Heeling Games! - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 15 (permalink) Old 06-25-2013, 01:29 PM Thread Starter
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Heeling Games!

Anybody have any favorites? Ones that have worked well for you in building your dog's enjoyment or precision in heeling?

I've just started practicing with Pongu specifically with an eye toward increasing our speed in trial environments while retaining precision, so we're starting to incorporate a lot more structured heeling games into our practice sessions. Previously I'd just do whatever seemed fun and relaxing, because the focus was more on coaxing scaredypants dog into functioning at all in unfamiliar and distraction-filled environments. Now we've accomplished that to a semi-satisfactory degree, so we're beginning our slow shift over to the pursuit of perfection.

Also, I need something new to teach him to break up the potentially boring repetition of stuff he already knows but needs to polish. Cue heeling games!

Yesterday I introduced Pongu to Denise Fenzi's "Fly" game, in which the dog is sent out to circle a stationary object (I'm using a cone). In this clip he's still developing fluency in the behavior so it's not particularly smooth or fast; Pongu had never previously been asked to go around an object and this is just our second session.


(That slanted Down makes me laugh. Pongu has an issue with slanted Downs anyway, but in this instance it's really my fault because I have my shoulders turned toward him to keep him in the camera's view. Since I'm twisted, so is he. Poor nerdpuppy's just following my crooked alignment.)

I'm teaching the "Fly" go-around as a right turn initially because Pongu's right turn is slightly slower and tends to go wider than his left turns at trials, so I'm hoping that I can use this exercise not only as a fun motivator/pattern break but to build up his muscle memory for a tighter, faster right turn. Hopefully once he gets familiar enough with the behavior that we can practice outside, I'll be able to get it going at speed, and with any luck that will prove useful down the road.

What else have people found useful in building good heeling?

ARCHMX TDCH Pongu the Insane, CD-C, RE, RL1X6, RL2X5, RL3X2 (GSD mix, b. Apr 2010)
Crookytail the Tigerwuff, RL1, ITD (Akita mix, b. Jan 2011)

Last edited by Merciel; 06-25-2013 at 01:33 PM. Reason: haHAA!! finally got the video to embed
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post #2 of 15 (permalink) Old 06-25-2013, 03:53 PM
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I like to do chase me games with heeling. I do this a lot with young dogs to build a strong association that heeling is fun and that heel position is a great place to be. I'll have a pocket full of treats, take the dog out (free, no leash), and play a game of pseudo tag where I trot away from the dog, and when the dog comes after me and gets into heel position next to me (they already have an idea of what heel is at this point) I praise lavishly, we walk for a couple paces, I release, treat/pat, then run off in another direction and repeat. Sometimes after the release/treat/petting I'll shove the dog away from me before I take off again, which just gets the dog to chase harder (opposition reflex).

I'll do this with older, trained dogs on occasion too, just to spice it up and have fun and rejuvenate heeling.

I also like to occasionally do what a German trainer at a seminar once referred to as "wild west heeling".. basically going all over the place with lots of pace changes, turns, spirals, spins, side steps, moving my legs in odd positions (a'la ministry of silly walks). Pretty much the opposite of the stuffy, boring, straight line heeling in trials/shows.


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post #3 of 15 (permalink) Old 06-25-2013, 04:54 PM Thread Starter
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I love Tag and Chase games! They really do make it a lot easier to convince a dog that Heel is fun, don't they?

Two variations that I've found particularly useful are Freeze Tag (I touch the dog, the dog freezes in position while I run away and stays frozen until I give a release cue to chase me again -- this is great for proofing Stand-Stays out of motion) and Reverse Freeze Tag (I freeze and the dog has to find my open palm and bonk it with a nose to get me moving and resume the game; I like this one because it interrupts blind motion to request a "thinking" behavior and, depending on where I hold my palm, can also be used to reinforce Heel and Front position. Since the game only resumes when the dog bonks my hand, it's a strong motivator to find my palm and get into position really fast).

I haven't done much work with opposition reflex, but it's something that Fenzi has been discussing in her current Heeling Games session, and it seems like it has a lot of potential. I really need to take Dog Mob out and give some of those games a spin. Hmm, maybe we'll do that tonight...

ARCHMX TDCH Pongu the Insane, CD-C, RE, RL1X6, RL2X5, RL3X2 (GSD mix, b. Apr 2010)
Crookytail the Tigerwuff, RL1, ITD (Akita mix, b. Jan 2011)
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post #4 of 15 (permalink) Old 06-25-2013, 05:23 PM
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I am so following this thread.


