Heeling backwards? - German Shepherd Dog Forums
 
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post #1 of 9 (permalink) Old 09-25-2008, 03:47 PM Thread Starter
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Heeling backwards?

I found a site with all sorts of dog tricks and some advanced ones one of them was heeling backwards, i thought it would be a fun to try and teach to my female Libby, She heels very nice looking up at me turning when i turn slowing her pace, speeding up as i do But backwards? We tried this a few times and failed, She is able to back up on command, but not when we are in a heel position, and not back up at my pace with me like when we heel forward, Maybe i should go about this with out that backup command we use for when she just gets in my way? Just wondering if anyone has ever taught this or had any tips on how to teach it?
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post #2 of 9 (permalink) Old 09-25-2008, 03:50 PM
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Re: Heeling backwards?

It is the coolest thing.
My trainer had his dog do it I was quite impressed.

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post #3 of 9 (permalink) Old 09-25-2008, 04:09 PM
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Re: Heeling backwards?

I have worked on this command off and on with my German Shepherd, Abby. Now, I don't usually ask her to focus on my face when heeling normally, I'm happy with a regular heel, but I'm sure you can work that in.

The primary issue we have found when heeling backward has been that she was not aware where her back feet where while she backed up next to me on the leash, which led to her backing up crooked and bumping into me. We had to really work on making her more aware of her hind end before we got a really nice back-up in the heel position. (Which took a lot of doing - walking over ladders, backing up between me and the wall, etc.)

What I did to teach backing up in the heel position was to place her between me and a wall, and start by taking a small step backward while telling her "back". I use a riding crop for directing when we work on new commands, so I put that in front of her so she could not go forward. Once she gave me a step back, I marked the behavior and rewarded her. Then I worked on doing more steps and more steps.

Then I took it outside and had her heel, did some turns, then backed up while giving her the voice command. Wasn't straight the first time but she and I were both moving backward. It's still not perfect, mainly because we haven't been working on it much, but this is how I started getting there.

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post #4 of 9 (permalink) Old 09-25-2008, 04:30 PM
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Re: Heeling backwards?

Historian- that is a really great way to do that. I may try this myself

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post #5 of 9 (permalink) Old 09-25-2008, 05:09 PM
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Re: Heeling backwards?

Max can heel backwards but I dont do it much now. I dont know how true it is but someone told me its bad for their hips.

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post #6 of 9 (permalink) Old 09-25-2008, 05:45 PM
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Re: Heeling backwards?

I started teaching my dogs to heel backwards long before rally became popular (the highest level of rally obedience requires heeling backwards three steps). I've always enjoyed having my dogs stay in heel position regardless of what I'm doing, which is a real test of their understanding of "heel".

There are two things that I think are vitally important when teaching a dog to maintain heel position regardless of what you're doing. One is that they understand "heel" as a POSITION, not as a MOVEMENT. Most people tend to teach their dogs that heel means they move forward in heel position - they say "heel" and move forward and the dog goes with them. I teach my dogs that "heel" means "be at my left side in heel position". I do a lot of reinforcement of my dogs when they're on my left, and I do little sideways movements, left turns, etc. from the very beginning to help them understand that moving to stay in heel position is what gets the reward.

The second thing I think is vitally important is that the dog understands how to move the hind end on command. If you watch most people heel their dogs on a left turn or even a tight left 360 turn, you'll see that the dog's front end moves around and the hind end just kind of trails behind. I teach my dogs to move their haunches back so that a left turn is where they stop forward motion and swing the rump back. This is done early in training, too, although you can do it later in training (all of my competitive obedience students teach their dogs this kind of turn, and many of those dogs are several years old before they come to my class - it's just easier to teach it young).

