Tricks for Training a Samoyed Puppy to Heel in Cheviot Hills

Mika is an eight-week-old Samoyed puppy who was adopted by a family in Cheviot Hills, California. Their guardians set up a puppy training appointment with me to do some leash training and teach the pup to heel, help with potty training and general puppy raising tips.

I had worked with this family a few months ago when they attempted to rescue a one-year-old Boxer. Unfortunately, that did not work out as the Boxer was too exuberant and playful with the families other dog, a one-year-old poodle mix named Tanner. One of the families friends loved the Boxer and gleefully welcomed her into their home.

For this session, the guardians wanted me to help make sure that they raised this puppy right. I had spent some time on the phone with them, suggesting that they set up a puppy playpen like I did with my little Dalmatian Quest.

I also stressed how important it will be for them to get Mika exposed to as many different experiences as possible during his critical socialization period. A dog’s critical socialization period only lasts until they are 12 to 14 weeks, so this is a crucial time that you only get one crack at. The more exposure your puppy has in a positive way to new experiences, animals and people will determine how confident and well-adjusted it will grow up to be.

After answering a few questions about socialization and setting up the puppies playpen, I went over some potty training tips and potty training secrets that should make it easy to communicate to Mika that he will be rewarded when he potties outside.

Potty training is all about using positive reinforcement and high-value treats to reward the puppy for going potty in the right place. It takes time and consistency, but if you use positive dog training to potty train your puppy, you will set it up for a lifetime of success.

After wrapping up the potty training segment, I helped the guardians by showing them some puppy training tips that will help Mika learn some basic commands.

I strongly recommended that the family find a local puppy socialization class and enroll Mika in it as soon as possible. These classes and the experience they provide will have a profound impact on his ability to be confident when meeting and playing with other dogs for the rest of his life. They will also help him learn some basic puppy obedience skills.

After going over some basics, I was ready to show the guardians how to train the puppy to heel.

You may have noticed that I was not incorporating a leash for the above puppy training video. Dogs have something called an Opposition Reflex. If you put a leash on a puppy and start pulling it around by the leash right away, you will activate the opposition reflex and unintentionally train your dog to pull on the leash. So our first leash training exercise is done sans-leash.

At this stage, all we want to do is reward Mika for moving towards his handler while introducing the command word. Once the family practices enough with Mika, he will be able to take more and more steps in the heel position with them.

It’s important that the members of the family practice this in a slow and methodical fashion. The most common mistake people make when teaching a dog to heel is to ask the puppy to give more steps than it is able to.

You want to make sure that your dog can walk in a heel without corrections for whatever the number of steps are that you are practicing at before you add an additional step. It takes time and practice, but if you go at the puppies pace, it will look forward to practicing this exercise and you will make good progress that you can be proud of.

Remember to keep training sessions to 1-3 minutes max unless working on something that takes longer like the Stay. Puppies have short attention spans and their neurons get fatigued. Keeping training sessions until 2 minutes will see your puppy performing better with less failures.

I can promise you that training a puppy to heel is one of the best gifts you can give yourself. Trust me, you do not want to spend the rest of your dog’s life trying to pull or correct him with a leash.

After demonstrating the technique, I’ve coached all the members of the family through this heel exercise so that they were using the right approach and getting the same response.

I suggested that all the members of the family try to practice this exercise with Mika two or more times a day. Even if its just walking a few steps in the kitchen., basement and living room, the more they work at it, the better he will get. I like to do this when I’m moving around my house.

Puppies usually follow you anywhere you go in the house. SO if you pick up a few treats and offer them to it while simultaneously saying the command word when they hit its mouth is a SUPER easy way to practice training the puppy to heel without much effort. If everyone n the family practices the heel with Mike this way a few times a day, he will be walking around with them in a nice heel position on his own while in the house.

Because Mika is so young, I kept this leash training or heel training exercise short. There are additional steps that you want to introduce once the puppy has the basics down pat and is a little bit older.

I told the family to contact me in a month or two when Mika has gotten the hang of the heel exercise steps in the above videos and is a little bit older so that we can build off of what we introduced today at a future session this spring.

Before we wrapped up the session, the family asked me for help with a couple of issues with their other dog, a one-year-old Poodle mix named Tanner.

First up was addressing Tanner’s reactive behavior anytime a mop or broom was within sight.

I’m guessing that the broom was used by someone to push Tanner back or held up in an attempt to motivate him to move away. In either case, the end result is a dog who barks and spazzes out when he sees a mop or broom.

By associating high-value dog training treats with the presence of the broom or mop, Tanner can start to have a more positive association with these tools.

Just like teaching the heel, the family members are going to need to work at this in small, progressive steps. But if they take their time and use positive dog training, Tanner will stop barking in such an aggressive way whenever he sees a broom or mop in the future.

One final issue was Tanner’s response when a few of the children in the family attempted to pick him up. Because he only growled at a few of the children, I am going to assume that they may have picked him up awkwardly or accidentally dropped him when they were younger. This resulted in Tanner not completely trusting them. His growl was not aggressive, it was a warning.

In order to help Tanner feel more comfortable about being picked up, I spent a couple of minutes going over a way to introduce positive reinforcement to that activity.

While the members of the family are practicing this the techniques outlined in the above video, it will be important that no one who is too small to sufficiently pick up and support the dog try to do so.

At the end of the session, I really enjoyed watching Tanner and Mika play and then nap together. Although Miquela will grow into a much larger dog, bringing him home as a small puppy absolutely helped Tanner feel more comfortable with him.

Once Mika is fully grown and properly trained and socialized, I’m betting that this pair of dogs are thick as thieves for the rest of their lives.

ROADMAP to SUCCESS

  • Get through as many socialization experiences as possible before Mika turns 12 weeks old. You can download a list of 333+ Socialization Experiences with this link.
  • Use weeks 12 and 13 to address any other socialization experiences that are common activities for the family.
  • Enroll Mika into a puppy socialization class (4-18 weeks or so) to help him develop good social skills.
  • Take Mika out for as many experiences as possible until he is a year old. The more experience, the better adjusted he will grow to be.
  • Take Mika outside to potty once an hour and during the specified activities that puppies usually potty after.
  • Monitor Mika while outside and immediately say the command word when he starts to eliminate and right after while saying the command word only (not using the word good or dog’s name).
  • Put Mika into the puppy plan pen when he cannot be supervised or gets mouthy / nippy.
  • Make sure Mika has practice being alone for some of the day so that he does not develop a case of Separation Anxiety.
  • Pet Mika and Tanner with a purpose.
  • Avoid saying “good boy” and instead say the command word for whatever the dog is doing at the time the human’s pet him.
  • Practice the heel exercise multiple times a day with all available members of the family.
  • Try to offer a treat and practice the heel when walking around the house at times Mika is apt to follow.
  • Once Mika is consistently good at following in a heel inside the house, practice the same in the back yard.
  • Use positive reinforcement to help Tanner get over his fear of mops and brooms.
  • Practice delivering a treat at the same time the kids (who Tanner growls at) pick Tanner up.
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