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post #5 of 15 (permalink) Old 06-25-2013, 05:36 PM
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I am so following this thread.
me too!!! Love it
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post #6 of 15 (permalink) Old 06-25-2013, 05:53 PM
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I've been really working on heeling with my 6 month old since day one. We did a ton of luring to get the head position. I introduced perch work to get the rear end movement and she has always really loved that. Now we are introducing "under", to go between my legs and tight circles to work on the rear end movement some more.



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post #7 of 15 (permalink) Old 06-25-2013, 05:59 PM Thread Starter
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I posted this a while ago in a different thread, but here's Pongu playing Freeze Tag if anybody wants to see what that looks like.


That clip is over a year old, so our games are a little bit tricksier now -- I don't hold my hand out in front of Pongu's nose the whole time anymore, for one thing! -- but it's still a fair representation of what Freeze Tag looked like for us in the early stages, and in that sense it's probably more useful if you're just starting to teach this one to your dog.

You can see that there's a hand signal as a secondary cue to get the Stay after I tell him to Freeze. It's quick but it's there, and it can be useful when you're first introducing this concept. Later you can fade it out if you want (but this is a game, so you might not bother, since there's no getting dinged for repeated cues in a game!).

If you want to make it look more like fast-paced heeling then you'd run in a straight line and hold your hand out to guide the dog in a straight line along with you, obv. I made this particular clip just as a demo for a tricks class that I was teaching at our dog park, with no intention of it being anything more than a fun recreational game for most of the people who'd be learning it, so I wasn't really aiming for precision here. But hopefully it's sufficient to show how it could be used to shape that, if that's what you wanted.

I might try to make a clip of Reverse Freeze Tag later this week if I have time and can find somebody to hold the camera for me.

ARCHMX TDCH Pongu the Insane, CD-C, RE, RL1X6, RL2X5, RL3X2 (GSD mix, b. Apr 2010)
Crookytail the Tigerwuff, RL1, ITD (Akita mix, b. Jan 2011)
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post #8 of 15 (permalink) Old 06-25-2013, 06:47 PM
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Fun thread! I am definitely going to try some of these things with Riley!

@Merciel, I love Pongu!
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post #9 of 15 (permalink) Old 06-25-2013, 06:58 PM Thread Starter
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Now we are introducing "under", to go between my legs and tight circles to work on the rear end movement some more.
This is lovely work, especially for a puppy who's just six months old!

We started in freestyle, so Pongu did a ton of backwards stuff (and still does), but he's nowhere near as graceful as your girl.

@ LifeofRiley -- thanks! Would love to know how it works for you guys, and if you come up with any new spins while you're experimenting!

ARCHMX TDCH Pongu the Insane, CD-C, RE, RL1X6, RL2X5, RL3X2 (GSD mix, b. Apr 2010)
Crookytail the Tigerwuff, RL1, ITD (Akita mix, b. Jan 2011)
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post #10 of 15 (permalink) Old 06-25-2013, 07:08 PM
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IMHO, Heeling is an outdoor art, you need space, streets, football fields, woods, paths uphill and downhill, rocky mountains and wherever your feet may enjoy themselves.
On the leash. If you are jogging in the mornings - run by the long building wall almost squeezing your dog between your thight and that wall.
Unleashed. Take or his ball into your right hand, or a piece of cheese into your mouth. Run and hiss "Heel!" on the way. Make different turns, abrupt stops and change of pace, but don't run for longer than 10 minutes. Mouthfeed him at the end, or throw the ball. Do it for longer when your dog is already familiar with the game without any treats, just keep on talking and looking at him while you run.
Heeling backwards. Train him to walk backwards. Pull the lead in your left hand gently back placing the tention towards his tail. Say "Back!" and tap his chest gently with your right foot in crossing your legs. He will make one step or two. Command and tap again, he will learn it with repetition. Next thing you can do - a few steps forwards, a few steps backwards. You can use a wall to help you controlling him on the left if he tends to turn around instead of walking backwards.
Returning to the appointed spot. You can teach him "The Circle and The Centre" game. I like it myself, it's fun. The principle is, that you run in circles and your dog sits in the centre, which you marked the spot with something, say, your vanity bag. You ask him alternately to run together with you and sending him to the centre of your circles time to time. You can add his ball to the game. Throw his ball at him when you're pronouncing command to run together and take it away when sending to the marked spot.
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