This is probably the hottest topic in obedience – how to get beautiful heeling.
If you’re interested in learning this skill on-line, I’m teaching a class on just this topic starting Feburary 1st, 2014, at the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy. Registration is currently open and both Gold and Silver spots are full, but bronze is unlimited and at $65, it’s a pretty good deal for 100 or so videos plus descriptive lecture. If money is tight ask for a scholarship and we’ll cover half of your tuition.
Hope many of your choose to join me and register! Here’s the direct link if you’d like to learn more: http://www.fenzidogsportsacademy.com/index.php/courses/33
I’m also teaching a second course called “Confidence Building for the Obedience and Rally Ring”, which was quite well received the first time it ran six months ago: http://www.fenzidogsportsacademy.com/index.php/courses/29
And a variety of talented instructors are teaching ten MORE classes – going to be hard to choose! http://www.fenzidogsportsacademy.com/index.php/schedule-and-syllabus
Anyway, here’s the first few skills from the Precision Heeling on-line course. There are a total of 26 that will be covered in class.
Skill 1: Place front feet on a disk
Method: You may either shape or lure this behavior.
Note: Teaching your dog to keep the feet up even when you move is very very important – I like to be able to move out about five feet without my dog getting off – that makes the second step (pivoting) much much easier. So…don’t rush this step! In the above video, the dog was extremely cooperative – she understands training so she understood what I wanted right away. If your dog avoids the disc, try for one foot first. Even if the dog just brushes the disc with a foot, give a cookie. Position the cookie over the disc as you feed so that the dog is more likely to decide to step on it to reach the cookie than to try going around.
If your dog REALLY does not want to stand on the disc, try a full stair step first – if you have stairs in your house then this will be easy – stand at the bottom of the stairs and hold the cookie in a manner that will cause the dog to reach forward and step up to get it with their front feet. First one foot and then two feet. Then go back to your disc – some dogs just need a bit of help to get that first step up. Still struggling? Change the surface of your disc. It may be slippery or shiny or…who knows?
Skill 2: Keep feet on the disc
Method: After dog’s feet are on the disc, step slightly away and then return quickly to feet a cookie. If your dog’s feet come off, help them back onto the disc and then try again. Start slow! Just a few inches away from the disc and back. In this video, Brito is working on keeping his feet on the disc. He is relatively new to this, so you can see how I handle it when he comes off. Note that I back in and out from the disc- rewarding for staying up. Make sure that both feet are on the disc when you reward! I am also doing a very small amount of rotating (for skill 2 below):
Skill 3: Dog maintains a “front feet up” position even as you move around the disc.
Method: start very close to your dog. Move slightly left or right with your hands centered in front of your dog (with a treat if you prefer to lure; without if you are a shaper). Treat immediately for any movement. Slowly increase the number of steps dog must take before rewarding. Don’t sweat the straightness of the dog in front at this point. Continue until your dog can do 180 degrees in either direction. You should be moving relatively slowly so your dog is controlling their movement.
Video Demo: In this video, I am working with a dog that does not have this skill already, so you can see how I help her to develop what I want.
(learning with lure – tervuren raika)
Video Demo: In this video, you’ll see the finished product – Lyra already knows how to move on the disc. Note my hand position in front – if you center your hands in front, your dog will be much straighter.
(shaped – tervuren lyra)
Video Demo: This puppy is just learning! See how we handle his mistakes, but we want him to be correct as much as possible. we are using food placement to try and keep him relatively straight in front:
(Puppy Brittany Cruise – lured with hand pocket from the front)
Same puppy as above but his second lesson: :
(puppy Brittany Cruise lesson 2)
Video Demo: This is the same video from above for skill #1: Note that Brito actually turns more easily if I am further away from him when I rotate; that’s fine too! Find what works best for your dog. Because Brito is also learning to offer positions, you’ll see him doing all sorts of things. Just ignore the positions and focus on what his front feet are (or are not) doing:
Skill 4: Accept pressure of your body near disk:
Method: Teach your dog to be comfortable with your feet very close to the disk in both front and side position. Note that my feet are centered and facing the disk, or parallel to the dog and disc when I am standing next to my dog (heel position). If your dog avoids you and tries to leave the disk as you move in closer, take your time. This is normal. If your dog tries to come to front position when you attempt to move to the side, use a piece of food on the outside of his head to hold him still (shown in Lyra video)
As you can see, this skill is new to Raika. Note that the pressure of my body plus the movement of the food is not enough to get her moving, so I put my knee out to add pressure. She understands and the second time she moves on her own
(front position – trainee Tervuren Raika)
Video Demo: In this video, you should be focusing on how close I am to the dog; the fact that I added a pivot was simply to give you a better camera angle – do not add this step at this point unless your dog already understands pivoting on a disc:
(Tervuren Lyra moving to side with tiny pivot on side)