Tips for teaching Heel - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 15 (permalink) Old 11-12-2009, 01:12 AM Thread Starter
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Tips for teaching Heel

I'm needing some help with teaching Alexa heel. I've never actually taught this to a dog before, so my skills with this are crap at best

If someone could point me in the direction of a video, or just give some good advice, I'd really appreciate it.

~Stephanie

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post #2 of 15 (permalink) Old 11-12-2009, 08:05 AM
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Re: Tips for teaching Heel

Check out Free heeling


http://www.grammozis.de/Freeheeling.htm

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post #3 of 15 (permalink) Old 11-12-2009, 05:36 PM
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Re: Tips for teaching Heel

What kind of "Heel" do you want to teach? Head-up, attention competetion heeling, or just "out for a walk" heeling?

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post #4 of 15 (permalink) Old 11-12-2009, 06:58 PM
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Re: Tips for teaching Heel

After a lot of puppies, I've FINALLY figured this one out. My 5 month old puppy isn't perfect yet, but we're so much further along at a much earlier stage than any of my other dogs. And he seems to be having a lot more fun on walks.

Start here: https://www.germanshepherds.com/forum...ge=1#Post35064

Teach your puppy FOCUS first. Get a rock solid focus. Do all of your regular training (sit, down, wait, etc), and work on focus. When you give your puppy her meal, don't just ask for a sit/wait, but hang out until she looks at you (at first it's going to be a split second glance, that's ok).

I sit and have my pup facing me and just wait for him to look at me, then I click and treat. He loves it. It's easy money for him.

A clicker makes learning focus go even faster because it captures that nanosecond that your pup glances at you at first. But if you can't manage clicker and treats and puppy, just work very hard on getting your marker word (YES!) out as fast as possible.

Be very generous with treats. Once she has a good focus at home, take your puppy out a lot, to distracting places and work on focus. Just plop her down so she's facing you and keep doing the exercise just like you were at home.

Once you have that....once your puppy knows that "looking at my owner means good things happen"... (which is probably at least a month or two away), THEN you clip a leash to her collar. Stand in your living room in front of her and tell her "focus" and continue to do as you did before. Then put her in the heel position (this is new!) and do the same. Take a step and do the same. Then two. After about a week of this, move into your yard, and do the same. Don't walk around: just let her experience being outside, in the heel position, looking at you and focusing.

The next day, start walking around your house continuing the focus lesson. Then the yard. Keep using treats. Be sure you're treating from your LEFT hand if you're having your dog walk on your left side. (Hold the leash in your right hand). Otherwise, you will inadvertently turn toward her slightly, which will make her turn and move out of position.

Don't go too fast. Any time she seems to struggle, slow down, or if necessary, back up. While you're doing the walk around the house and yard, continue to take her into distracting public locations and doing the sitting focus lessons.

Within a few weeks after starting the WALKING "focus" training (about 3 months from now), you should have a dog that will be able to walk along next to you in a heel position, glancing up at you regularly. You need to be sure that you put her in a proper heel position when you start so that she's not swinging her head backward to look at you, which can cause neck problems. By learning to glance at you, she will learn to keep pace with you and "check in." Because you've been training her to focus in distracting locations, she will be far less likely to fall out of position if a distraction is present. And if one is, you tell her to focus, and she should automatically tune back into you.

Don't be in a rush to phase out treats (I plan to carry treats all of my dogs' lives. It's just easier to assume that, then worry about when I should be fading them out). Heeling is one of the hardest things to train a dog. But a dog that knows how to heel is a dog that is easier to train in most other areas of life. If you can imagine having a relationship with someone who pulls you along the street whenever you hold hands, you can see that the relationship isn't really very balanced, is it? If your dog heels automatically and focuses on you, she won't be lunging after other dogs, trying to pick up weird things on the sidewalk, etc. So training "leave it" and such things becomes much easier.


In the interim, of course you should continue to walk your dog. Use a Sensation or similar harness so that she doesn't learn to pull on a collar.



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post #5 of 15 (permalink) Old 11-12-2009, 11:15 PM
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Re: Tips for teaching Heel

I think this is an awesome thread but I hear all of this about puppies. i have an 85 lb black beast made of legs and ears. I am 5'9 and I can (without bending an inch) reach down and grab his collar. It seems like a lot of this seems easier when they are still 20, 30 , 40 pounds... but my guy is a giant. It seems like I would need to change something to make it work. I just don't know what. I mean if I were to have Dakota heel actively, like competition style(which is what I would like...eventually), I feel like his nose would be in my crouch. Maybe i'm just overwhelmed... I swear sometimes I wish he could shrink for a few months...

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post #6 of 15 (permalink) Old 11-13-2009, 06:48 AM
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Re: Tips for teaching Heel

If Dakota's head is in the crouch area then he is forging and crowding you (especially if you are talking about AKC heeling). He needs to be more on your side, looking up (either at your left hand, your armpit, or left side of your face).

