Training the Heel and Come Dog Commands
When training a dog to an advanced level, the 'come-fore' and 'go-to-heel' are both commands that need to be learned. They will both take a lot of practice, but eventually your dog will get the hang of it and you will be ready to compete at a professional level.
Teaching Your Dog to 'Come Here"
Basically, the 'come-fore' command teaches the dog to come to you and sit and face you instead of sitting next to you on your left hand side. It is easier to start off using a loose lead when teaching this command to start with, otherwise your dog may just do whatever they feel like doing.
The first step that you need to take is to teach your dog to go in front of you. So give them the command 'Front' and coax them towards you as you walk backwards. As the dog does come towards you, make sure that you gather up the lead into you and then when they are close enough in front of you tell them to sit. Say it in a firm but gentle voice and as soon as they do what they are told, praise them and give them the stay command while going back into the 'heel' position with the dog at your left hand side. It is best to repeat this exercise a couple of times so that the dog learns quickly what is expected of them. Do not forget to praise them for doing something right and also do not use the lead to physically drag the dog into position. There should be no force required in order to teach the command.
One thing to remember with the 'come-fore' command is that the position of the dog is everything. So when they are sitting facing you always remember to have their hips square and that they are sat up straight. If they aren't, use the lead to sit them up straighter and you could also try moving the hip which is out of line.
The 'come-fore' command is one of the most important in any obedience competition so if you do want to compete with your dog you will need to teach it this command.
Teaching the 'Go-To-Heel' Command
Once your dog has mastered the 'come-fore' command, you should then go straight on to teach the 'go-to-heel' command. Basically the 'go-to-heel' is where the dog moves out of the 'come-fore' and to your left hand side ready to heel. It is a simple move, yet depending upon the dog, it can take a while to master!
To begin, just getting the dog to heel is all you need to do. So ensure that you are starting from the come-fore position and slide your hands down the lead into as you would have them with the heel position. Set off walking and give the heel command and as they do it praise them enthusiastically. Next give the stay command and step out in front of them so they are back in the come-fore position. Repeat the exercise so that you walk off and tell the dog to heel and again praise them if they do it correctly.
Once you have mastered that command it is time to take it to the next step. So get your dog to face you by giving them the 'front' command and when you are ready to get the dog into a heel position, tell them to heel and move your left foot backwards and give the lead a slight jerk to get the dog to go into the correct position. After walking for a while, give your dog the sit command and praise them for getting it right. Again it may take a little practicing but do persevere and you will get there!
Now in order to use the two commands together you start with the come-fore command by giving the dog the 'front' command. Once the dog is coming towards you walk backwards slightly, keeping your body straight and the lead slack. This time you should not need to give the dog the sit command, you simply need to tighten up the lead as they come into you and they should sit automatically. Make sure that you praise them before continuing so that they know they are doing it right. Next give the heel command and remember to jerk the lead as you step backwards with your left foot. Praise your dog again when they turn and go into the heel command.
As with everything, training both of these commands may be hard work to start with but you will get there eventually. Your dog will soon realize that they have to stay on your left side when you tell them to heel and eventually you will not even have to tell them quite as often.
Article by Kelly Marshall of Oh My Dog Supplies