The second Heeling Helper training tool to now use is the Rectangle Plastic Rod Holder, which Velcro’s to the Armband Number Holder, used when competing. This rod holder comes with a 1” and 3” rod. Start with the 3” rod attached to the bottom of the armband so it is closer to the dogs head. Again place soft food on the tip of the 3” rod. You may have to squat down and allow the puppy to get some of the treats off the rod so they know it is there before starting to heel. Tell the pup to “watch” and point to the rod and then say, “strut” or whatever your heeling word is and begin heeling. Anytime they are looking up with attention and heeling nicely, even for a few steps, release them, tell them they are the greatest pup in the world and let them get the reward. If they drop their head remind them to “watch”, perhaps give a slight pop on the leash, followed by a big praise.
I equate verbal praise and treat reward training to that of a slot machine. If you have ever played on a slot machine, you put in your coins or tokens, pull a lever and hope that you are a winner. Time and time again nothing happens but you keep putting in the tokens. Then all of a sudden the machine pays out, lights flash; sirens blast and more tokens fall into the pocket. Oh goodie, that was so much fun, think I will put more tokens in and try some more! The same goes for our puppies. You ask for a behavior or exercise, they try, so are rewarded with praise and a treat. Oh goodie, they say, think I will do that again! Each time they try to do the task that is asked of them and are rewarded they learn the behavior faster. As they get better at the exercise, the rewards are given randomly. This still peeks their interest because at any moment the slot machine will pay off. When something new or hard is asked and they succeed, that is when you really need to bring on the praise.
Also from now on put all your training treats inside the armband and not in your pockets or fanny pack. You want this area to be the special place for them to watch for falling treats. How many dogs wrap their heads and whole bodies to look at our right pants pocket?
Once the puppy is heeling nicely with attention while the Heeling Helper is placed on the bottom of the armband number holder, you may want to use the 1” rod and/or switch it to the top of the armband. If however, with all this, you have a small dog, there is an additional Heeling Helper you can use.
The Stretch Velcro Heeling Helper can be used for smaller dogs in the same manner but it is attached to the handlers’ knee area, instead of the armband. The puppy will have to be taught to not steel the treat unless told to do so. This training tool is also used for the advanced handler, as the plastic rod holder can swivel around the stretch Velcro strap. Place the 1” rod under your arm and when rewarding the dog, raise up your arm so they jump up and eat the treat on the rod. At the same time give verbal praise so when in the competition ring, you want to praise your dog in between exercises, all you have to do is raise your left arm, praise and the dog is trained to think the treat is there. Just as they think treats may be inside the armband number holder when entering the ring. Back to that slot machine…