Help with Canine Freestyle

maggies mom

Well-Known Member
Hi Everyone,

Maggie is almost ready for Canine Freestyle Competition, her first so-called fun show is end of May. I am having trouble though getting her to walk along with me on my "right side". She will stay on my right side while she has the leash on, but, when I take it off, she automatically switches to my left side. She was trained the "heel" on my left side when she was a puppy. I am aware heeling on both sides is a requirement and it's getting really frustrating. I have to give up and stop at the this stage. SHE IS READY FOR COMPETITION other than this.



Experienced Member
This can be very hard for dogs. Even Vito who is not even 6 months yet already has a very biased position for the left. So I'm shaping him to stay on my right at times. I'm just rapidly shoving food in his mouth anytime he's on my right. If he tries to switch, I say "oops" (my no reward marker), stop moving, and just wait him out. Or if Maggie knows a "switch" cue, you could just stop moving give her the cue and then wait.

If Maggie knows hand targeting, you can also put out your right hand for her to follow, and then fade to your hand only being down sometimes. If she sees the leash off as a cue to go to your left, could you try just dropping the leash and letting it drag for a bit? Or if you walk against a wall that's on your left it would prevent Maggie from getting into the rewarding heel position

In agility I try to practice having my dogs more often on my right to try and combat the magnet to my left side from all the heelwork we do in obedience. With Lance, 2yrs, I am now just able to point my hand at my right side and that is his cue to stay on that side until told otherwise. He still doesn't know a word for that though!

maggies mom

Well-Known Member
Thanks for the advice. Maggie knows hand targeting and she will follow me, but as soon as I make a turn, she switches to the left. I don't know what cue to give her to follow me on the right side. Can't say heel, she moves to the left. I give the command: "Side" and put my right hand on my leg and she comes to my right side, but as soon as I begin to walk....she switches to the left.

I'll try dropping the leash and see if that works.

She's only a beginner though, and doing VERY WELL. This is the only command she hasn't mastered. When I'm ready, I'll tape and make a post.


Experienced Member
Fickla has answered your question, so I'd only add:
On competitons or shows, don't do moves that are "still in progress", as it doesn't look that good.


Experienced Member
I would train a different voice and hand cue and recue her taking baby steps at first sort of like rally. 2 steps heel sit down 2 steps turn heel sit. etc. Also use a longer target like a wooden spoon with peanut butter of something on it if need be. Hand targeting is a little of a pain for me when doing heel work because even though mine are Goldens they are still a little shorter than my arm is long. You don't want your dog bouncing to target. Also train a follow the target instead of touching to keep out the bouncy reach to actually touch the target. I use follow as the verbal. Not only does follow teach them not to blindly follow the target it gets them thinking about where they are positioned. This is great help for weave poles or post turns etc. :dogtongue2: Do it for all cues so that they generalize better.

If you do a lot of leash work teaching cross where you do a 180 but the dog stays on the same side hence when you turn goes from ur left to ur right. Around you pivot left 180 with dog on ur left and dog goes out and around making a wide right turn and ends up again on your left. This teaches them some spatial things about heeling around you and different sides. I line up many things on opposing sides like sit and down or even a stay before release to go do an obstacle in agility. They just have to get used to it.


Experienced Member
Try increasing the awards around the turns where your dog typically makes a mistake. This way you can inforce that staying on your right is a really good thing and she is correct staying and not switching. Turn slowly until she is starting to understand and then increase your speed gradually.