I actually find it harder to heel with a short dog. If I want attention heeling with Dottie (who comes up halfway to my knee), she would either have to heel farther away from my body so she can see me or my hand or would need to really crank her neck b(almost tilting her head straight up) if she is walking really close to my left leg.
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post #7 of 15 (permalink) Old 11-13-2009, 09:02 AM
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Re: Tips for teaching Heel

I guess It just seems like he has no problem getting the treats it he wants them, perhaps I am teaching it the wrong way. I think we are going to try the idea with focus, especially since he is very good about it at meal time. He sits there and I can walk anywhere around the room and he will follow me with his eyes....waiting for an "okay" and a head nod. Focus any time outside though is a joke.

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post #8 of 15 (permalink) Old 11-13-2009, 10:50 AM
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Re: Tips for teaching Heel

This is something I've been lax on with Anna. So last night we started working on heeling again, in the hallway. It's close, tight and she pays attention to me, and we can walk around objects like chairs, the bar in the kitchen, etc. and distractions like kitties and Duncan. Only did a 10 min session though followed by a 5 min "watch me" session.


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post #9 of 15 (permalink) Old 11-13-2009, 11:32 AM
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Re: Tips for teaching Heel

I initially taught my dog a walking focus and had some issues.

You have to be careful how you reward and how you reinforce position. Our GSDs are not always built to comfortably crane their head up and keep their body straight. Their bodies follow their heads and a walking focus where they are looking at our face will frequently cause their body to be turned out at an angle from their handler. It is extremely important to never reward from the right or middle of your body because that will pull their head even further over into your space and consequently their body further out of line.

I like the free heeling website. Teaching forward movement that way seems to help them stay in position better than the walking focus and can give you a very pretty prancy picture.

After I got some help, I am also going back and teaching a lot of rear-end awareness. Dogs do not naturally move their butts and have to be taught. Silly tricks, like spinning left and right, backing up, etc can be really helpful in making the dogs more aware of their rear. Also left circle turns where the dog has to back up around you to stay in position can be helpful.

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post #10 of 15 (permalink) Old 11-13-2009, 01:18 PM
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Re: Tips for teaching Heel

Quote:
Originally Posted By: GSDSunshineI think we are going to try the idea with focus, especially since he is very good about it at meal time. He sits there and I can walk anywhere around the room and he will follow me with his eyes....waiting for an "okay" and a head nod. Focus any time outside though is a joke.
If you're not looking for a competition style attention heel where the dog is continuously focusing on you, but rather what Lori describes: "a dog that will be able to walk along next to you in a heel position, glancing up at you regularly", try working on the auto-watch with him in heel position outdoors in a fairly low distraction area and then work up to it in a higher distraction area.

If you're taking your dog for a walk it's just not reasonable to expect him to be looking at you the entire time, especially if it's for a couple of miles. Ideally, though, he should be aware of you on the other end of the leash and check in somewhat frequently. Halo has very good focus, but I had mostly worked with her facing me, (and I could also walk around you're doing with your dog), so I basically started over, teaching her to focus while sitting next to me in heel position. At first we did this in the house - I'd have her in a sit next to me and I'd mark and reward every time she looked at me. I did not give her any command, I simply waited for her to check in with me on her own. Then we moved it outdoors in front of the house, still working in a stationary position.

After that, I started marking and rewarding every time she looked up at me on a walk. That requires looking down at your dog the entire time so you can catch those rewardable moments. The more a dog is rewarded for something, the more they're going to do it, so for me, every walk is a training walk and I have my treat bag and clicker with me. I don't need a formal competition heel, most of the time a nice loose leash is all I really care about, with short periods of heeling mixed in.

Quote:
Originally Posted By: JKlatskyAfter I got some help, I am also going back and teaching a lot of rear-end awareness. Dogs do not naturally move their butts and have to be taught. Silly tricks, like spinning left and right, backing up, etc can be really helpful in making the dogs more aware of their rear. Also left circle turns where the dog has to back up around you to stay in position can be helpful.
I've been practicing those left and also right pivot turns, usually either a 1/4 or 1/2 turn at a time, but sometimes the full circle, as JKlatsky describes. At first she had a hard time with a straight sit. If we were walking along and I stopped I'd usually get a nice straight automatic sit, but with a turn, or even calling her into heel position from a front, she'd often be crooked, with her front end facing me and her back end sticking out. What I started doing that helped immeasurably was if I could see that she was starting to sit and was going to be crooked, I brought my right knee around and gave her a gentle nudge at the shoulder to push it away, and that swung her back end closer to me. Now I only occasionally need to do that because most of the time she's much better. I also use shaping a bit, by only marking and rewarding the good sits.

Our class is also having us teach backing up. I've always walked into my dogs and backed them up so that wasn't a challenge for Halo, so the trainer is having us work on backing up in heel position, which is much harder. It helps to do both next to a wall to keep the dog straight. I tripped over Halo a couple weeks ago when she backed up crooked and veered behind me while we were out on a walk and landed on my butt. Next time - wall or fence! We're also doing the right and left spins, which are easy to teach by luring with a treat.

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