Bill Gibson | Kennel Master at Mossy Oak GameKeeper Kennels
Once you've completed your early training at home, it's time to begin training in the field. The heel command is important to keep your dog by your side during training and the hunt.
With pup on a slip lead, line pup up with your left leg, and position pup between you and a barrier such as a wall, a fence, or any object that will limit the pup’s movement to the left. Get the pup’s attention. When the pup looks at you give the sit command. Wait a few seconds, again get the pup’s attention, and give the command “heel.” Move your left foot forward while giving the pup a slight tug with the slip lead. The pup should immediately stand and walk beside you. Repeat the command “heel” as necessary. If the pup’s shoulder gets out past your left knee, correct the pup by reversing your direction and lightly snapping the lead. Conversely, if the pup lags behind, put pup back in the proper position by applying easy forward pressure on him using the slip lead. Praise the dog when he maintains the proper heeling position. You should see incremental improvements during the first few sessions, until pup walks at the heel position for longer and longer periods of time.
Once pup is heeling properly go to the next phase of “heel” training, which is training without the barrier. Walk the pup at heel, keeping a close eye on his heeling position. His right shoulder should be in line with your left leg. If the pup loses focus and gets too far out front, immediately reverse your direction of travel while at the same instance giving the verbal command “heel” and applying a quick but gentle snap with the slip lead. If the pup looses focus and wonders to the left side, turn right, and simultaneously give the “heel” command and a slight snap of the slip lead.