Dear Old Trainer: We just adopted Bailey, a 7-week-old Blue Heeler. I found your column and really enjoyed reading and getting ideas for training her. She is learning a lot, but she does like to nip at our heels and play tug of war with our pant legs (especially our three little girls, ages 8, 5, and 3). We are teaching our daughters to make her sit when she starts nipping and to housebreak her. What else do we need to do? Also, several times you said you emailed directions to folks. Do you have a list of directions to new owners that you send out?
-- Adam, Adairsville, Ga.
A: Sounds like you are doing everything right, Adam. Patience and love are the two requirements for training a puppy, and Bailey is getting plenty of both.
Heelers learn faster than most, but you still start with the three puppy basics -- housebreaking, coming when called and learning what "no" means.
Nipping at the heels is part of her DNA. You are dealing with it correctly. She is only doing what comes naturally, so don't scold her. Instead, in a calm voice, address her by name and tell her "no biting," interrupt her concentration, and make her sit. Pet her and love on her as soon as she does.
Heelers are one of the smartest breeds, and so full of energy it is almost impossible to tire one out. Bailey will get smarter and more energetic for the next few years. That's a bad combination unless she gets lots of exercise.
One way to ensure she does is teaching her to retrieve. It comes as naturally as nipping for herd dogs so she will learn it the instant you show her. Start with a rolled-up sock.
Make sure she sees it, then toss it a few feet in front of her. When she brings it back say "drop," make her give it to you, then toss it again. If she runs with it instead of bringing it back, don't chase her. She must learn she has to bring it to you.
Move outside and substitute a ball for the sock. The more energy she burns, the happier she is and the easier she is to train. Start walking her on an expandable leash right away and teach the kids how to walk her. Walk her every day.
Explain to the kids Bailey needs her rest, and they are to leave her alone while she naps.
Put a rug or towel down in that spot and let it become her refuge. Bailey knows where the food and water is by now, so the only other consideration is where she sleeps at night.
Put a bed down for her where you want her to sleep.
I am always willing to email instructions out to any reader. If any specific training issue arises, just drop me an email and I will send you my suggestions on how to deal with it.
Jack Haskins writes as The Old Trainer. A trainer for more than 30 years, he has rescued, trained, and placed more than 2,000 dogs. Send questions to email@example.com.