I tend not to use things like walls or chairs to teach my turns or backing up. I find that it generally takes longer (with less understanding on the part of the dog) if you use a "prop" like that (although it can work too). I start out by having a flat collar on my dog and a short leash. With my dog standing in heel position (may have to step forward to get the stand) I slide my hand under the top of the collar (fingers pointing toward rump) and then I PIVOT left very slightly while slightly twisting the collar. I don't bump the dog (remember, it was a pivot, not a turn). Then I stand there quietly, smiling, and I wait for the dog to make a comfort move. This means that the dog will step slightly to the left to straighten out the body. The twisted collar is not tightly twisted in any way - just enough for the dog to feel slightly pressured - and then I let the dog figure it out. It may take a little while. If the dog sits, I simply start over (maybe say things like "c'mon, silly girl, get that rump up" while I clap my hands and move forward - need to keep things happy because this is a strange thing for the dog).

As SOON as the dog moves the rump over a step or even a fraction of a step, I mark that with an enthusiastic "YESSS!" and then release the collar and reward with treats or a toy. And then I set the dog up and do it again. We do maybe 4 or 5 times and then I stop.

When the dog catches on and starts moving the rump quickly over, you can start increasing (gradually) the amount of movement you expect before marking and rewarding the behavior. And then you put it on verbal command (I don't mess with the verbal initially because the dog wouldn't understand it and it would be confusing - I add it once the behavior is established) and then fade out the collar pressure. I use "get back" as my command to have the dog move their rump around behind me.

When I teach the backing up, I use my control of the front end and the hind end to show the dog that they need to move both ends backwards. I use a combination of "get back" and "heel" to maintain straightness.

My chow, Khana, earned her Rally Excellent title last summer with good scores and one of the things that the judges really commented on was her backing - she backed quickly, smoothly, and straight. They told me (and the crowd when they handed out ribbons) that she had the best back they'd seen all day. I think I was the only one not to lose any points on that exercise. Khana started young with learning how to pivot left and back up - she's a backing fool and one of our freestyle moves is when she backs circles around me.

I think that it's only bad for a dog if the dog has bad hips or back problems to start with. Backing up isn't an unnatural behavior. I'm sure it uses some muscles in a different way from normal and dogs who haven't built up those muscles may look awkward and uncomfortable until the muscles become accustomed to it.

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post #7 of 9 (permalink) Old 09-25-2008, 06:19 PM
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Re: Heeling backwards?

Sadly, my backwards heeling is better than my forward.

It does work to use a fence or a wall, and if their rear angles in behind you, you can slightly tap them with your back heel to get them straight, or you can angle your backwards steps into them. Just one step at a time and lots of praise. It is pretty neat once they get it.
I've also heard that if your dog doesn't know how to move his butt, you can always walk him over a latter than is placed on the ground. That way, he can learn how to move his rear and become aware of his rear end.
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post #8 of 9 (permalink) Old 09-27-2008, 11:15 PM
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Re: Heeling backwards?

"There are two things that I think are vitally important when teaching a dog to maintain heel position regardless of what you're doing. One is that they understand "heel" as a POSITION, not as a MOVEMENT."

This is just so true. We taught Mojo to "walk back" first by having him stand infront of me and then with food I would walk toward or into him and say "walk back" really just forcing him to walk backwards. After that I would put him in the heel positionm then stand and I used the command "walk back" and would begin to heel backwards. Oddly enough he heels backwards the best! I have had friends use the wall too and that really helped them.

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post #9 of 9 (permalink) Old 10-07-2008, 04:37 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Heeling backwards?

Thanks everyone for all the great advice I think im going to try this against the wall for Libby, We are starting to introduced our pup (7 1/2 months) Dexter to Heel, were starting the next level of training thursday where they teach heel work, I would like to teach him the way you described

Quote:
Originally Posted By: IliamnasQuest
If you watch most people heel their dogs on a left turn or even a tight left 360 turn, you'll see that the dog's front end moves around and the hind end just kind of trails behind. I teach my dogs to move their haunches back so that a left turn is where they stop forward motion and swing the rump back.
Just a little cunfused by what you said i think i need to see it to understand maybe watch some Rally Movies on You Tube, I Will ask the trainer when we start she used to show her dogs in rally, so she could prob show me unless she dose it the other way, but again thanks for all the advice
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