Teaching "heel" - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 16 (permalink) Old 08-24-2009, 11:40 AM Thread Starter
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Teaching "heel"

I had posted about the problem I was having with Gunner's constant pulling. https://www.germanshepherds.com/forum...=1#Post1170028

To update that - I have to say that I LOVE the Easy Walk Harness! The good thing is, I can control him. He still tries to pull, but with the harness, he's not goin' anywhere.

The bad thing is... he still tries to pull. Rather than see the harness as a solution, I'd like to teach him a good "heel."

My question is, how do you go about that with a dog who isn't the least bit food motivated? I want to reward him when he's doing the right thing, but he turns his nose away from treats when we're out on a walk.
With the harness, I can interrupt his pulling. He pulls, we stop walking. Should I just focus on that aspect of it -- interrupting the incorrect behavior -- and not worry about rewarding him when he's doing the right thing? Or is there something else I should/could be doing?

Deni
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post #2 of 16 (permalink) Old 08-24-2009, 11:55 AM
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Re: Teaching "heel"

While others may give better input. I've heard that teaching heeling within the house first works well where there are few distractions and then proof outside.

I mean, trying to teach the dog outside is like trying to each a 17yo boy French in a strip club

The "stop walking if they pull" works, but I don't think it gets the "heeling" result you desire. We have this problem with Koch and it is our next obstacle to tackle.

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post #3 of 16 (permalink) Old 08-24-2009, 12:31 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Teaching "heel"

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Originally Posted By: Smith3I mean, trying to teach the dog outside is like trying to each a 17yo boy French in a strip club

The "stop walking if they pull" works, but I don't think it gets the "heeling" result you desire. We have this problem with Koch and it is our next obstacle to tackle.
LOL. Yeah, Gunner does have a very low threshold for distractions. Unless he's focused on something he wants, or wants to do. At that point, you could hold a megaphone next to his ear and he wouldn't hear you.

But that's what I'm wondering - if teaching him what NOT to do will be effective enough for him to do the math and figure out what he's supposed to do.

Deni
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post #4 of 16 (permalink) Old 08-24-2009, 10:20 PM
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Re: Teaching "heel"

Does he like toys? You can teach heeling with rewards other than food.

And absolutely start teaching the position in the house. I teach everything in my living room first, move it to my backyard, and then to the street.

Usually once I've taught them the position, and they move to that position when given the heel command, then I feel comfortable correcting them with their prong collar when they get out of position. My general rule for walking was to make forward pulling unpleasant and to make staying with me rewarding either through food, toys, praise, whatever. Argos liked tennis balls. I'd carry a pouch with several when we worked. Once I finished the correction phase, I was able to move back to a flat collar for normal walking situations, because I had a taught command in place.

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post #5 of 16 (permalink) Old 08-25-2009, 10:05 AM Thread Starter
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Re: Teaching "heel"

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Originally Posted By: JKlatskyDoes he like toys? You can teach heeling with rewards other than food.

And absolutely start teaching the position in the house. I teach everything in my living room first, move it to my backyard, and then to the street.

Usually once I've taught them the position, and they move to that position when given the heel command, then I feel comfortable correcting them with their prong collar when they get out of position. My general rule for walking was to make forward pulling unpleasant and to make staying with me rewarding either through food, toys, praise, whatever. Argos liked tennis balls. I'd carry a pouch with several when we worked. Once I finished the correction phase, I was able to move back to a flat collar for normal walking situations, because I had a taught command in place.
Oh yeah, Gunner loves toys. I've never trained using toys as a reward though, so I'm not sure how to go about it.
When he heels nicely, do I interrupt the training for a quick toss of the ball, or a quick tug, and then get right back to the training again? I don't want to do it the wrong way and end up with a confused and frustrated boy.

Deni
Owned by:
Gunner - GSD - 7 years
Riley - Golden Retriever - 2 1/2 years
Jake - (aka Demon kitty) Gray & white tabby
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post #6 of 16 (permalink) Old 08-26-2009, 05:14 PM
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Re: Teaching "heel"

Yes. That's pretty much exactly what you do. It may take longer because you can't get as many repetitions in with the toys. I taught my dog to heel for the ball. It's not as pretty as it turns out for food, but it's still pretty good.

Some pictures to help show you what I'm talking about..This is Argos when he was 6 months old and I was just learning some things to do. For competition purposes there are all kinds of things I would tweak now that I know better to get better position etc. but for a a general heel with a ball reward this should help you out.


Start with focus/watch/look. Teach them to focus on you from the front.


Move to the side of your dog, teach the dog to look up from the side.


