Sit in Heel Position
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Now that our puppy is readily sitting on command, it is time to move the sit behavior into heel position. Heel position is described as the puppy on your left side facing the same direction as you are with their ears lined up along the seam of your pants.
Up until now, we have taught our puppy to sit in front and facing us since it most comfortable for us and our puppys to lure them that way. But, puppies are very situational and when you try to get them to sit in heel, they look at you like it’s a whole new behavior. They may eventually sit there but they may sit with their rear ends perpendicular to you or they may try to rush around to the front of you and sit. Therefore, we must teach the puppy how to sit in proper heel position and then get them comfortable sitting there by rewarding them in that position.
Line your puppy up into heel position while standing and then, using your treat lure, lure the puppy’s head up and back slightly while saying “sit” as we did when we initially taught sit. When the puppy’s rear end hits the ground, reward him. You will want to attach a command to the action of your puppy moving from a position into heel position. Some options include "heel", "side", "get in", "set up", or "get ready". Give this command as you are luring your dog into heel position and then give the "sit" command to get your puppy to sit in heel if he doesn't perform the sit automatically.
Since this is new to both of you, you may have to play around a little bit with how to lure him in a way that is comfortable to you and him. Verbally praise the puppy while sitting in heel and pet him also to help him feel good about being there.
The biggest problem you will encounter is the puppy not sitting parallel to you. As mentioned earlier, your puppy will most likely try to swing around and sit in front of you or sit crooked so they can look at you better.
The easiest way to fix this problem is to put your puppy between yourself and a wall or fence. Do not get your puppy so close that he is touching the wall but close enough that he can’t swing his rear end out to your left. Once he is sitting straighter, take a step to the right (away from the wall) and practice there.
You are essentially fading out the wall so that your puppy will sit straight all the time. When you are confident your puppy knows what you want, you should only reward the puppy when he sits straight and repeat the exercise with no reward if he sits crooked.
I sort of do the same thing except if my dogs sat/lied down etc on their own, I don't give a verbal command. I show them the palm of my hand in a "stay" manner. Actually I probably use hand signals 10 times for every single time I use a verbal command. Pretty much the only time I use a verbal command is when my dogs are "free" (not under direction) AND not focused on me...this is the only time they are not focused on me (or my wife, depending on who is there and/or in charge at the time).