See last week’s blog to give you the context for this one.

If your dog’s heeling style is to “follow” along with their weight evenly distributed front to rear, then it’s not likely that you’ll see forging in the figure eight.  But since I teach my dogs to drive from the rear in heeling, forging in turns is always a risk.

The challenge is alerting the dog to the change of direction in time for them to hold back and pull their rear end in behind you again – heading in the new direction.  On the figure eight, a dog who pushes from the rear has to do several things at once:

  1. push forwards from the rear to maintain momentum – but less than in a straight line.
  2. stay close in the front – the last thing you want is a dog that moves their front end away from you to avoid your leg.
  3. pull their butt in behind exactly enough to manage the new angle.  And in the figure eight, that’s no easy feat since that angle is constantly changing.

Where Brito is stuck is on the rear end momentum – he continues pushing too much even when we get to the corner.  To his credit, he keeps his front end close and he pulls his rear in. Now what?

Here’s a video of the steps I’m working through with him.  Note that I run them all together so you can see it, but ideally I should master each step before continuing.

Up to 8 seconds – forwards and then pull right.  Pulling right is incompatible with driving forwards, so it reminds him to stay with me.  It also keeps his rear end engaged and his body parallel so it’s a useful fix for all forging.  Note that my hand drops down to help him keep his head next to my leg.  With a more advanced dog that will not be necessary.

Up to 35 seconds – same but with the addition of a left pivot/halt combination.  Again, this reinforces not forging and correct head placement at my side.  I’m also moving my hand back up to my waist and letting Brito try it with less support.

Up to 45 seconds – add a quick pivot/circle to the right.  This is to prevent him from getting lazy and disengaging his rear propulsion.  That would lead to a “following” style of heeling through the figure eight, which is fine if that’s ok with you, but it’s not ok with me.  Also, he would likely start to lag because temperamentally he’s not a driven dog, and lots of pulls right with pivots left is a high pressure movement that can quickly lead to lagging.

Up to 53 seconds -same thing with the addition of a cone so you can see how this will transfer to the figure eight. Personally I wouldn’t bother with the cone in training; if the dog knows the movements then the post is irrelevant.

Up to 1:12 – testing him.  I really don’t like what I see; I have to use way too much shoulder and hand help to get him around the second part of that inside corner.  I throw in another pull to the right to help him be successful.  He is engaged so I praise.  I never withhold praise from an engaged dog, and I never train a disengaged dog, therefore he is always praised in work.

Up to 2:00 I revert to the easier work which is more representative of where he should be practicing for his current skill set.  I want to maintain confidence.

2:06 – backup correction for forging.  Not terribly effective – I should have combined it with hand help.

Up to 2:20- trying again with sideways pulls and shoulder help (not ideal!)

To the end – more the way I really train when not videotaping.  I put in fast right circles so he can move out and have fun rather than focusing on more drills.  I work on pulling him to the right, pivoting left, circling right, etc. – fun and relaxed.

I won’t harp on this skill now that I have the tape for you.  Just a little bit here and a little bit there until I’m happy with the picture.  No more than a minute or so at a time.

Next week I’ll look at his lack of retrieve over the high jump in his evaluation video.