How to Train Your Dog to Walk Beside you Off-Leash

I Command Thee, Heel!

It's going to be a while before the park visit because our scheduled events got shifted. This only means I can work on training Maui even more. I spent a good amount of money on the shock collar and I will make sure it's used until it's broken. The way I see it, using something to the point where they have done all that they can, is the best way to go. Unless something actually breaks sooner than I'd like it, like a factory defect. So far, even after forgetting that it was charging and that one time when I left it in the rain, remote included, the device has worked without complaint, so to speak. 

Maui is also becoming far more responsive to the collar. Back then he reacts around levels 3-4 but when I recalibrated, that is, I checked the lowest level Maui would react to, he somehow reacts at 1. When I do our every-other-day training sessions, Maui does all the behaviors quickly. Sometimes I don't use the shock anymore and just use vibrate as a "reminder" that he needs to do it fast, then give him the treat. Maui really likes it when we do things at high speed, then when I see that he is at the "peak" of his excitement, I give him plenty of praise, play with him, and give him a surprise belly rub that he enjoys a lot. 

I realize now that training your own dog has its advantages. Of course, my training prowess is nowhere near the caliber of a professional trainer, but I have fun with Maui, and seems like he has a positive experience with the training, at least his body language says so. I try my best to make training exciting for him and it seems to be paying off. Hopefully, the bond we have is enough for the more advanced things I intend to teach him. 

He does my obedience commands about 75% of the time. When he doesn't, I just say it louder until he does it. The only time he really doesn't is when he is distracted by other living creatures like another cat, or the occasional people walking their dog that pass by the gate. Maui still has a pretty strong territorial drive, but I know Maui. He can bark his lungs off to the dog on the other side of the gate, but as soon as I open that gate, my dog is going to slink back like the cowardly and adorable dog that he is. 

That advanced thing I'd like to teach him is to heel. To follow me closely and sit when I stop. I'm doing this because I want to see if I can teach Maui to walk with me without a leash, then I can practically take him anywhere that's safe for dogs. Parks, beaches, family outings, even other people's houses. 

First of all, I need to check if our local government has any leash laws. After a quick call to them, I learned that we only have a mandate that all dogs should be vaccinated for Distemper, Parvo, and Rabies, all of which my furry friend is up to date. The only thing I really have to watch out for is Maui biting people, as there could be dire consequences if that ever happens. This is what scares me the most when it comes to taking Maui out into places without a leash.

Hopefully, he is as cowardly as I think he is, and like the many times we went on a jog-walk, whenever another dog is present, he would conveniently use me as a barrier.

After reading some training tips from the internet, it looks like I'm already 25% done, as I needed to teach and reinforce recall skills. Maui already does this when he either hears his name or when he hears the beep on the shock collar. 

The remote beep is so useful. Of all the features the shock collar has, calling Maui remotely was where we got creative. He has this small bag we place on his neck and we use it to bring stuff to each other, such as delivering my phone from the office to the yard when I need it. Since Maui wears the collar 5 days a week, we use the vibrate and the beep for one reason or another. Having a reliable recall method that doesn't involve shouting is near priceless for me. 

Now, going to the actual training, the training process is comprised of first, teaching Maui to stay on my left side. Using high-value treats is perhaps the best way to do this. According to most competitions and rallies, the dog stays on the left, so I'll train Maui on that side. I have to teach him to follow me in that position no matter my pace and direction, and when I stop, Maui should sit. This is a "holding" state so Maui has to stay like this until he is "released" so he needs to know a "release command." 

After preparing lots of treats, I freed the afternoon to teach him the basics, then it's going to be two weeks of reinforcement. I'm using chicken liver, a treat so smelly and attractive that I have to make a separate batch for my cats lest they bother me during the training process. Food treats are always my positive reinforcement and teaching tool, as Maui never seems to get enough of them. 

We start off with an attention warm-up. I call Maui's name and as soon as he looks at me or makes eye contact, he is rewarded. I do this 5 times, then on with the actual training. The first part is to make him go to my left side. I walked a little bit away and using the collar, I beep and lure him to my left side with the treat. Maui quickly got the idea and went to my left side. As soon as he did, I said "Good!" then tossed the treat to him. Now, the idea is to keep moving away so he will always move to my left, but Maui sometimes keeps following behind me, which is great for the overall training but disrupts the pace. 

I had to walk a decent distance away to teach him. After about five times, I now add the word "Heel!" after I press the beeping. I still lure him to my left side and as soon as he lands on that exact spot, I mark it with a snappy "Good!" and toss him a treat. After about 10 repetitions, I started to see Maui getting bored, so I ended the training by giving him a lot of well-deserved tummy tubs and head scratches, while low-key checking for skin parasites like fleas or ticks. 

After about four hours, Maui and I went back to training. After a quick attention warm-up, we did the same actions as before, about ten more times. After the tenth time, I stopped luring him with the treat and simply beeped then said "Heel!" 

Maui did it! He went to my left side and stayed there for a bit after the reward, waiting for me to do something else. The next one wasn't as successful, but after insisting on the command again, Maui eventually gravitated to my left side and got his treat. I could only do it three more times as I've run out of treats have to cook a new batch. 

Not bad for the first day of teaching him. With this, I hopefully reinforced a more reliable recall behavior and created the first step to better outdoor obedience. 

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