Focused Heeling - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 7 (permalink) Old 03-01-2013, 09:44 PM Thread Starter
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Focused Heeling

Hello everyone.

My 9 month old shepherd is doing great in her training classes, she is an incredibly fast learning and high drive, but I am having some trouble getting her to really UNDERSTAND heeling.

I can generally get her to heel nicely on or off leash for 10-20 feet with a motivator (food/toy) but we are hoping to get into AKC obedience (and/or rally-still deciding!) and I am worried that teaching her the wrong way now is going to hurt us in the future by teaching her bad habits and I need to educate myself as to what I am doing.

If I simply give a heel command she does not understand to go into heel position, despite months of practice, but I can fairly easily lure her into position. This tells me that however I am teaching to get into position is NOT working. If I am ahead of her and call her into a heel position she does this pretty well, but that is more due to my positioning than her actually understanding what this whole heel thing is about.

When using a high value motivator (her fetching sticks) she rushes ahead and cuts me off.

I realize that focused heeling is a LONG process that takes a lot of effort. I have been researching many different (positive) methods, but I guess what I would like is some tips/hints/ time frames/ good resources for teaching myself how best to teach my puppy what I want from her.

Thanks in advance for any advice you can give me!
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post #2 of 7 (permalink) Old 03-01-2013, 10:48 PM
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Found some videos that I think explain the steps pretty well. :3 Hope they help.

That's the last one in the series but it goes over all the basics to build up to the actual heeling and stuff, should give you plenty to work on for now.
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post #3 of 7 (permalink) Old 03-01-2013, 10:52 PM
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Difficult to teach obedience online, tho sometimes video can help!

9 months is young....some dogs are ready to show at that age but most aren't. It all depends on the dog, but there's no point in rushing things. Teach more advanced (more fun!) skills like retrieves, work on rally skills, and the heeling will eventually come together.

Are you working with a trainer?

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post #4 of 7 (permalink) Old 03-02-2013, 10:14 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the videos! These are really helpful. I feel like we have all of the skills to get this down, I think I just have not been consistent enough in what I am teaching since I have researched so many different methods, so models like these really help!

Yes, we are working in a tricks class right now and the trainer recommended us for membership at the club. We are going to take a novice rally class next and then enter a novice ob training class with distant goals of achieving her CD (and maybe even CDX... and BH... "someday"?). I am also going to start assistant training at the club, so hopefully I can pick up a lot of new tricks of the trade through that as well.

One question I have.. For focused heeling, should I be rewarding when, for example, I lure her into position but she isn't quite close enough/slightly behind the position I want her to be in? Should I start with a "close enough" mindset and work up to a perfect crisp heel? (like you do with clicker training tricks)
Or should I ONLY reward when she is in a perfect (or at least decent) position?
I worry if I reward for "good try" positions that she will get lazy and not really understand.

Now to watch all of these videos

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post #5 of 7 (permalink) Old 03-02-2013, 10:22 AM
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I would reward often, but ONLY when the dog is focused on you or correct in positions. Make sure your dog is enthusiastic before you begin training and bring back into drive after a correction. Bridget Carlsen has some great methods, if you are ever able to attend a workshop with her, take advantage!! Bridget Carlsen - Competition Obedience Training

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post #6 of 7 (permalink) Old 03-02-2013, 12:40 PM Thread Starter
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post #7 of 7 (permalink) Old 03-03-2013, 01:25 PM Thread Starter
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We are using a scale as a perch and Maya is doing pretty well with this. I think my hand positioning for the lure still sucks, but she moves when I move PERFECTLY and we are working up to her moving nicely when I am standing still and just luring. She doesn't seem to GET that yet, but we will keep working.

Whether or not it is related, her straight walk heeling has improved a lot (without distractions).

Thanks again.
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