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Old 01-10-2013, 01:11 AM
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Polishing heeling

Would love to chat with everyone about how they polish heeling.

My boy is coming along great. Heeling is drivey, heads up, and happy. In training, I rarely if ever have a disconnect while heeling because he's learned that putting in effort and attention= get reward (usually a tug, and ranges from on my body to on the floor to in my training bag).

We need to polish, and at this point its little stuff. A split second of lag starting the fast, a bump after a turn, slightly wide on the outpost of the 8, etc. These are only occasional offenses that I've tried to work independently.

He's my novice A dog and we are both a bit green. I've been able to teach him the basics of heeling and its going so much better than I thought...but how do you make it even better? I've seen people lose NO points on heeling, and I'd love to take it to that level.

I'm not sure how to ask for more precision in a way that makes him understand what is right. I don't want to nag him and kill drive, so I'm trying to develop a plan! Its hard for me to correct anything at this point, because I'm impressed with his attention and effort (its come a long way!)

Also, what type of distractions do you introduce to prepare for the ring? Right now, we are working on closeness of the "judge", movement of people and dogs all about, etc. This does not bother him, but some sounds still get him. Squeakers will make him lose attention for a split second, but I'm rewarding him with a better tug the moment he checks back in. What else can I do to proof the exercise without creating stress?

I'm sorry this is rambling, but I'd really like to hear what steps take a dog from green to polished. I'm all ears!
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Old 01-10-2013, 06:28 AM
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Heeling is (for me) always an adventure in polishing & perfecting. I am a primarily positive trainer, so my method of polishing is to reward the effort I like/love and once they are trained, to break off effort that I do not like to begin that segment again - for example:

You are heeling along and they glance to their left; use a NRM, stop, back up and repeat the section. I learned this method from Denise Fenzi and it is really surprisingly effective. The reward will come after they have succeeded at that particular problem spot.

Proofing is also an on-going thing. If possible find a lot of different areas to train in. With natural distractions like ducks, kids, activity etc. Practice in a few sterile environments as well. Clean places, dirty places (think breed show conditions where there are blow dryers, talcum (sp??) powder, barking dogs, lazy handlers who don't pick up after their dogs, blowing papers etc). Ring gates falling over. Dumbbells coming into your ring, loose dogs, loud speakers, food smells, garbage cans, people running, people crowding your entrance to the ring gate, yelling stewards - some of these will only occur while you are outside the ring but impact both you and your dog while trying to warm up, get to your ring etc.
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Old 01-10-2013, 08:56 AM
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This is something that bothers me a little bit... and I'm not really sure if I should accept this because of my dog's age or be happy with the exchange, but back when Jacks was 2 years old or so - we were at our most polished point with the heeling. Meaning that he had both the energy and discipline to stay in heel position throughout. And of course he had the desire to stay with me because of his "mom don't leave me!!!!" issues. But his stays were wobbly to begin with.

The first show I ever entered him in when he was a 2 year old - we lost no points on the heeling. Had we qualified, we would have taken HIT and done so in front of a LOT of top trainers from our area who were all standing around watching us. It was that positive I took out of that terrible experience, as that was the point when his stays completely unraveled. The judge leaned over him and hit him in the face with his tie during the stand for exam - that's where we lost our first points because of Jacks shifting his feet. And then his stays were terrible and NQ'd us.

Over the 2 years from that point that it took me to retrain stays and polish those up to the point that I'm now going out of sight at class... his heeling has picked up minor issues so we predictably lose points on the figure 8's (2 points there). And maybe 1-2 points on the onleash/offleash heel because of wide abouts or lags coming out of the slow.

All of our scores were in the 190's to get our novice title, but of course it grated on me seeing us lose that many points on heeling - especially considering it was our strongest point and actually still is. o_O

How we are working on polishing?

Figure 8's - it's mainly my footwork and pace that is an issue. And our instructor (the monday one) really gets after me to SLOW DOWN on the figure 8 and not step out or into my dog on the halts. She also wants me to focus on walking square circles to train Jacks to stay in heel position and focus on heeling instead of driving around (and bumping) as he does. When I slow down it makes him pay more attention to me.

On leash and off leash - with these, I know that Jacks will drop his head and relax too much on the slow. Some of the better dogs I've watched at classes will stay alert and focused in the slow and not miss a beat transitioning back to the normal pace. Our about turns are usually tight if I'm giving him the right cues going in and moving out fast. If I'm lazy though, he will be.

My wednesday instructor (who is a judge too, so if you ever show under her keep this in mind) will watch footwork very closely. She will notice every time you step out away from your dog or step in and bump your dog.

