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Pocket Hand?

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“Pocket hand” is a way of teaching heeling that emphasizes rear end movement from Day One.  It involves placing the hand on the outside of the dog’s muzzle with a cookie, and rotating your wrist (not your arm or shoulder!) to move the dog wherever you might want them.

A lot of students have learned this technique, either online with me in my Precision Heeling class, or in seminars, or from instructors around the country who are now teaching it on their own.

It falls in the category of things that look easy when you watch someone else do it, but maybe not so easy when it’s your turn.

This weekend I taught a seminar and one of the students videotaped her lesson – part of it included introducing pocket hand to her dog.  She has graciously agreed to let me use that video to help other people learn the technique.

If you do not have some prior training or knowledge of pocket hand then this video probably will not be enough to do it for you, because each dog requires subtle differences.  If you really want to learn it, keep an eye on the classes at Fenzi Dog Sports Academy and take Precision Heeling when it comes around (currently on the schedule for the June session).  Or join me for a seminar somewhere (see my seminar schedule on this blog)

For those of you who have been introduced to the technique somewhere, this video is very likely to give you the finishing bits just in case you got stuck somewhere in the process.   Obviously you need to take it further…but this will get you started.

I love pocket hand.  It teaches precision without a leash, works well with 99% of dogs, and allows the handler to help the dog at anytime.  It can also be used to solve a multitude of heeling challenges, from heeling wide, to crabbing to forging, etc.

First lesson in pocket hand


And on another note, if you live in the Purina Farms area of the country (St. Louis, MO), you’ll want to attend our second annual 3.5 day FDSA Dog Sports Conference.  Last year we sold out and people raved about the quality of the event.  Currently, we have seven full auditing spots left and we’ve sold six in the past four days, so if you want to attend – and you do (you really do) then don’t wait any longer.

This is the only national conference that focuses on training for competition dog sports.  We’ll have ten instructors, teaching everything from obedience to rally to agility and nosework.  As an auditor, you can watch whatever you want.  At $225, you won’t find another conference that offers what we do at such an incredible price.  That’s because FDSA is about education.  We WANT you there.  We want you to see what you can accomplish with your dog when you train with affection and respect.

The conference takes place June 19th through June 22nd.  You can learn more here:

FDSA Dog Sports Conference

Good luck with it!

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.

20 responses »

  1. I found the ‘pocket hand’ technique very frustrating. I was working in a class where this was being presented with a Borzoi. Because of her long neck, head and nose we could never find a way to make this work so she was in position and no one found a way to alter the exercise to make it work. Also working with a very small dog doesn’t work well. It seems you need just the right size dog for this?

    • I use it without issue on pretty much every dog – but I have a lot of experience. There is no such thing as too small – I just teach it on my knees (Brito was 5 pounds when he arrived and I routinely use it on eight week old puppies of all breeds – indeed puppies are by far the easiest). You can see it all over my blog with Brito.

      If a dog is so tall that the head is above where a handler can comfortably place their hand on the side of the dog’s head when the nose is up – then it’s not going to work very easily. A dog that big would be able to touch my face with their nose when stretched – that’s a very tall dog. But yeah, I could see that with a Borzoi. So for that 1% of dogs – use a different technique.

      Personally I have never encountered a dog where I could not do it.

      • ok gotcha on small but the Borzoi and me being 5’2″…oh it was akward…I’d lend you one to try and do it with and would love to see a video clip

        I think I tried knees with little dog and it was just awkward for me

      • I do what makes the most sense to me for whatever dog I’m working with. No reason to force a method on a dog that isn’t a good fit – either because of the dog OR the handler. Just train it a different way if you find it difficult with small or big dogs.

        My personal experience is that it works well enough on pretty much every dog I encounter that it is my preferred method for teaching. But when circumstances dictate otherwise, just change. I don’t try to force a method on a bad fit.

      • Thanks and that is normally what I do as well however was trying hard with the instructor to make it work in that class and WOW I can still feel the frustration.

  2. Thanks. This was so helpful for me and my dog! I think I’m finally getting it 🙂

  3. Got the correct method, but how do you manage it with a hectic dog? For example, dog knows I have food, the minute the food is in my hand she will do a focused front, then she will down, then bark, repeats various ways. I can tell her to heel but she is so food driven that she loses all focus.

    • unfortunately the best I can do in a blog format is give the basic technique – there are 100’s of things that can influence a specific dog – check out the class when I teach it on line in June.

    • I have the opposite problem.
      “You want me to do WHAT for a measly bit of food?”

  4. jackie phillips

    What about for small dogs?

    • It’s the same. Now that I think about it, I taught it to a Papillon in this same seminar – first on my knees and then standing. The dog and owner got it within five minutes.

  5. jackie phillips

    This seems like this technique could be combined with clicker training pretty easily.

  6. Maybe use a platform for a very large dog – with the owner on it rather than the dog. Just the same as getting down on your knees, but in reverse!

    • that is a hilarious idea…of course I could fall off and break something however I might give it a try with my Borzoi

  7. Linda Sheldrick

    fabulous!! it’s working well!

  8. Would love to try it, but due to a damaged knee I can’t kneel down for my small dog! I will practive on my large one anyway and see how it goes.

  9. I wrote a comment but it seems to have disappeared!

    I have been trying pocket hand for a while and I am not getting it. My little guy backs away from my hand when I try to wrap it around him. He is an 8″ Yorkie and I work with him on a shelf in my training room.

    I would love to see a close-up photo of you doing pocket hand with Brito.


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