One of the exercises in Level 2 of the on-line TEAM obedience program requires that the dog demonstrate position changes (sit, down and stand) in correct heel position. While most dog-handler teams eventually master the position themselves, many teams struggle to keep the dog’s rear end in position throughout the exercise – a required component.
This video demonstrates a simple solution.
First, combine your work on pivoting in heel position with your position change practice. The pivoting movement causes the dog to anticipate, resulting in pulling in the rear during positions changes. Second, double check your reward placement. Make sure to offer cookies on the outside of the dog’s head and close to your body rather than from the front or angled in towards your body.
Now combine those elements together: Position change, followed by a pivot, followed by correct reward placement. Practiced in this manner, most dogs will quickly learn to keep their rear end tucked in.
As a bonus, this method can be used to straighten up a crooked sit at heel. To apply it within heeling try this:
Heel forward, pivot left ON A SPOT and halt ON THAT SAME SPOT. Repeat several times in a row. It’s critically important that your left turn be a pivot rather than a rounded corner or this won’t work, because your dog must recognize the pivot in order to remember to pull in their rear end. If your dog does not know how to pivot ON A SPOT then this isn’t going to be a very effective technique. To test if your dog truly knows how to pivot (rather than walking a small circle), place a mark on the ground, for example a piece of tape, and make sure that your feet continue to cover that tape while you ask your dog to stay at your side during a pivot. If your dog cannot stay in position when you pivot, you’ll need to teach that first.
Indeed, teaching a correct pivot may be all you need to solve a whole host of problems, from bumping on left turns to rear end position to crabbing.
Give it a shot!
Check out my Advanced heeling and problem-solving self-study course if you’d like more ideas to refine your heeling. Check the syllabus at that link to see what is covered. If you’re not that advanced, precision heeling starts at the very beginning with pivots, discs and pocket hand, so pick that up if it would be more appropriate for your situation.