Then start taking small steps...Maybe 1 or 2 and then reward. Then stretch it out.
Eventually you fade the ball (which is not evident in the pictures...but you drop the ball down to your side, I prefer on the left behind the dog's head so that the dog doesn't start wrapping in front to look at my right hand, ask for attention and when they give it, reward. Eventually when the ball isn't in sight they will just look up. Having the ball out can give you better attention and increased motivation in distracting situations)



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D'Artagnan (Tag) vom Eisernen Loewen BH 2-2-10
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post #7 of 16 (permalink) Old 08-27-2009, 10:29 AM Thread Starter
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Re: Teaching "heel"

Thank you!! That's very helpful.

He's starting to get it, much quicker than I expected him to. We walked two miles last night and I only had to stop four times. Considering where we were, with him constantly trying to drag me along, I think that's pretty huge.
And now that I have a better idea how to go about teaching the heel, I can teach him what TO do, rather than just trying to teach him what NOT to do.

I have one more question though, about distractions. Last night we walked the same route I had taken with Riley just a few hours earlier, so Gunner was pretty intent on tracking the scent of his 'little brother' , yet he still managed to keep his composure and walk next to me for the most part.
What I wonder is, should I take advantage of it and work with that kind of distraction? Or is it asking too much of him at this point? I thought it was a pretty good test for him, but at the same time, I don't want to push it too much and set him up to fail or have him get totally frustrated.

Thanks again for your help!

Deni
Owned by:
Gunner - GSD - 7 years
Riley - Golden Retriever - 2 1/2 years
Jake - (aka Demon kitty) Gray & white tabby
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post #8 of 16 (permalink) Old 08-27-2009, 12:07 PM
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Re: Teaching "heel"

When I'm working on heeling in distracting environments around my neighborhood, what I will do is ask for heel through a tough spot, then reward, and release.

For example- if I see another dog coming up, I'll pull out my ball and ask for a heel. Visible reward for a situation that would normally have him very excited. I will ask him to heel past the distraction, then reward him with his ball and a TON of praise, and then maybe let him carry his ball for awhile as a "free dog" before I out him and start over. He may pull when he's free but that's OK because he's free.

You're right that if you ask for it all the way through the walk without reward you'll get a dog who ignores you.

As to what kind of distractions that would depend on Gunner. Like with any distraction you want to start small, something you can more easily turn his attention from before you work up to the things that really get him going. You're better off not asking for obedience if there is no way you can get it.

Bianka vom Eisernen Loewen IPO3, CGC, TC 1-3-08
Cade vom Eisernen Loewen IPO1, CGC 3-25-09
D'Artagnan (Tag) vom Eisernen Loewen BH 2-2-10
G Aiko von Burkndeiros SchH 3, IPO3, FH, TC, KKL2 9-17-02 (Retired)


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post #9 of 16 (permalink) Old 08-28-2009, 10:47 AM Thread Starter
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Re: Teaching "heel"

Quote:
Originally Posted By: JKlatskyWhen I'm working on heeling in distracting environments around my neighborhood, what I will do is ask for heel through a tough spot, then reward, and release.

For example- if I see another dog coming up, I'll pull out my ball and ask for a heel. Visible reward for a situation that would normally have him very excited. I will ask him to heel past the distraction, then reward him with his ball and a TON of praise, and then maybe let him carry his ball for awhile as a "free dog" before I out him and start over. He may pull when he's free but that's OK because he's free.

You're right that if you ask for it all the way through the walk without reward you'll get a dog who ignores you.
Okay. I think I'll start taking a different route with Gun than I do with Riley. I'm sure there will still be plenty of smells that get him a little worked up, but I don't think it would be as rough for him as it is when he's on Riley's scent. That's what I was afraid of - that asking him to take it easy for at least two miles, with that much of a distraction, is just too much and he's going to get so frustrated that he just tunes me out.

When it comes to 'tough spots', like other dogs or people, Gunner is the exact opposite. When there's nothing going on, he's like Jack in Christmastown: "What's this?! What's this?!" LOL. He's nose-to-the-ground and wants to go. But the minute he sees a person or another dog, even if they're across the street, he slows down and practically glues himself to my side. (Unfortunately, that still doesn't apply to rabbits and cats, though.)
I'm thinking that when I see someone coming, I should ask him for a heel (which he's going to do automatically anyway) then reward him for it??
Are you tired of my stupid questions, yet?

Deni
Owned by:
Gunner - GSD - 7 years
Riley - Golden Retriever - 2 1/2 years
Jake - (aka Demon kitty) Gray & white tabby
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post #10 of 16 (permalink) Old 08-28-2009, 12:50 PM
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Re: Teaching "heel"

Wow! This is a great link! I know what I will be doing this weekend!

I have taken my Blake to FOUR trainers over the past two years trying to find someone who can make a difference with him because he is very ALPHA! My current trainer can get whatever he wants out of him PERFECTLY, but let me try and Blake walks all over me!

This looks like something I can work with and might help out a lot without making both of us so frustrated!

Thanks for the great advice and easy to follow instructions! You guys are awesome!

Krystal
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