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Obedience Heel, Left Circles


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#1 Ninso

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Posted 06 January 2011 - 11:08 AM

My dog Jun heels pretty well but has a ton of trouble with left circles of any size. She can pivot 360 left without getting out of position and do square corners without getting out of position. She can do right circles fine, but she can't do left circles. She ends up turning them into a shape with multiple straight sides, so she is forging a lot and running into my legs. She understands heel position and will self-correct to get back into it, so at this point I am pretty convinced that she physically has trouble curving her body to the left and maintaining that curve. Her natural tendency is to circle right--runs around my house in right circles, chases her tail in right circles, turned right in flyball, goes around and flips right in disc, etc.

Has anybody else run into this issue with heeling or in another context? Any suggestions to help her learn to walk with a bend to the left?
Tania, Lok & Jun
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#2 Northof49

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Posted 06 January 2011 - 11:24 AM

First of all, I would get her checked out and make sure there is no physical reason for her not to want to turn left - vertebrae stuck in extension or flexion, a shortened ligament, etc etc.

Most of our dogs prefer right or left, but if they consistently turn one way, as you are indicating at home, then they actually create a problem for themselves, just like dogs that play flyball only, the turn on the box creats physical problems that doesn't allow them to turn in the other direction.

Then, if there is nothing wrong, or once what is wrong is fixed, I start out working really large circles - say 20 feet in diameter and gradual work the circle tighter and tigher over a couple of weeks. That is acutall how I teach the figure 8 exercise. Large large figure 8, and then slowly work it down smaller and smaller.

#3 Ninso

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Posted 06 January 2011 - 11:54 AM

What type of vet would I need to check those things?
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#4 Northof49

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Posted 06 January 2011 - 12:03 PM

What type of vet would I need to check those things?

You would need to take your dog to a canine therapist. Not a lot of vets are good at that type of thing.

#5 Root Beer

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Posted 06 January 2011 - 12:38 PM

Has anybody else run into this issue with heeling or in another context? Any suggestions to help her learn to walk with a bend to the left?


If you find that nothing is wrong physically, one thing you can do is create something round to work your dog in a circle around that would provide a "guide" path that would assist the dog with choosing to remain in position as you make the curve.

The problem is creating something kind of big to make the path you need! Maybe an x-pen would work?

I did something similar with Speedy with his right side heeling. He didn't have issues with turning, but he wasn't as sensitive to the path I was making with my body motion as he is on the left and he often ended up going straight when I was turning toward him!!

I used a lot of small round things - like a 3 gallon water jug or a round laundry basket - and walked in circles around them with Speedy between the object and me (on my right). I clicked when he perceived the curving motion on his own and held the position. That helped him understand on the big curves. I do tend to have him heel on the outside of a curve, just because he is much prettier when he has room to extend on the curve, but he can hold the inside line, too. He's still better with it in left heel, but he can do it in right heel now.

Kristine
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#6 shysheperdess

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Posted 06 January 2011 - 01:02 PM

Working him in large circle and getting them smaller is an excellent idea...

Your dog probably needs to learn to use his rear better, during left circle the dog must collect themselves more and shorten there stride...I would work on lots of "slow time" excersises, and ALOT of rear work, namely ones that also teach correct shoulder cues, which I don't think he maybe understands and that's why he is forging...

A dog heeling needs to be taught to cue off your shoulder to pull his rear back nicely so when you go into a circle and drop your shoulder back he should automaticly pull his rear back to stay in line with you...

I start out by teaching a get it in command to pups where you drasticly lure and treat behind your body, namely your left hip with your left hand while putting some collar pressure using the leash with your right hand behind your back...make small pivots to your left, treating and rewarding for the little rear alignment you get at a time...keeping the pressure on the collar prevents foreward movemtn into a forged position...the dog should begin to pick it up and begin cueing off your shoulder before he feels the collar pressure...I use the command "get it in"...That way when starting to work the smaller circles I can remind them with a "get it in" and some small collar pressure...I of course phase the need for the verbal all together when getting ready to compete but it's still very useful when training to remind there dog of there rear and where it needs to be...

Proper rear work really is key to nice heeling and there rae ALL kinds of exercises you can do to strengthen and help build it...

Another methid I have seen some seasoned trainers use is simply, when circling to the left to extend your left knee up...if the dog is forging during the circle it will bump them back where they need to be...sometimes this is all it takes for some dogs as a reminder...

