Question about heeling - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 8 (permalink) Old 03-12-2009, 12:11 PM Thread Starter
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Question about heeling

I wanted to place this question here, instead of the puppy section (thought maybe I would get more responses).

I am teaching my 5 month old Loki to heel. At this time I am also not using training treats.

He isn't doing too bad on it (considering how willful and impatient he can be). After a few minutes, he settles in, with some sudden bursts of excitement.

So my question is this. I go to the park, get Loki out, and we hit the trails first. After a few moments on the trails, we hit the general walking area were people walk. At this time I put him in the heel position and start to walk. Of course during this time, we are working on heeling, and having a nice walk.

We end our walk at the trails, and I let him have the entire leash (I have a police lead, so it's connected to me, and it has an extra leash attached, so he has some length to it.

Basically I want to know if I am being counter productive in letting him have the entire leash upon getting out of the truck, hitting the trails, then go into a formal heel/walk position, then going back to a longer line?

Am I sending him mixed signals, were it will confuse him, or take it longer to teach him this, and get good at it?

Also, this is my second park trip that I do this on. The first park trip in the morning is long line training/exercise, ball chase (both him and Jasper sometimes go together (both places), sometimes not. I also work on recall on this trip.

Once I get the leash heel, I want to do it with the long line (heel off lead basically.

Thank you for any advice that can be given

I also follow Patti's posts in regards to Grimm (Loki comes from basically the same background), so I know I have a little hellion, and I work on alot of building patience with him (which he is getting alot better at).

I am not having any problems that I have noticed, either with patience, or the heel, I just want to make sure again, I am not giving him mixed signals.


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post #2 of 8 (permalink) Old 03-12-2009, 12:27 PM
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Re: Question about heeling

All my dogs know when it is ok to walk out at the end of the leash, and when I expect them to walk calmly next to me. Walking calmly next to me is WAYYY different than formal heeling for competition. If you plan on teaching precise heeling for competition, then indeed you might be sending mixed signals that can confuse the pup later. It all depends on your goals. If no precise heeling is in your pups future...then you are doing fine...except I would indeed give food rewards for good behavior. It is much easier to train reinforcing good behavoir, than just nagging with the leash for incorrect behavoir.

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post #3 of 8 (permalink) Old 03-12-2009, 12:46 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Question about heeling

Kandi, thanks,

No competition heeling, just nice controlled walks.

I will throw the treats back in there, just to keep things abit more positive.

LOL, I sure wouldn't want someone yanking on me, and not giving me something

Thanks again


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post #4 of 8 (permalink) Old 03-12-2009, 01:43 PM
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Re: Question about heeling

Jack I did the same thing with Brady.

When I walk him at the high school I make sure he is right next to me near paved areas cause morons on the road. When we get to grassy areas with no cars or dogs off leash he can go ahead with out pulling.

If we are at our park he can go ahead unless I see people an/or dogs then he is right next to me.

your doing fine as long as he knows you in control

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post #5 of 8 (permalink) Old 03-12-2009, 02:11 PM
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Re: Question about heeling

i agree, i think what you are doing is just fine. i do the same with max, and just to make sure he knows im still in charge when he is out in front a bit i call him back into heel position at random times and then release him again so he can go about sniffing around. they only thing i could see confusing him would be then teaching a formal heel position but you already stated thats not and issue


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post #6 of 8 (permalink) Old 03-12-2009, 04:07 PM
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Re: Question about heeling

I trained Bella similarly as a puppy. When we began our walk she had the full leash to run and smell and get energy, and also at the end as an added reward for behaving well in the middle heeling portion. It worked really well for us, but I did have concerns while training her this way--some I was able to address and others I had to just hope worked out in the long run.

First, like you, I was concerned that I would confuse her. I decided to make her heel from my door to our front gate (was about 10 feet), and then at the gate I would release her for a free walk. When it was time to heel she got her command, and when she was free to roam at the end I again gave the release command. I think this actually helped when we began our down-stay training because she knew right away what her release word and, once she was old enough to begin listening to "stay", she knew not to get up for other words.

My second big concern was that she would learn which portion of our walk was controlled and which was free, and that she'd never behave if I needed her to during the portions she knew were usually loose leash. I couldn't think of anything to combat this except to reverse the portions of the walk that were heel, which I didn't want to do because I wanted to let her get her energy out in the beginning so she could settle down. I did, however, test her when children or other dogs walked by (her training walks as a puppy were within the neighborhood). I quickly learned that the way I was training her was working, because if I told her to heel--even durring her the high energy beginning portion of the walk--she got right to my side and was very well behaved. I think that was probably the best thing I did, because it let me see how much she was progressing with the command itself, even with the distraction of another dog or a child.


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post #7 of 8 (permalink) Old 03-12-2009, 05:57 PM
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Re: Question about heeling

Jack, same as the above replies with me and my pup. It's built a lovely working relationship between Annie and me.

I always have Annie on heel when she gets out of the car and before she gets back into it. It wasn't a fully concious decision, but it's safer for us, and now she's in the habit of heeling right off the bat so that whenever we go somewhere different I don't have to worry about her zooming off and smelling things.

I have an "OK" command and hand gesture which releases her from heel and means that she has to keep checking in with me and stay pretty close. This works on the long leash and off leash.

We always do some pretty intense heeling work at some point during every walk -- keeps both of us sharp, and if we run into someone or some situation while she's on long leash or off leash she knows to come immediately back to heel as soon as I call her to do it (again, a specific command).

I've actually had runners, bikers, and walkers stop and thank me for it when I call her to heel before they pass by. They're very surprised and relieved (even if they can see that she's already on leash). Annie knows when she's being admired and loves it, and I like it that she's an ambassador for GSDs.

I've tried hard to make my posture and voice different for when we're working and when we're "at ease" (but still on call), and I've noticed I have a third voice and attitude when we're at home and completely relaxed (although I practice surprise recalls and heels then too, against any emergency). Annie seems to be very clear on the difference, and has never been confused.

When I do training with her at home I go through a specific set of commands and pattern of behavior to let her know that this is high-focus training time and not at-home no-worries time.

I didn't set out to do this conciously, but it helps me focus and get in the right frame of mind and it seems to help her, too. It's all sort of evolved as I've read up on training and tracked the conversations and advice on this list -- my point being that you're not stuck with what you started with; GSDs are flexible enough to let you modify and evolve your training and practices (OK, I know you know this, but there have been so many times when I thought "well, I've screwed that up forever" and Annie was wonderful about relearning things and letting me fix problems).

Which is part of why I try to reply where I can, and I hope I'm not being redudant to the other posters who've pretty much said the same thing here already! -- I've learned so much from this forum, and I'd like to give back where I can.
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post #8 of 8 (permalink) Old 03-12-2009, 09:29 PM
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Re: Question about heeling

I think dogs are pretty smart and can tell the difference. Risa has at least 3 commands for walking. "Go ahead" means go wherever you want as long as you don't pull on leash. "On the right/left" means walk with a loose leash close to me. "With me" is basically the same thing except I require attention on me (we use this to walk past other dogs--she is reactive). And then she has her heel commands "Fuß" and "Pie" for left and right-side heel respectively.

As long as you're consistent with your requirements for each cue, I don't think Loki will have any trouble adapting.


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