Close Heelwork

Discussion in 'Obedience Training' started by nereis, Mar 18, 2008.

  1. nereis Well-Known Member

    I'm not sure how many on here are interested in the competition side of obedience training, but I thought I'd post this anyway. Alfie's heelwork is less than perfect. He sets up in the correct position, but when we start to move he kind of slouches, and moves away from my knee slightly. If I move a bit faster he doesn't slouch, but the drifting away still happens. Any advice?

  2. leema New Member

    Mac is far less than 'less than perfect', but I know what is supposed to work in theory. :)

    Heeling is a behaviour that is often lumped. If he sets up in position nicely, great! The next step of the behaviour would be moving with your leg as you step off. Can he do one step nice and close? If not, then that's what you've got to be rewarding for. Once one step is down pat, then two steps. Break it down and make it easy!

    The other option is more a shaping method. So just walk around and then rewarding him for being on your left. Then closer on your left. Then actual in line with your left. In line for a long time. Closer again... Etc. So you shape the behaviour into a close heel.

    Mac fails at both of these. :p Though did show some improvements with the first methodology!
  3. l_l_a New Member

    how about going back to square one and using a clicker to mark the exact position you want him to be in? e.g. set up in heel position, then take one step and if he's in the proper position then click (and treat) and end the exercise. And repeat. I found that the clicker makes things crystal clear to the dog (if you are consistent that is!) so the dog can grasp the idea of what you want, much faster.

    then if that's going well then take two steps and again click if he stays in position for two steps, then end the exercise, and repeat. Then work up to three steps etc. Anytime he gets out of position just quietly end the exercise (without click and treat) and start over...

    my dog swings wide sometimes but our trainer says it's because I'm not walking in a straight line myself. I find it hard to walk in a straight line because I'm concentrating so hard on the dog!

    so maybe you are not walking in a straight line too and are unconsciously crowding your dog so he is drifting away??

    another thing that caused my dog to swing wide is if he's SO driven for the reward that he's anticipating the toy appearing and starts creeping a bit more forward or a bit more out to the side so he can better scan my movements for a hint of the toy appearing. once I started using the clicker for heeling we fixed this (but it resurfaces if I get sloppy and inconsistent over a period) now I need to learn to walk in a straight line!
  4. marysia_p17 New Member

    leema and l_l_a said you a lot :) but I find something worth adding :)
    First of all - "click the behaviour, reward the position" - I found it extremely important in heelwork. I reward Una using my left hand and I'm trying to give her a treat in a perfect position.
    Second - rewarding only in a sitting position when the handelr stops is a good way for some dogs - but not for all (I do it like that on this video:
    o, and there is "down" cue on the end :) )
    Third - try to do "brain wash" about heelwork - use your dogs favorite treats, make your session extremely short and extremely easy - one step - c/t. Let your dog to love heelwork!
    And last but not least - when you are going faster in becomes easier for a dog. So - go fast. Walking slow it will be the next step :)
  5. lexio2 New Member

    little late to the party on this post, but this is what i worked Qwill on today.

    I walk outside in the road (going into traffic so the curb in on my left). I use the curb to keep him close into my body so he doesn't swing out. I also click treat every 2-4 steps... so not only has our heel position improved greatly, but so has his focus and "watch me".
  6. nereis Well-Known Member

    Thanks guys, I'll give your tips a go. :D
  7. stormi Well-Known Member


    I was away over Easter, so only just saw this. I agree with the above posts about taking it slowly, one step at a time.

    If he is slouching maybe you need to teach him to stretch up? How do you work him...wrap-style or upright? Some dogs prefer one over the other despite handler preferences. I think the most important thing is for the dog to feel comfortable in the heelwork position it needs to maintain, so I give my dogs quite a bit of freedom to choose their own head position as long as their shoulder is in the 'correct' place.

    Do you go to a training club where members or the trainer competes?
  8. lurchergirl New Member

    This is how I teach heelwork:

    1. Teach head position and drive by getting dog to follow my hand at arm's length. Click for touching at first, then click for following. This is also a good way for teaching endurance in heelwork. Build the time up gradually and look for a nice trotting action (hold your hand high enough for the dog to keep his head up, but not too high otherwise he will jump - practice the hand touch first of course so the dog knows what that is). This will address the slouching too and give you a nice happy dog doing heelwork.

    2. Teaching to come into heel position by bringing him into the right position by targetting your hand. Start off with dog in front of you, then bring to the left with your hand. Click as your dog turns behind you with hind legs and give treat when he is in heel position.

    3. Teaching to stay in heel position when moving by teaching your dog to target your leg/calf with his shoulder. I started off with that stationary and clicked every time the dog touched my left leg with his shoulder. Then I moved on to (very) slow walking and click for each touch (which should be with each step). I am now up to normal pace and have nice close heelwork after putting all three steps together.

  9. dat123 Experienced Member

    That was a well written lesson Vera.
    I've never been very interested in obedience, but after reading that i'm motivated.
  10. szecsuani Experienced Member

    Thi9s is great!
    Maybe we'll learn heelwork now! :D
  11. fickla Experienced Member

    I am a bit confused by your 3rd point:
    When you are walking in heel is your dog constantly brushing up against your leg then?
  12. lurchergirl New Member

    Yes, as this is desirable in the UK, but I understand that it is not desirable in the US. So how you need to do it depends on the country where you compete. :msngrin:
  13. fickla Experienced Member

    Oh I had no idea that there was such a difference in the UK! I suppose if you taught a dog to target your leg that would get rid of a dog heeling wide though! Thanks for your explanation
  14. storm22 Experienced Member

    lurchergirl that clicking everytime the dog touches your leg sounds good, im gunna try it with koda, she also is drifting out when we walk off

    my trainers also told me to hold my lead in my right hand so its across my body (i was drifting her out with my hand as both lead and treat were there) and have my treats in my left hand and hold left hand up at waist height to try and lift her head up abit and get that prancy walk they do nicely, shes started well (after swicthing to this) but there was sheep poo on the ground and she kept putting her head down to get it, its a work in process to leave it constantly

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