Your favorite focus heeling resource? - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-10-2017, 08:10 PM Thread Starter
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Your favorite focus heeling resource?

My 6 month old can do a decent heel for a short time, yet I can't get the "dog-constantly-staring-up-at-owner" flow, and she would lose her focus after a while or with a distraction. How do I get her to focus on me instead?

Any tips? I am a beginner in real obedience, and I currently use high value treats because she is not very interested in balls. Is this something that is supposed to get better on its own after puppy grows up and becomes more connected to owner?
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post #2 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-10-2017, 08:34 PM
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Any tips? I am a beginner in real obedience, and I currently use high value treats because she is not very interested in balls. Is this something that is supposed to get better on its own after puppy grows up and becomes more connected to owner?
Not really, that kind of focused heel takes a lot of time and training. Do you need that kind of heel for something you plan to compete in? Because if not, I'd spend my time and effort on training polite loose leash skills instead. My dogs need to walk nicely with me and not pull, but I don't need them staring at my face the entire time so I've never bothered to train that. For the kind of walking we do, it's not really feasible anyway, I can't imagine how hard it would be on the dog's neck to keep that up for miles and miles!

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post #3 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-10-2017, 08:44 PM
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Your pup will go through many stages. You'll have to experiment with what your dog's currency is. My she-pup heels for pine-cones. And sometimes she offers up a beautiful heel when she is checking in with me and I give her a small bit of Red Barn Beef roll. I keep the focused heeling for exercises or when I need her strict attention on the street. Otherwise I use a casual reminder word. In my case I use "Fuss" for a strict heel. I use "Come" for casual walking...basically walk near me, catch up when you stop to smell, no tugging walk.

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post #4 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-10-2017, 08:53 PM
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For our current level (nearly 6 months) our obedience class only asks for a fully focused heel for 10 paces - they don't expect more than that at this age from our pups.
All I am doing at the moment is give treats for his heel - 2 steps, 5 steps, 2 steps, 10 steps, 5 steps... mix it up so he doesn't know when a treat is coming - it keeps them focused for longer. We just practice every day on our walk, but I don't make him do it for the whole walk. Walking at a fast pace also helps keep their attention and it gets them prancing along which looks smart.
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post #5 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-11-2017, 12:23 AM Thread Starter
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Not really, that kind of focused heel takes a lot of time and training. Do you need that kind of heel for something you plan to compete in? Because if not, I'd spend my time and effort on training polite loose leash skills instead. My dogs need to walk nicely with me and not pull, but I don't need them staring at my face the entire time so I've never bothered to train that. For the kind of walking we do, it's not really feasible anyway, I can't imagine how hard it would be on the dog's neck to keep that up for miles and miles!
Not into competition and this is not for long term walk, I want the dog to do this focus heeling for at least 2 min because she tends to bark and chase children when we encounter them off lead. I really wish to walk her off lead in off lead areas, but that is not happening unless I feel absolutely sure I can control her around kids. She does not bite, but she does chase and bark (making kids run) and then chase more to jump and nip. And to a 3 year old, GSD jumping/nipping can do lots of harm. One incident which luckily resulted in no injuries was very very scary. She is good with kids on lead after targeted counter-conditioning, but she just wants to chase kids off lead, she also does this with other dogs but I don't worry about that too much for now...dogs are less interesting to her than kids. Anyway, I want the heel so that we can walk away from the kids with her attention fixed on me when we run into children in off lead areas. I don't think I can feel safe to walk her off lead with kids unless she learns a solid off lead heel that allow us to walk pass them with her completely focused on me after the scary incident.

Obviously I can recall her back whenever I spot a child and then grab onto her collar until the child is out of the sight, but I worry that would destroy her recall, which we are still trying to work on.

