Attention Heeling With the Heeling Helper Training Aid (p4)
When you compete with your dogs in obedience or rally, it is not essential that they have perfect attention, but it helps. If you make a right, left or about turn and they are looking out at the crowd, it is not scored negatively, unless they get out of position. If your dog heels with his/her head up, looking at your left shoulder, you don’t get extra credit points, but it helps with a better heeling position and placement on those turns.
Teaching a dog to watch your shoulder so they know where heel position is, or so that they can see when it moves forward for a right or about turn, or it moves back for a left turn, is one of the most important training techniques you can learn. All too often you see a team enter a class and the dog has no clue the owner is near. They drop their head to sniff the ground or are staring at the surroundings and all sorts of lags, bumps, tight leashes and no sits occur. Granted some breeds are not physically able to heel with their heads looking up but a modified version of this is possible to train.
Start as soon as possible with attention heeling. The younger the pups are, or when first starting out, only take a few steps with attention. No long marathon heeling at this point. Hopefully you have worked with your puppy to know that a treat is something good that he/she has to work for to get. Place the nickel size treat, cheese, hotdogs, rollover etc., between your index finger and thumb of the left hand, right at the puppy’s nose, and leash in your right hand. Take a few steps encouraging your puppy to strut with their head up, allowing them to nibble on the treat as you walk. Stop, praise and reload. Start with straight line heeling at first, as turns are too difficult at this juncture. Over time, it may be weeks or even months, you can gradually go in clockwise or counterclockwise circles. Begin to move the treat up and away from the puppy’s nose but if they drop their head or disengage bring it back to the nose with a verbal “Watch” and allow them to get it when they respond. Later when adding turns in heeling, bring the treat slightly forward for the right and about turn to encourage the puppy to speed up and slightly back for the left turn to get them to pivot on the front out of your pathway.
The first training tool to use is the Nylon Adjustable Waistband belt Heeling Helper, which comes with 2 rods in 5” and 9” lengths. Start with the 9” rod only, not with the belt for now, with soft food placed on the tip, held this time in your right hand with treat right at your pups nose. Start to heel a few steps with their head held high allowing them to get the treat every so often. Try to reward when all four feet are on the ground and they are not jumping up. They may begin to steal the treat, no worries this is a good thing as they are getting the concept and engaged with the exercise. You should already have taught them a “leave it” command so this will come in handy right now. In time they will learn to only get the treat when you give the release word of “get it” and not on their own. Over time begin to raise the rod with treat higher above their face and rewarding for several steps with attention. Again straight line heeling first followed by circles in both directions then turns. By having the rod in your hand, allow you to move it up and down as needed for continual attention. Once the puppy is heeling with good attention and not stealing as often screw the 9” rod into the waistband belt.
With the puppy in a sit in heel position, line up the tip of the 9” rod to the puppy’s nose so that their head is lined up with the seam of your pant leg. Now you can put the leash in your left hand to better demonstrate how it will be while in the competition ring. I like to have it hanging down at your side so if you need to make quick correction pops of the leash, you are able to with ease. Begin heeling with the treat on the rod and still allowing them the reward when they are doing a nice job. You can continue to incorporate the left, right and about turns.
Soon you will want to go to the 5” rod with the treat on the tip. You can either at first use it without the waistband belt or just screw it into the belt using the same steps as above. You are gradually getting the target smaller and smaller as well as higher and higher.
POOCHABILITY MERCHANDISE & DOG TRAINING PRODUCTS
When using any training device or toy, please be aware of dogs nature to grab, chew and swallow any item in your possession. See Home Page, Training Info, How to use the training equipment, page 4 and 5, Attention Heeling with the Training Aid for instructional use.