#7 Ninso

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Posted 06 January 2011 - 01:21 PM

Kristine--you are the second person to suggest an x-pen! I will try that if I can find one!

shyshepherdess--we are not super serious about obedience (she's deaf and not allowed to compete in anything but rally anyway) and haven't had a ton of formal instruction, so it is very possible she's not cuing off my shoulder properly. But, she pivots left just fine and we've done a bunch of rear-end awareness stuff so I do think she has a pretty good understanding of how to use her rear end and where it is. Now that I am thinking about it though, I'm not sure she's cuing off my shoulder for the pivots--more off my entire body or legs I think. I can see how cuing off the shoulder specifically would make a difference. I will work on that.

Lots of great ideas. Thanks guys!
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#8 shysheperdess

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Posted 06 January 2011 - 02:00 PM

One way to know if they are cueing off your shoulder properly is to stand in place and twist to the left, moving your left shoulder back...they should step back or make some attempt to keep there body in line with your shoulder...my dogs will come all the way behind me when I do this...teaching a dog how to cue from the shoulder also requires you to be a better handler :) And keep nice square shoulders when you are working your dog..not sedning them mixed signals by sub-consciously turning towards them, etc...this was a HUGE challenge for me :) My poor first dog had to deal with my wiggly body!! Are dogs are so perceptive of our body language...getting into some more advanced concepts really challenges us as trainers to be aware of all we are communicating to our dogs ;)

The "get it in concept" is really a positive training tool, and can be fun...Flat buckle collar for some pressure and a handful of tiny hot dog pieces are whatever can work wonders!!!! The dog really needs to learn shoulder sueing and proper use of it's rear to pull off nice circles ;)

#9 Northof49

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Posted 06 January 2011 - 02:28 PM

Your dog can certainly cue off your leg, they don't have to be trained to do that head up heeling. I have never required it of my dogs. It is strictly a training preference.

My dogs will look up at me when I stop during a heeling pattern, or when they go into the heel position etc. to see what the next thing is going to be, but while they are moving they cue off my left leg. When doing a left turn or anything to my left, my left leg starts to rotate in front of the dog, and they take their cue off of that. WHerever my left leg goes, that is where the dog goes. I teach the heel as a position at my left leg, and when I say "heel" the dog must keep that position. So if I stay in a stationery position and just move my left leg all over the place, the dog continually shifts it's position to stay in the "heel" position.

Still, I would check her out physically first, as if there is something that needs to be dealt with and it isn't, trying to get her to go the left is just going to become a negative experience for her.

#10 shysheperdess

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Posted 06 January 2011 - 02:43 PM

If you want your dog to continue to forge or bump into you while circling to the left and you just want to let it go..because it's not a huge deal to you then by all means teach your dog to cue off your leg.....

but there is a reason why people who have years of experience training and competing will cue rear/lateral movement in some way, it's essential to proper position which the op is askin help with..

Teaching cueing for proper position with turns and circles is easy to do and positive, and will improve her slight forging and not keeping in proper position...

#11 shysheperdess

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Posted 06 January 2011 - 03:18 PM

It really depends on the standard you want to set....essentialy, the dog heeling with it's head up distributes there weight correctly in the rear which is essential for correct lateral movement, truns, circles, etc...plus it helps the dog find a proper "look" or cue area which should be somewhere along the left side of the body relatively in line with the seem of your pants...this is absolutely necessary for sustained correct position...

Now i'm not saying that if your dog isn't comfortable keeping it's head up high that you should force it...it will end up backfiring big time..but the dog can have it's head slightly angled up and turned towards you without having discomfort....my first bc was especially long in the back and it WAS uncomfortable for him to susatin a high head position but so he had a different style of heeling, not quite so fancy but his head was turined upwards and head truned slightly towards me and ended up having no problem cueing and positioning well and was a very succesful heeling dog...I know many setters or other dogs a tad more long where they just don't have the natural high head up but DO have there head upward and are lovely heeling dogs...

#12 Northof49

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Posted 06 January 2011 - 03:24 PM

If you want your dog to continue to forge or bump into you while circling to the left and you just want to let it go..because it's not a huge deal to you then by all means teach your dog to cue off your leg.....

but there is a reason why people who have years of experience training and competing will cue rear/lateral movement in some way, it's essential to proper position which the op is askin help with..

Teaching cueing for proper position with turns and circles is easy to do and positive, and will improve her slight forging and not keeping in proper position...


I competed in CKC obedience up here in Canada since the late 1980s. I have been out of the ring for the last 8 years due to having border collies, and just getting back into it.

All my dogs were high scoring, and had HITs. Our strong suit was our heeling - very rarely did we get a mark off for our heeling. The competition isn't any harder today that when I was last in the ring. I ring steward for obedience competitions and still assist my friends in their training. Some of their dogs cue off their legs, and some naturally heel with the heads up.

My preference is to let the dog decide what is comfortable and best for the dog. Some dogs structurally do not find it comfortable to maintain that head up heeling.

