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Old 11-16-2008, 05:17 PM
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Tazwell Tazwell is offline
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Default Heel Methods

As a Training instructor, I'm a bit unsure of different methods to teach my students a successful Heel...

I've successfully taught Gina and Archie to Heel in the past, using different methods, but what's the easiest way to teach students? I'm looking for easy to learn methods to teach.

The typical way we teach is:

1) teach the dog to sit at your side.
2) teach the dog to sit at your side, walk a few steps, stop, and sit. Completed Heel sequence.
3) gradually increase distance and stimuli.

Other than off-leash heeling, what are some tips and pointers I could use to teach my students, or other methods?

Also, When is the best time to add the command, 'Heel', in your opinion?
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Old 11-16-2008, 05:24 PM
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About the only thing I do differently is that after the dog learns sit in heel position, and of course attention! We move on to one step at a time heeling with attention, praise, reward, release, until the dog is reliable and then on to two steps, etc.

We don't add in the heel command until the dog can do at least 10 to 15 steps of heeling, in position, with focused attention. When the dog can heel long enough for us to edge it in, when he is right, we say good HEEL. I don't start using the heel command to start until the dog is heeling well and reliably with good starts, halts, turns, and changes of pace.

Here is a little heeling with Penny and I. (ignore my instructor, she is talking the person who went before me. )

HEEL ON LEAD
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Old 11-16-2008, 05:25 PM
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Tazwell, if you watch the clip you can see what kind of attention levels I train to, and I also work a lot of position and precision.

I use lots of food rewards and play breaks to keep the dog's interest and enthusiasm levels high.
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Old 11-16-2008, 05:37 PM
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I'm currently teaching Phoebe to heel, I am teaching it as a position and we just started moving with it. I used a touch stick to teach her how to get into position and we don't need the stick anymore, the thing was a godsend!
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Old 11-16-2008, 05:49 PM
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i used a clicker and taught heel as a position relative to me. i taught both of my dogs to heel off lead, and then added the leash later.
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Old 11-16-2008, 06:43 PM
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I taught heel as a position, like the others, but instead of using a touch stick I usually just teach the dogs to touch my hand and use that as a target. With my dogs at work we have a hallway about 25 feet long which I use to start heel work. The first session I just start walking and let the dog come to me, and click when he gets close to the position (use body blocking to keep him on the correct side if needed). If he's staying with me mentally, I'll use my hand touches to teach him to turn with me.... Otherwise I just turn myself and continue capturing him coming to position.

As far as turns, I start with inside turns - the dog is on the inside of the turn, he just pivots to stay in position with me. I use inside turns, even with the most advanced dogs, about 80% of the time, because they're so useful in keeping the dog in position and with his attention on you. Later when you work with distractions you can use the inside turn to break his attention from a distraction if you need to. Anyway, to teach the turns I just use my hand as a target, and click his body movement as he turns with me.

Another thing that's very useful for me is to teach the dog to back up with me. I start with the dog against the wall in heel position, say on my left side. I pick a moment when he's really paying close attention to me, and then I stop and turn my right shoulder (and knee, if needed) into the dog, kind of squeezing him back. I don't touch him, I just get into his space. As soon as he backs up, c/t. Then just fade the body cue, add a verbal cue, and add duration.
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Old 11-17-2008, 03:13 PM
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Another question--

For some dogs, the heel becomes their normal walk, only a bit sloppy. That's not something we really want, right? Should heeling become something only done on cue?


ETA:
It's very difficult for Archie, because of his age, to get in and out of the sitting position on the slippery floor at work. I think I might get rid of the sit in the heel altogether... He won't be a very good demo dog anymore
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Old 11-17-2008, 03:22 PM
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I guess it depends on what your "heel" is for, competition or just for a nice walk
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Old 11-17-2008, 03:30 PM
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When teaching classes I discriminate between 'loose leash walking' and a formal heel. A formal heel looks like Red's clip (good job Red!) while loose leash walking is a dog walking beside the owner and not pulling on the leash, but the dog is free to look around sniff the ground breifly etc. Most clients want LLW.

How I teach a formal heel in class is a bit different. I don't start in sit. I get the dog jazzed up to walk beside with great attention. (and clickering for it) I start with about turns, as a find most dogs don't stay parallel when pivoting left. Once to dog will stay in heel for fast, slow, and about turn then I start with sit when stopping. LOL then I add left pivots, side steps, and backwards.

I also don't train with voice cues or verbal encouragement. I tell people who wish to compete not to as well. Many dogs have a hard time making the change from a talking handler to a silent one.

Dekka heeling (need new clip I know) last year. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_T-WUt6k-ac
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Old 11-17-2008, 03:37 PM
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I do most of my early training off leash so I sometimes used a clicker, sometimes not. But when the dog was in position (starting out with approximations to heel position), I'd mark and reinforce. We'd make left and right turns, about turns, stop and sit, change pace, go every which way. As long as the dog was coming along, the treats kept coming. If the dog got side tracked or interested in something else, I just kept walking and when he was ready for another treat, he'd catch up and heel. He learned very quickly where the good spot was to be. Then we went from there....adding the cue, getting the position more precise by witholding reward for all but the better examples of the heel. I used "heel" for the really tight position and "lets go" for a very casual position. We'd practice in various positions, getting him to fix his rear when it was crooked, like in a sit. He learned to heel backwards and do a little trick where I kept walking, he was to wait (in a stand, sit or down upon cue) and then I'd signal him to heel again and he'd run quickly and catch up, resuming the position and matching my pace/tempo. Then again, he'd "wait/sit" while I didn't break my step, and again catch up with a little wrist cue I gave. No usefulness whatsoever. Just a fun trick.

I worked at times where the dog hadn't just had a meal and used yummy treat tid bits. The leash was used when we walked on the road or whatever. And then too, in practice in the yard. I used a rope toy too for a fun break in the exercise. Everything was up beat, fun, like a game.

"Watch me" was worked on seperately, then added to the heel. But since I was not interested in showing, I didn't insist on constant watching me as I was a bit worried about his neck. (this is Lyric I'm talking about) Just so I could get his attention when wanted. And also his heel, although quite tight and nice, probably wouldn't have won him a blue ribbon. There was no practical use for it for us. But it was a good brain exerciser. LOL. Lots of concentration for the dog.
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