The most notable contributor to poor work on the figure eight is the tendency of the handler to do it in exactly the same fashion every time, so that they are completely predictable to the dog. It makes sense that our dogs would learn the pattern and would begin to anticipate what they need to do. For some dogs this will work well and they will develop a very smooth figure eight, but other dogs will begin to predict what comes next; slower dogs will lag and more driven dogs will forge and surge. In both cases, we need to break the pattern. No more predictable figure eights! Instead, focus on teaching your dog to accurately follow you, regardless of whether you’re in a figure eight pattern or working in a regular heeling pattern.
The following two videos show very different handling and training choices, depending on the dog’s tendencies.
Here’s a very good way to practice your figure eights with a dog who tends to forge or bump:
And here is an excellent pattern for a dog who tends to lag: