My last blog considered the fast pace of heeling; now let’s talk about the slow pace.
One issue is enthusiastic dogs that take an extra stride before they decelerate, leading to momentary forging.
A second problem occurs for dogs at the end of the slow;these dogs are sluggish when returning to a normal pace, leading to a stride of lagging.
So we have two challenges. Getting into a slow pace (for more enthusiastic dogs) and getting out again (for the sleepier ones).
The first issue can be helped with smooth handling. When transitioning into a slow pace, remind yourself to “close your body” and bring your gaze in a little closer to your toes. Remember to keep your feet very quiet – quiet feet are smooth feet. The better your enthusiastic dog is able to read your posture, the more likely they are to slow down appropriately.
The second issue can be helped with good training that emphasizes the unpredictability of the slow pace. On example of unpredictability is a game that I call “exploding tree”.
Smooth handling allows your dog to quietly transition down in pace. I’m not spending any energy at all on the specific footwork and to demonstrate that I’ll show you a transition into a slow pace on either foot. What you will notice is that I relax my gaze and “close” my posture as I slow down. Lyra reads that, and responds accordingly.
Now, if your dog specializes in slowing down but then never perks up to move again, teach your dog the following game:
Go into your normal slow pace, ideally for slightly longer than you would normally heel. Then, seemingly out of nowhere – explode forward into a run and have a party with your dog. Don’t worry about the quality of the heeling at this point – just emphasize that slow heeling can lead to a huge explosion of energy. Once your dog is paying more attention within the slow pace and shows more intensity, then you can worry about quality.
This video shows both a smooth down transition and an exploding tree.
Have fun with it! slow is only boring if you make it boring:).