Heeling With Turns
Perfection in FREE HEELING is achieved through leash training. Study your dog's natural movements and select a speed suitable to the dog. The heeling exercises will then be a normal procedure, based on the dog's physical and mental characteristics. If you have not already done so, get into the habit of starting the heeling action with your LEFT foot. In the Novice work, it didn't matter which foot you started on, because the Novice exhibitor normally uses the heeling command. Then too, when working with a large untrained dog, the trainer has better balance when he starts on the right foot. For the advanced training, teach your dog that when your RIGHT foot moves, it means to STAY. When your LEFT foot steps forward, it means to FOLLOW.
A common mistake made by amateur trainers is to jerk the leash when they step forward at the start of the heeling exercise. This TIMING is incorrect! There should be no hand movement, only the verbal command, such as "Robin, Heel!" which is given before the foot moves. The leash is jerked AFTER the trainer starts, while the foot is coming down on the first step, and WHILE the trainer is giving praise. A gentle patting of the side follows EVERY jerk of the leash.
The majority of dogs perform with accuracy when the leash is on but will take advantage on the HEEL FREE. To overcome this independent attitude, surprise your dog by USING the leash when she doesn't expect it. During the heeling routine, turn sharply at short intervals and catch her off guard. AFTER you turn, tug on the leash forcefully, using a minimum of hand motion but with exaggerated praise. Do this two or three times, then make the turns WITHOUT jerking the leash but GIVE PRAISE JUST THE SAME. If the leash is used continuously, your dog will heel wider than ever, or will heel close through fear.
Practice about-turns from a standstill. As you pivot, reach back with your RIGHT foot and tap the dog lightly on the right flank. Bring your feet together, reach down and pat her immediately. The dog must think the foot correction was unintentional. But you accomplished your purpose by making her turn.
Make one complete circle to the right, first while in motion, and again from a stand. Circling keeps a dog alert and watchful of movements. If it is a big dog you are training, reach back with your right hand when you make an about-turn, and "spank" the dog playfully on the rear. When she looks around in surprise, clap your hands in front of your body and coax her to come close at heel. Encouraging your dog to remain at heel position through cleverly disguised tricks is a better method of training than jerking the collar repeatedly.
Fast And Slow
During the heeling exercise, dash forward and snap the leash with praise. Slow to a walk, and say a quiet "Good Girl!" Do a fast run without jerking the leash, but give praise just the same. The praise can be dropped after your dog has learned to change pace, but during the teaching stage, the dog will be more responsive if she thinks the jerk on the leash is part of a running game.
The Figure 8
Train your dog to do a close Figure 8 the same way you taught her to do the Fast and the Slow. Circle two posts, two chairs, or two of anything, placed approximately six feet apart. When your dog is on the outside of the circle, SPEED UP, jerk the leash with a series of snaps and give praise. When the dog is on the inside of the circle, slow to a walk, while you continue the praise. The third or fourth time you circle the "posts" with the dog on the outside, speed up without jerking the leash, and when the dog changes pace, praise her for doing so.
Wad the leash into a ball and hold it in your LEFT hand. Keep your elbow straight with your arm close to your body. Go through the heeling routine and make the necessary heeling corrections in a playful manner. When you halt, bring your feet together, WAIT, and see what happens. If your dog passes your knee, snap the leash backward with force to make her sit immediately. Give praise when you do it. If the dog stops when you stop, but continues to stand, or is slow to sit, transfer the leash to your right hand and, with the left, "spank" her to a sitting position, then follow with exaggerated patting with the SAME hand. Even a small dog will accept corrections cheerfully, working happily and with spirit, when corrections are made the right way.
With the leash in your LEFT hand and your dog at heel position, hold your arm close to your side with elbow STRAIGHT. Command "Heel!" and take one step to the RIGHT. Give praise and jerk the leash IN BACK of your body to make the dog move with you.
Make a quarter turn to the LEFT. Pivot on your left foot, don't step! Say "Heel!" and snap the leash backward to make your dog square herself around to sit at the proper heel position. Don't forget the praise!
A series of BACKWARD steps will help teach your dog the correct heel position. Step back with your LEFT foot, command "Heel!" and snap the leash backward, again with praise. Before you realize it, your dog will automatically shift her position whenever you move away from her or when you turn your body.
Say "Stay!" and with the leash still in your LEFT hand, face your dog. Stand directly in front of her. Hold your left elbow STRAIGHT! Tell her "Robin, Heel!" then WAIT, for you must do one of three things: If the dog starts on command, praise her as she moves around to your left side, but don't move your arm. If she doesn't start on command, snap the leash past your side and give praise simultaneously. If she moves around to your side on command but does a sloppy finish, wait until she starts to sit, THEN jerk further back to make her do a more complete finish. Give praise when you use the leash.
If you have trained your dog to go to heel position by going to the RIGHT and around in back, make corrections with the RIGHT hand.
Practice the heeling exercises with the leash thrown loosely over your shoulder or tucked under your belt, and with your hands at your waist or at your side. Correct each mistake by snapping the leash sharply, then let go of it at once. Follow each correction with a gentle patting of your left side to encourage the dog.
Are You Ready To Move Onto The Next Lesson? Click Here...