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Heeling Change of Pace: Fast

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I can’t discuss the fast “pace” of heeling without also discussing the issue of “gait”.

Your gait, not the dog’s.

The human gait for walking is distinctly different than the human gait for running.  In most cases, the running gait is faster than a walking gait but it doesn’t have to be!  This is an important consideration when training your dog to understand a fast pace because you’ll want to separate out these two things – change of gait and change of pace, in order to train each one separately.

The following video is without a dog.  In the first 15 seconds, you can see that I change gait but I do not increase my pace and in the second 15 seconds, I start by changing my gait and then I also add an increase in speed by leaning forwards and extending my stride – I am exaggerating in the video so that you can see the distinction.  This is how I make my transition from normal to fast with a dog; one “up” stride to set the change in gait before I accelerate my speed.

Here you can see the effect that a change of gait has on a young dog.  I have not changed pace at all, yet Brito is all over the place!  I will not increase speed until he can handle this simple change of gait.  As you watch this video, can you see how it’s helpful to teach the change of gait separately from the change of pace?

When it’s time to bring the two criteria together, start by changing your gait and then increasing your speed. That is now your fast pace.  

Here is this approach with Raika. I warm her up with a change of gait separate from a change of pace, and when I do my first true fast, I have one “up” stride to set the change of gait before I accelerate forwards.  As a result, there is no surge when I change pace. Note that on this video I do not exaggerate as I do on the one above, so the transition step is harder to see – close to impossible actually. This is a ring acceptable fast pace.  

When I transition to a fast pace, I will keep this distinction between a change of gait and a change of pace fresh in my dog’s mind for life.  It will do wonders for dogs that surge into the fast pace when they see you lean forwards because the first stride of your fast pace will only change your gait, not your pace.  And the same is true for dogs that lag into the fast.  By showing one stride of a changed gait before you change pace, your dog can prepare to accelerate with you  And for dogs that get excited by the “bounce” of the human gait, as shown in the Brito video, separating out the bounce from the increase in speed during training helps then settle.  Personally, I’m very comfortable “running” at a slow pace for minutes on end, until my young dogs stop over-reacting to my change of gait.

Go ahead and try it.  Train gait and speed separately, and then blend them together.

About dfenzi

I'm a professional dog trainer who specializes in building relationship in dog handler teams who compete in dog sports. My personal passions are Competitive Obedience and no force (motivational) dog training. I travel throughout the world teaching seminars on topics related to Dog Obedience and Building Drives and Motivation. I own Fenzi Dog Sports Academy, a comprehensive online school for motivational training of performance sport dogs.

2 responses »

  1. Excellent! I never thought of separating out gait and speed 🙂 great article and lovely watching your dogs work

  2. Denise, I am confused.

    Here (Australia) there is no requirement to change ‘gait’ — only to change speed. It is the DOG’S gait that must change.
    As an old lady (female anyway 🙂 with a bad back and arthritic knees. I can no longer ‘run’ as you show in your change of gait, but increase my walking speed by taking longer steps, and have had no judge ever criticise or mark us down for that.
    And because this change of speed is difficult for me, I rarely practise it al all.


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