Welcome to week 2 of the Training Challenge! In this blog, you will learn how to teach your dachshund to heel.
I know a lot of people use the word ‘heel’ to mean different things, but for me it is more of an action than one single command. I use it when we are walking to mean “follow me and stay right beside my left ankle”. When you are walking your dachshund you want it to be a bonding experience with them. They cannot do that very well if they are focussed on the ground or the tree up ahead. They need to be focussed on you. See how last week’s exercise rolls into this one?
It is going to be important to practice this with a collar as opposed to a harness. Once they have it mastered if you feel more comfortable with a harness by all means use one! The corrections we give can be given with much less pressure and force when using a collar. Corrections given to a collar also do not apply pressure to a dachshund’s already fragile spine! Remember no retractable leashes either as they constantly provide tension which will teach your dachshund to pull. You want to be sure you hold the leash in both hands and provide your corrections with the left hand.
You want to start with your dachshund on your left side, beside your ankle. This is what we call heel position (make a mental note of this as we will be using it lots in the coming weeks!). If possible it is easiest if your dachshund can start out sitting. If not, we will be getting to that next week so do not worry! You want to take a big step out with your left leg and say your dog’s name and then “heel” as you start walking forward. That may seem pretty specific but here is a little explanation of why you need to do it that way! You want to take a big step so that your dog can see the motion and understands that the big step you just took is a cue. We use the left leg (and this is why it is important your dog is on the left side of you) because through repetition your dachshund will be conditioned that the left leg swinging forward means “follow me”. When we start practicing our ‘“stay” commands we will be using the right leg to step out. The order that you say the command is very important too. You want to make sure it is “Sparky heel” not “heel Sparky”. Why on earth would that ever make a difference? This is a forward motion command and so is “come”. When we practice stationary commands “sit, down etc” we are not going to use the dog’s name at all, just simply give the command. So again, your dachshund will be conditioned through repetition that when they hear their name they will immediately start moving forward. Do you not think that is important? What if you dachshund is playing in the street and a car is coming? They will be conditioned to start coming even before you give the command and that split second could make a huge difference in a situation like that. It also helps to get your dog’s attention before you give the command. Alright so we have our leashed dachshund beside us in heel position, we take a big step out with our left leg and say “Sparky heel” and then…that stubborn little doxie does not budge. Now what? Remember following through is crucial! Do not keep repeating the command just gently give a tug on the leash to get them going and make them follow you. Do not let them just lay there! When you repeat a command over and over you are actually conditioning your dog to believe that they do not have to listen on the first command because you never follow through. Now that all sounds easy enough, but what about when your dachshund lags behind, charges ahead or just in general does not care that you are standing beside them? There are several different tricks you can use to slow down or speed up your dachshund. Firstly, if you doxie is charging ahead you can give them a “pop” correction to get their attention. While walking you want to reach ahead of them with the leash and then quickly pull back in a straight line. Do not keep the tension on them for more than one second! Keep giving them “pops” to get their attention. I will post a demo video on Instagram for anyone who wants to see what a pop looks like! It is not as cruel as you may think and it certainly beats them constantly straining and pulling against the leash. If your dachshund is lagging behind you can apply the same technique in reverse. There are a few other tips that can help you keep your dachshund focussed on you and beside you during your walk. Turns and speed changes! Trying altering between walking slowly with big steps, to a slow jog and then back to normal pace. You can do right turns and left turns as well. These will all keep your dachshund focussed because they are always wondering what you are going to do next. And remember whether you are walking slow or fast you want your doxie to stay walking beside your ankle.
One last tip that I have personally had a lot of success with is using a treat to draw a scent line from your dachshund’s nose up to your eyes. This works great to get their noses off of the ground and focussed on the yummy treats that you have instead. Try mixing this in with speed changes, turns and corrections if needed and you and your dachshund will be enjoying your walks in no time!
Be patient! I will readily admit that even Flash and I do not have this one completely mastered just yet, but that is because we did not practice it as much as we should have at the beginning. However, with consistency and practice I have seen him make huge strides over the last few weeks. It is possible, even for a scent driven dog like a dachshund! Remember to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions about anything we are teaching you here. Do not forget to snap a picture or video of you practicing and use the tag #DUTrainingChallenge to be entered to win some great prizes at the end of the challenge. Happy training!