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Trainer Talk: Heeling

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I was mostly joking (not sure about GentleLake but hope so!) -

 

aside from the fact that I am sure my dog is the most handsome and I love his heeling (though others may not - there are many stylistic differences out there in any ring) - so in some way because he *is* capable of heads up, I have encouraged/rewarded him and pushed him to offer a more extreme version - currently working on a prance in the slow. We aren't everyone's cup of tea, that's for sure! When it all comes together and we are fully working as a team it's amazing.

 

(Other times we are a hot mess)

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We have just started heeling here with my non BC. I always hated obedience and heeling but find if you teach it the right way it's a lot of fun. Hank loves it.

 

We are about 12 weeks into rally and now some novice obedience. So definitely not experts!

 

What happened for us is I signed up for a rally class not knowing you were supposed to have a heel already and the first day the first exercise was heel across the room. So we winged it. Lure/pocket hand and pivot work at home and he really has a pretty nice heel. Sometimes sloppy on the fronts but with some wall work he's gotten really pretty good at it. We were supposed to do a rally trial this weekend but have been sidelined sadly. So it'll be a while before we test it in trials.

 

I find I like a flashier heel because that's when I have an engaged dog usually. We probably won't ever have a real cranked up IPO style heel- he's small and I'm not aiming for that, just rally. I think it looks really flashy though.

 

Overall heeling and obedience work has been really great. I think if taught well it's something that can really help your relationship with your dog. Something about it really clicks for Hank. He is far sillier in obedience class than elsewhere. He adores it so we'll keep on trucking on. Never thought I'd be looking at obedience trials. lol

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Hi all...I just found this thread. I never looked in this section before because I don't do agility or obedience with my dogs, but I wish I had because I now find that folks who do Freestyle (such as Root Beer) post here as well. I am happy to find this out, albeit somewhat late.

 

And, to my deep sadness, I am no longer doing freestyle with a border collie, my prime dance partner having recently died. I know that in another couple of years I will probably be in the market for my next border collie, but right now I am doing Freestyle with my two small dogs, Digger (terrier mix of unknown lineage, 23 pounds) and Boo (Coton mix?). Hopefully folks here will understand and not object to my posting about dogs who are not border collies. In his defense, Digger although not a border collie is sharp as a tack and very lively, and learns everything as fast as any of the BCs I have trained. He loves to work with me. I have already taught him quite a few moves.

But....

 

I just got a wake-up call from the fellow members of my Freestyle group. They pointed out to me that I have been having fun teaching a lot of cool moves and behaviors to my dogs but I don't have precision, and I need to go back to basics and get, for one thing, a solid heel and side. So I am starting to work on that now. I don't want it to be rigid, but I do want to teach him to stick to my side on either side of me.

 

I have done Choose To Heel with Digger, and he always comes back into position, but it has done nothing for duration or precision. I am now trying the method with fencing and a wall, and +reward for each step. I am open to trying different methods - don't see any reason not to do more than one method at a time. Looked up the "Pocket Hand" Fenzi method but could not find anywhere that actually teaches how to do it from step one.

 

I am especially in need to training myself when it comes to heel, because to be honest I have not ever really taught a dog to heel since I stopped using a choke collar to train it, and that was a lot of years ago now. Jester never had a precise heel, and I just let it go because I did not really care. But with Digs I would like just for the heck of it to get the precision in Freestyle that I never had with Jes, and that means training basics a whole lot better than I ever have before. I am hoping this thread will keep going so I can learn more.

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I train the "pocket hand" method which is basically just teaching the dog rewards arrive in one specific place (the pocket you make between your hand and your leg). Then you simultaneously teach your dog how to move his body independently using rear end awareness exercises. Then I teach my dog their job is to end up in teh right position in the "pocket" and suddenly they are getting precision because they are choosing to arrive in that precise area.

 

Its kind of like CTH in that the dog is the one moving himself and you are not doing it for him, but more precise when you add the criteria about where you will reward (if he is in heel position, the food will always arrive in the pocket). Add in the extra body awareness exercises that teach him he can position himself laterally and rotate and suddenly you have a precise position.

 

In addition, I only accept what I think is perfect heeling from day 1, even if that means I can only get 5 steps of it. In the past we tended to try to add precision later in the game, but I now only reward precision. That means I have to step up my game in teaching the little parts of heeling as separate little exercises, and be consistent in what I reward, and good at marking so I can make the behavior string longer and longer. We train starts, stops changes of pace, turns, curves, set ups etc all as separate things before you try to string them together.

 

My students don't "heel around the room" for a long, long time. Well, pretty much never.

 

As a result we get very precise heeling, happy dogs who understand what they should be doing and are able to concentrate and ignore distractions more easily.

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LOL Me, too.

 

I think it feeds into handlers' narcissism. :lol:

 

Wow.

 

Or, its the natural result of a dog with excellent concentration and focus on his handler.

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Seconding the suggestion of getting the heeling picture exactly how you want it before ever adding motion, D'Elle. That means having a nice, straight heel, properly positioned, with offered focus. I want a dog that is excited and engaged and who thinks heeling is just another trick. Then I start testing the dog's understanding by asking it to find heel position from various angles. Having some history of hind-end awareness exercises certainly helps here, so the rear can swing into position easily.

 

Then add your first step, and have a party.

 

General bits of advice - heeling is a duration behaviour, so don't forget your release cue. Reward placement is important. Attitude and engagement are, in my opinion, more important than precision -- I'd focus more on the former at first than the latter.

 

Here's a photo that a friend took last week. I'm a bit off-balance and trying to hold my loose shirt back awkwardly with my hand, but the dog looks pretty good. ;)

post-14441-0-04132400-1469021794_thumb.jpg

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Hopefully folks here will understand and not object to my posting about dogs who are not border collies. In his defense,

 

I don't think it matters! You are part of this board.

 

Truth be told, I don't think Tessa is a Border Collie. I think she is an English Shepherd. But I talk about her here, same as my Border Collies. :)

 

And I would LOVE more Freestyle talk here!! :)

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Which is exactly what I use it for; walking by unruly dogs that might feed into Hannah's reactivity.

 



But it is handy to be able to cue a close heel if I need a dog to walk very close to me to walk by an unruly dog or child or something.

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I don't think it matters! You are part of this board.

 

Truth be told, I don't think Tessa is a Border Collie. I think she is an English Shepherd. But I talk about her here, same as my Border Collies. :)

 

And I would LOVE more Freestyle talk here!! :)

Oh, thanks, root Beer. :-) I would really love to have some Freestyle talk here.

 

I appreciate the suggestions. As always ( :rolleyes: ) I tend to try to go too fast. It's hard not to, for me. With everything else besides heel and side, both Jester when he was with me and now Digger learns everything SO fast that it is hard to keep a check on myself.

 

What I have been doing is doing heel and side between little fences that I set up in the living room so that he has to stay in the proper position, (he cannot have his hind end swung out, and I only treat when his nose is where I want it) and doing one step, one treat. Then I throw the treat away from me, and when he has gotten it I give the cue, and treat when he returns to position.

 

Sekah, that is a lovely photo. And it gives me a great feeling when my dog is in that position and looking up at me that way. Unlike what some others have said, I think it is a beautiful thing to see when the dog is so happily focused on the handler.

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