Is this an OK way to teach heel? - German Shepherd Dog Forums
 
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post #1 of 8 (permalink) Old 08-25-2012, 09:07 PM Thread Starter
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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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post #2 of 8 (permalink) Old 08-26-2012, 06:47 PM
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This is a wonderful way to teach heel! Having a toy-motivated dog will make training a lot easier. A whole minute of heeling for a beginner is awesome, you really got her engaged and working with you.

My suggestions would be to mix up your routine and reward her in an umpredictable fashion. Otherwise, she will be conditioned to automatically go through the commands in order and won't really be paying attention or listening to the commands.

For now, it is fine to just have her focus on the ball. You can start teaching her to focus on you in a stationary position first. Have her sit at heel, ask for eye/face focus (wait it out, might be while - she'll glance at you to see what is taking so long with the ball reward?), and throw the ball for just a glance. Then when she starts to offer the glance, ask for a second of focus, then two, and so on.

Sounds like you won't have any trouble getting her to be the star of your obedience class.

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post #3 of 8 (permalink) Old 08-26-2012, 08:58 PM
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Sue, glad to see your description and Lucia's approval. We have done this with Liesl with good results, also. Mixing high value food treats and her beloved ball keeps her interested during training. Even just giving her the ball and letting her "squeak" it a few times seems to satisfy her. No dependency issues at all. We use the same techniques for teaching her to hold a stay while we walk away several feet and make her wait for the "come" command for recall. Keep up the good work!

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post #4 of 8 (permalink) Old 08-27-2012, 07:36 AM
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i wouldnt start walking until the dog can focus on me and not look at something else.
take your hand out, or move it to the back so your dog will look at you instead of looking at the hand. the reward comes form the back of the head inbetween the ears.
michael ellis' "focused heeling" is really a good tool on how to do this. having had no training experience at all, i had it down in less than a week.
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post #5 of 8 (permalink) Old 08-27-2012, 07:41 AM
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post #6 of 8 (permalink) Old 08-27-2012, 08:18 AM
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Thanks MRL! That nice heel position was shaped by using food for luring the dog into position, and repeating the exercise a bazillion times. Only then did the handler start transitioning to hiding the lure, and getting the attention on the handler.

And to the OP, a GSD can have difficulty holding their head up vertically like that Malinois, as their conformation and build is different. Easier for them to have their head a bit to the side.

Lucia


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post #7 of 8 (permalink) Old 08-27-2012, 11:03 AM
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I love using the wall like they do. Really makes it easy on the pup, with the natural boundaries rather than a leash correction.
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post #8 of 8 (permalink) Old 08-27-2012, 01:55 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the great tips and video! I'll definitely work on the eye contact and I'll try using my fence line as a wall to work with. I think eye contact is the hardest thing with him. He'll maintain eye contact when he's in a sit and I walk around him, but the rest of the time it's difficult. He's always very interested in whatever else is going on, even when I have his favorite ball or treats and we're somewhere boring like our own yard. I'm thinking I should probably work on a focus command to help with this?

I'm really excited about class tonight and hope he does well at heeling. He didn't want to do much on Sunday; I think I absolutely exhausted him on Saturday, so that's probably the reason for the better than normal heeling he was doing.

Castlemaid, I've seen some videos of GSDs heeling with their noses pointed straight at the sky the entire time they're walking making eye contact with the handler and to my untrained, novice eye, it looks awkward and unnatural and seems to change the dog's gait. I'd rather work on the eye contact from a more natural position like turning to the side. I know those trainers who have the dogs look straight up know what they're doing, but my personal preference would be to have my dog turn his head to the side and look up.

I'm already seeing a huge difference in leash pulling since we started working on heeling. When we got him a few weeks ago it was so exhausting to walk him because he pulled so hard and I would stop or turn every time I felt tension on the leash, now he's pulling much less and a verbal correction is usually enough to remind him to stop. I've been taking him to the track and doing several minutes of heeling (on leash) and when we're done I say OK and move him to the right and let him do a relaxed walk for the next couple of miles.


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