Last edited by HelloWorld314; 04-11-2017 at 12:29 AM.
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post #6 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-11-2017, 12:29 AM
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I think your best bit of training for that would be a really good recall... so that you know she will come back to you when you call no matter what.
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post #7 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-11-2017, 12:32 AM Thread Starter
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I think your best bit of training for that would be a really good recall... so that you know she will come back to you when you call no matter what.
We are doing that and we are seeing progress, but after the recall she wants to immediately run back to the kid and I have to grab her collar until we walk away from the kids, which I think will eventually ruin her recall if done on a consistent basis. I use long leash for training recalls for safety reasons.

Also i admit after the incident, I feel the need that whenever kids are close, she needs to be either on lead or right by me for me to grab the collar if necessary. She runs really fast, and one bite will ruin us all.

Last edited by HelloWorld314; 04-11-2017 at 12:41 AM.
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post #8 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-11-2017, 12:53 AM
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I don't mean to be rude here, and I hope it doesn't come off that way... but if you really think your dog is at risk for biting someone, she has no business being off leash right now. I can't tell from what you have written if you already have her off leash, or if that is just your goal.

Six months is still very young and most dogs are not solid or proofed in all obedience exercises by that age. Some still have the attention span of gnats. It sounds like you may need to work on engagement with her. You want to be the best, most exciting thing for her. I know this gets thrown out there a lot, but I would seek out the help of a trainer that is very experienced with working dogs, especially GSDs. A good trainer will be able to properly assess your dog, tell you where behaviors stem from, and offer real solutions. It could take a while before she is proofed enough to be trustworthy off leash. If you post your general location, perhaps someone in your area will be able to suggest someone for you.

There is no shame in seeking out help when problems arise. It helps to have someone in your corner that wants you and your dog to succeed as much as you do.
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post #9 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-11-2017, 01:56 AM Thread Starter
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I don't mean to be rude here, and I hope it doesn't come off that way... but if you really think your dog is at risk for biting someone, she has no business being off leash right now. I can't tell from what you have written if you already have her off leash, or if that is just your goal.

Six months is still very young and most dogs are not solid or proofed in all obedience exercises by that age. Some still have the attention span of gnats. It sounds like you may need to work on engagement with her. You want to be the best, most exciting thing for her. I know this gets thrown out there a lot, but I would seek out the help of a trainer that is very experienced with working dogs, especially GSDs. A good trainer will be able to properly assess your dog, tell you where behaviors stem from, and offer real solutions. It could take a while before she is proofed enough to be trustworthy off leash. If you post your general location, perhaps someone in your area will be able to suggest someone for you.

There is no shame in seeking out help when problems arise. It helps to have someone in your corner that wants you and your dog to succeed as much as you do.
Hey thanks, and no she is not off lead when there is a chance that a child is close, but I do train her off lead or on long lead in an area that is close to the children's playground separated by a high fence. I have already paid the deposit for a very highly recommended trainer who specializes in aggression and reactivity for a private consultation and will see how that goes. She is good with adults off lead unless the adults try to forcefully pet her in which case she barks and walks away, but she gets very excited over seeing very young kids who are shorter than her. I think I saw a similar thread earlier about another 6 months old who chase/nip at joggers/bikers off lead, so I hope this is a training/age issue instead of real aggression?
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post #10 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-11-2017, 07:47 AM
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My she-pup does not like to be touched by strangers. She is very good with adults now, especially since we stay back a step or two. Kids don't even have to come close before she barks. It tends to scare some children. Lately I've been having her lay down and I sit with her as children go by. That way we are practicing calm behavior when she sees children. Before I've been correcting her when she barks and having her look at me but that didn't really change her behavior. So my next step was to think about teaching her the behavior I want first. It's not fair to correct her when she doesn't yet know what I want. I was working it all backwards.

So to connect that to the focus. My gal will give me very good focus if I ask for it, but I ask for it before we see kids. I never walk her off leash outside of fenced areas. I can't trust her yet. She'll break focus if something is interesting enough, and a simple command won't get it back. She is 18 months old now. Still young and impulsive. Somethings just take a lot of time, depending on the type of dog you have in front of you. My big boy, who was exposed to more children as a young pup, never barks at kids or is tempted to chase them.

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