“Fly” is what I call it when a dog is sent out of one behavior, out around an object, and then called back into another behavior.  In this blog example, we’ll use heeling for both behaviors with a fly in the middle.

There are many reasons I teach a “fly” command.

1)  Dogs appreciate the release of movement when they are working hard in a controlled behavior such as heeling.  Precision heeling is a lot of work – each second the dog is making tiny adjustments to their body to remain in correct position.  If you approach heeling as a highly precise and engaging activity, the dog really needs that release.  Heeling is hard work!

2)  Allowing a dog to leave any tightly controlled behavior – at full speed – clears the dog’s head and creates more energy and enthusiasm when they return.

3)  Allowing a dog to leave work for a short break naturally reduces your reward schedule – instead of handing over a classic reward, you make the release the reward.  Because most dogs like to run, the “fly” operates as both a reward and as a release.  What a deal!

And for anyone who plans to sign up for my Fenzi Obility courses on-line (“Heeling Games” in June or Obility 1 in August), you will need this skill, so you can get a head start by learning it now.

Here’s Cisu learning the first steps in fly:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bfZwJKunFEc

At first you can either lure the dog around the object (in this case a stanchion) or shape the behavior – either is fine.  When the dog is flying out reasonably reliably, add the cue (I say “fly”, you can say anything you wish).  Then add some distance from the object – I work my way up to about 50 feet so I can also use it for go-outs as well as a few other obility exercises.

Doing well?  Good.  Now, send your dog out and then turn your back, giving your “heel” cue as you move away from your dog.  Your dog should accelerate back up to you and drive into heeling.  What you do when the dog arrives will depend on what aspects of heeling give your dog the most trouble.  In a nutshell, allow bouncing and forging in a dog that lacks energy, and encourage tighter control in a dog that lacks precision but oozes drive.  We’ll get to that on another day.

Here’s Cisu.  She’s working on building drive for the first 45 seconds or so.  Then I add a control move (pivot left) – which also changes where the reward is delivered. Near the end I add a drop signal (control) and follow it up with coming up into heeling (drive).