of being bumped and back up. Another method ( that came from Germany) is to use a whoa stick. The whoa stick is used to tap the chest of the dog who gets out front of the handler. The whoa stick can also be used to tap the rear of a dog to encourage sitting. I have used half a fishing pole, with the eyelets stripped off, when training Rango. He can be stubborn and needed some extra encouragement. Two: Some times they will hang back behind you. The pup thinks that hanging back will avoid surprises. If he is hanging back give a tug and encourage the dog to move up.
Now combine the previous steps. Start by having the pup sit on your left side. ( If your pup is a pointing dog you can have it stand next to you.) Your are standing still. Start walking forward by moving your left leg forward first. At the same time give the heel command. Your leg movement will be a cue to the pup to start forward. If the pup lags behind give an easy tug and repeat HEEL. If the pup runs ahead reverse direction as before. At this point say HEEL when making turns and corrections. If the pup walks ahead in front, give a sharp tug till the pup is next to your leg. Continue to make random changes of direction as you HEEL the pup. If you make random chages in direction, during training, the likely hood that the pup will stop paying attention to you, diminishes .
Practice for ten minutes or so and give pup a break. Repeat this stage of the lesson until the pup will walk beside you. Once the pup will reliably heel on lead introduce distractions. Keep repeating the lessons until the Pup will heel reliably with all sorts of distractions. One of life’s small pleasures for me is having a canine companion who will heel calmly beside me. It’s well worth the time put into the training.

The Ultimate in Healing:
If you have an older pup  that has been collar conditioned you can introduce the electronic collar. Be sure to lay the foundation described above before using an EC. The electronic collar will enable you to teach the dog to heel off lead easily.
Start by putting the collar around the neck and finding the minimum stimulation level. See the article at http://www.vonmeisterngsps.com/?page_id=158, on how to collar condition a dog properly. For the first lesson or two continue to use the 6 foot lead. Have the dog sit or stand next to you. Give the HEEL command and begin walking. If the dog moves out of the proper position give the HEEL command again and apply stimulus. When the dog falls back into place remove the stimulus. If the dog does not fall back into place give a sharp tug on the lead and remove stimulus. Do you best to set the dog up for success by applying correction right as the dog is moving out of position.
The foundation for this stage is complete, once the dog understands that it can turn off the stimulus by moving to your side.
Now it is possible to teach your dog to move to a heeling position from anywhere nearby. Start by giving the HEEL command and applying stimulus with the dog a few feet away. By now the dog should be so conditioned to the training that it will move right into the heel position. As always remove the stimulus when the dog complies. Keep increasing the distance from you to the dog until you are satisfied.
Congratulations you now have a canine trained to heal off lead. Only a small percentage of dogs have been trained to this level. It’s very satisfying to have a dog that you can walk off lead and well worth the effort

This picture illustrates how you can get three dogs to heel side by side, with no leads or harnesses. Two of the three, do have electronic collars, Doree in the center does not. There’s some jockeying for position as each dog wants to be the leader. Not bad considering they haven’t had any formal lessons since August, and it is now January.