Nothing bonds man and dog more than a hunt. You work in harmony to stalk, bring down and retrieve your prey. When the sun is out, the morning is quiet and all that can be heard is the quiet breathing of yourself and your canine companion, it’s a feeling of tranquility that is hard to top. One thing you need from your bird dog, though, is obedience and control. If your bird dog can’t heel, he will scare off every bird in the vicinity, before you even get a chance to aim.
If your bird dog can heel and stay calmly by your side, you can creep up as close as possible to your prey, increasing your chances of a successful hit, and the chances of your dog being able to retrieve your catch. So, if you want the real Scooby and Shaggy partnership, then training your bird dog to heel is a must!
It’s just one word, so you’d think 'heel' would be an easy command to teach, right? If only! When dogs get outside, their environment becomes a world of irresistible smells and dirty puddles that need to be laid in. Fortunately, bird dogs are usually pretty obedient, partly due to their breeds. Retrievers, for example, are fast learners.
If your bird dog is a puppy then teaching him to heel will take less time as younger dogs are usually more receptive. You will need a bit more patience with older bird dogs, so be prepared to invest at least several weeks into this training. It is vital to persist, though, if you want an effective prey retriever!
The command itself is simple, but it is accompanying it with the leash movements and positive reinforcements that is time-consuming, not to mention keeping your pooch on task and away from distractions.
Before you begin training, make sure you have some quiet outside space, free from distractions. You will also need a slip leash or normal leash, and possibly a harness if your bird dog is large and strong.
It is also worth stocking up on his favorite food or treats. You will use this to incentivize and reward him.
The only other thing you need is time and the patience of a saint! Once you’ve got all those bits together, you’re ready to whip your bird dog into shape.