Teach Your Gun Dog the Heel Command
An essential command for keeping a pup by your side on the hunt and at home.
When you’re crossing a road or encountering other hunters in the field, you need your dog to walk at your side, or heel. Start with your pup sitting at your left side as you hold a treat in your left hand near your waist, where she can’t see it. Use a leash or check cord for safety, but not to drag the dog along. Say the pup’s name to get her attention, and take two steps. If she comes with you and stops, give her a treat. Repeat. Work up to four steps, six steps, etc., and utter the command—“heel”—when she will come with you for 10 steps.
Alternatively, you can teach heel on a check cord. Again, start with the pup sitting by your side. Step forward while giving a light tug on the cord as a cue. When she steps forward with you, say “heel.” Keep going, and step a little faster. Zigzag, first right, then left, giving cues as necessary. Before long, she will learn to watch you and follow your movements without any cues. Many trainers feel that the check-cord method better prepares the dog for later training with an electronic collar and light stimulation.
Be sure to check out our full guide on how to train a pup to be your new hunting buddy.
Photograph by Ralph Smith