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Getting a good straight Heel position

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I have a training question for anyone who can help. This is for me and also for a friend of mine having the same issue. We do not compete in obedience, but in Freestyle, where the issue is still important.

It's about getting a good Heel position.  I will describe my friend's situation: she taught Heel, Front, Right Side and the back position all with platforms, and trained the dog to a good straight position. Faded the platforms slowly and carefully. She has trained obedience and Freestyle for 20 years and knows what she is doing, has not had this problem before. Her dog never comes into heel straight, always at an angle, no matter from where she calls him in. His rear is always sticking out away from her body, and she always has to repeat the cue, or say "get in" for him to bring his rear end into alignment. She has gone back to the platforms over and over, fading them again each time, and after two years she still has the problem; as soon as the platform is gone he comes in crooked. She has also trained him using "choose to heel" and other techniques which  start with the person moving, and he usually is straight while moving but again comes in crooked when she is standing still.  I have the same issue, although have not worked as hard on it as my friend has. Any ideas?

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Does she video herself working him? it might be something about her body position or her timing reward that she's not aware of. Just a thought.

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Yes, she has videoed herself and has had the others in the Freestyle group, including me, watch her. Can't see anything that would be doing that.

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I would recommend isolating the rear-end-in movement with a pivot disk, and attach a specific cue to the distinct movement of moving the rear end into position.

After it is solid on pivot disk, fade that (maybe using a different target as an intermediate step), and make sure the movement is solid on cue.

Then, I would pair the "get into heel" cue with the "rear-end-in" cue until the dog anticipates the "rear-end-in" cue and then I would try to drop that part.

I hope that makes sense.  I do have a video of how I use the pivot disk in this way (although just the first step), if you would like to take a gander at it.

Anyway, that is what I would try.

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Thanks, root Beer. He does already scoot his butt in to a beautiful heel position when she repeats the heel cue after he comes in crooked, or if she says "get in". The problem is that every single time she has to say it twice or say "get in" - he never just comes in to position the first time. In competition that is not good, of course. He has been trained in Freestyle since he was 8 weeks old and is no dummy, so it is baffling.

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Dogs are very attuned to body language, arguably more so than verbal cues. If you pair the “get in” with a body language cue, you can work up to getting your dog to heel straight while remaining silent.  

For example, I paired a “sit straight” with a look behind my shoulder, then later phased out the verbal cue. So, eventually, when my dog came in crooked, all I had to do is look over my left shoulder and she would straighten her sit at heel.

If you practice this often enough you can do it quickly and somewhat surreptitiously. Even better, after awhile my dog would anticipate the body cue and finish straight automatically. 

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