Is this an OK way to teach heel?
We've been going to a training class and have been doing heel, sit when stopping at heel, and then here (dog sits, handler walks away or circles the dog and then tells the dog here, dogs comes to the handler, turns, and sits at the handler's side.) I've been working with him with lots of repetitions and praise or treats.
Tonight, I worked with him off leash by holding his ball and he followed very well. I would have him heel for about a minute, with a couple of sits, then the here command, with praise during the heel, and at sits. Once he completed the here command I would throw the ball for him. If he did it really well, I'd throw the ball a couple of times (and also praise).
I feel like he did the best he's ever done with heel tonight. Is this a good way to train? I don't want to create a dependency on the ball. He also doesn't stare at my face the whole time, even if I hold the ball up. Should I work on the eye contact during heel? I'm fine with him just walking beside me, but is the eye contact something I should strive for? Should I throw the ball to reward more often?
Thanks for any input!
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Jerry, CGC - born 12/8/2009, adopted 7/7/2012