My youngest dog likes to heel with her head up naturally, so that is what I will go with.

#13 topnotchdog

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Posted 06 January 2011 - 03:27 PM

Lots of great ideas. (I second the vet check, your regular vet is a fine place to start IMO.) A few more things to try:

--be very conscious of how and where you deliver rewards (this matters whether it's a treat, a toy or your voice). Have someone watch you or video a short clip.

For eg, if you're quiet when the dog is correct and react when she forges or is non-bendy, that could be enough to give you the opposite of what you want.

If you're using food, be sure to deliver it to the *outside* of her mouth (left side of her mouth in this case). Make sure your hand is not out in front of your hip, but rather parallel to your pant seam.

Sometimes reward by flipping the treat or toy out to the left and behind you. This creates some reward history for and anticipation of bending to the left plus hanging back a hair.

--if your dog spins to the left on cue, you can use that for left hand turns to encourage bending---that may in turn help with left circles. (I got this from Sylvia Bishop.) You're heeling along, you cue your turn (i.e. if you cue with your eyes, you'd look left), then one step into the turn you'd cue "spin." Dog spins (you take another step) and is back in heel position by the time you're taking another step off that leg. Gets the dog tucking and bending.

--try spiraling small to large, large to small.

B.

#14 Root Beer

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Posted 06 January 2011 - 03:28 PM

Still, I would check her out physically first, as if there is something that needs to be dealt with and it isn't, trying to get her to go the left is just going to become a negative experience for her.


I definitely second this. If you can find a canine physical therapist or even a canine chiropractor, he or she should be able to help you determine if the dog has any physical reasons for having a side preference.

Also, if something is found, there are usually scads of ways that you can address that outside of heelwork to help foster the flexibility that you are looking for. Maybe work on an exercise ball, cavaletti type exercises, massage, stretching, etc. It may be that something is "out" and a chiropractic adjustment would make a world of difference.

If there is not a physical reason for the hesitation to curve, you could also work on some clockwise and counterclockwise spins. Maddie, my Agility mutt, has a very strong turning preference and the clockwise and counterclockwise spins have helped her on her less preferred side tremendously. I know there is a difference between a wrap around a jump and heeling in a curved line, but flexibility is flexibility, and it could help.

Kristine
And Dean Dog and Tessa
In Memory:  Sammie, Speedy, and Maddie

 

Tessa's Training Blog - Our Training and Experiences in Musical Freestyle, Agility, and Rally FrEe

 

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#15 Ninso

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Posted 06 January 2011 - 04:21 PM

More great suggestions--I appreciate them all! I did get a great recommendation for a physical therapist from a friend who does agility, and I have contacted her already. I have been meaning to look into something like that for my three-legged cattle dog to get some suggestions for maintaining his mobility (he's only 2 and moves fine, but being proactive), so now I can do both!

Jun does heads-up heeling naturally. She is deaf, so all her cues are from my face and hands, so she naturally watches me, but it does make sense to me to have her cue off my shoulder. I'm not sure how cuing off my leg would work, since when I'm walking, my leg does get in front of me. Shysheperdess, I won't be able to put it on a verbal, but she does already cue off some part of my body for pivots and scoot her butt back to keep in alignment, so it should be easy enough to transition the cue to my shoulder movement.

B, thanks for the tips on treat/toy placement--that makes total sense! And she does know spins both ways! We've recently found a great place to work heeling that allows bigger circles than my living room does, so I am excited about that too.

I'm going to try all of this stuff! I really appreciate the help!
Tania, Lok & Jun
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#16 Ninso

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Posted 11 January 2011 - 11:58 AM

We've had two opportunities to work heeling since we got these suggestions. I first found out that Jun DOES cue off my shoulder. If I stand with her in heel position and rotate my shoulder forward and back she will adjust her position to stay in line. We worked some left circles as large as I could make them (we don't have too much room) and I cued a left spin every few steps. That really seemed to help keep her in position as well as keeping her bending properly! Paying attention to treat placement helped too. Last night we worked at the pet supply store where there is a square shelving unit that we were able to heel around with her on the inside. It wasn't quite a circle--more a square with rounded corners, but still, it seemed to help and she did great! I was paying more attention to my shoulders and cuing the bend at corners with my shoulders and she was really reading that well, bending, and scooting her butt in like she should! It made a big difference! So, I just wanted to thank you guys again. We will keep working these things and we have a physical therapy appointment on Monday, so hopefully we will get more ideas to help improve her balance and flexibility.
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#17 topnotchdog

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Posted 12 January 2011 - 07:59 AM

That's wonderful! :)

Barbara


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