I can’t believe I’m doing another post on heeling.
Well, yes I can. I love heeling. And since I made this video for an online student I might as well share it here as well.
Lyra’s tendency in heeling is to forge and crab. I’ve been playing with her in agility so we haven’t done any training on heeling in months. I expected her to be a mess. To her credit, she was in good shape right from the beginning.
That’s good news and bad news. The good news is that her heeling is improving in her sleep. The bad news is that you don’t get to see the ‘before/after’ effect
No worries, if your dog forges and crabs, you can try it out on your own dog and see it for yourself.
Forging means the dog is too far forward. Crabbing means the rear end is out and the dog is not tracking correctly. These two tend to show up together so I’m addressing them as a pair.
Working left circles or left pivots does NOT solve the problem – it just makes the dog better and better at left circles and left pivots but as soon as you go straight, or to the right, the problems are still there. That’s frustrating for the handler, and we want to avoid that. Frustrated handlers make poor training decisions.
Instead of masking the problem by working to the left, induce the problem by working to the right, and at the first first hint of a forge/crab, sidestep right (I’m assuming your dog has learned to move their rear to the right when you sidestep – if not you need that piece first), and as soon as your dog is correctly aligned, either reinforce with a true left pivot or return directly to your right circle. If your dog gives you more than the “typical” amount of correct steps to the right, reward.
In Lyra’s case, her reward is to play tug, but you can substitute a cookie. It’s your choice about letting your dog carry the toy in work – I allow it because it creates better flow for Lyra and it removes the conflict over having to return the toy to me.
Most of your rewards should come when the dog works correctly to the right, not to the left. You’ll see I reward both, but mostly…to the right.
Give it a try and see what you get.