I guess I'm unsure if Jacks is polishable at this stage or if I should just accept that when he's "on" our heeling is going to be great, and when he's not "on" we will lose a few points but still qualify. Providing he stays. And jumps. And drops. And doesn't pounce on the dumbbell... o_O

Bullet points though -
  • Keep it short and to the point in training. The longer heeling sessions you do, the more chance your dog is going to tire out and develop lazy heeling habits.
  • Try to do 1-2 formal heeling patterns a week at least. On your own or have family/friends call patterns for you. This is at home or on the road or at class. L or T patterns. If my one sister is calling patterns, she will wing it but make sure I do the appropriate amount of all the halts, pace changes, and turns. This works on everything.
  • Try to do 3-4 straight line heeling sessions a week at least. This works on drive and focus.
  • Try to do the stinking figure 8 and serpentines at least once a week. Talk to your instructor about footwork that will help if you don't have a plan for that already.
  • Regular heel - I kinda embraced all of the footwork - like the about turn (make a T), left turn (left heel touch right big toe, feet together), right turn (make an L with your feet, right heel to left heel) footwork. As well as the halt footwork (1.5 steps, plant your left foot then feet together). These cues all make your movements consistent to your dog, so when you offer them in the ring he is going to be anticipating the pace changes, turns, halts, etc... and do them cleanly, even if he (gosh forbid) looks away or is distracted in the ring. Thinking about footwork in the ring is a calming influence for you as well.
  • Do the fun matches. Even if it's driving a longer distance.
  • Watch the people who get 0 points off in heeling. One of the ladies who took her golden down to the NOI this year and did well... she trains at the same club as me, and I've bumped into her at fun matches and trials. This year was a REALLY good year for her - she got a LOT of HIT's with that golden - practically every obedience trial I entered, she was entered as well and got HIT. And that was going up against a lot of other VERY GOOD trainers in fall. Literally you could get a 199 and not get first place in some shows. Or you could get a 198 and not even place. She doesn't do anything to fancy while heeling with her golden and her golden isn't even flashy really while out there. But both are consistent and she does everything in the ring that she does while training. <- Cherie Berger is the same way with her goldens. I've watched them work outside of shows and that consistancy is there.
Quote:
Also, what type of distractions do you introduce to prepare for the ring? Right now, we are working on closeness of the "judge", movement of people and dogs all about, etc. This does not bother him, but some sounds still get him. Squeakers will make him lose attention for a split second, but I'm rewarding him with a better tug the moment he checks back in. What else can I do to proof the exercise without creating stress?
Train with dog hair/fluff on the floor. Put dots and chalk lines on the floor. Have somebody throw a dumbbell on the other side of a ring gate while you are heeling on the other side of the gate (maintain focus, etc). You don't really have to be used to actually working with a lot of people around - as you will be out in the ring alone. But get used to standing in a crowd of people and dogs or warming up in a close quarters prior to entering the ring.

One other polishing thing I forgot to mention - my Weds instructor really focuses on ring entries as well. She feels that people set up good heeling patterns themselves when they enter the ring with their dog's attention and they keep that attention straight on through to the sit. Just as she feels that people are setting themselves up for failure when they walk into the ring and have lost their dog's focus almost immediately. Same thing with going from the stand to the off leash heel point. So some classes she would set up multiple ring entries and have people practice going into the ring and setting up. Or she will give us rubber circles to slap down as our off leash heeling point, and she'll have us practice that strut across to that circle after we do stands.

**** This happened in the conformation ring in an indoor show, but I was trying to imagine what Jacks would have done if it happened in the obedience ring with him in stays or heeling with me... o_O .... but while the goldens were being shown there was a flock of birds that kept swooping over the ring. I don't know what it says about the birdiness of these goldens in that they didn't seem to notice the birds... but I think Jacks would have noticed?
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Old 01-10-2013, 11:26 AM
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For me I think the key is never accepting what I don't want. As soon as my dog does something incorrectly in heeling, I say oops, break off, and repeat that portion. I will often do something to cause them to be right, praise that, and then repeat and see if they can do it on their own. For instance, our biggest issue is forging. As soon as I can tell my dog is forging, I say no and freeze. Then I put a finger on each side of his muzzle, push him back into heel position, and give lots of calm pets and praise with his head right against my leg.

It's important to practice both all the individual pieces separately, and practice long patterns with it all put together. I heel A LOT with my dogs, I'm sure they've heeled miles and miles with me. But like I said earlier, I don't accept what I don't want. I see so many people heel a full pattern with their dog, and complain about what the dog did wrong after. The dog doesn't know he's wrong if you don't tell him.

Novice and open heeling with no points off are always nice, but the one that thrills me to pieces is 0 off on signals!
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Old 01-10-2013, 11:37 AM
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Since Novice is mostly heeling - I think getting zero points or as few points off as possible there is HUGE.

With my focus kinda going into Open now - I'm now realizing how the points off can add up on other things besides heeling. o_O Like there are 4 fronts and 4 finishes. I sometimes get 1/2 point taken if Jacks has a crooked butt on his front. That adds up! o_O!!!!
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Old 01-10-2013, 12:18 PM
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Oh yeah, good heeling scores can help you out most in novice, I just meant that it was always so much harder for me to get perfect signal scores than just normal heeling because so much more is involved. You have to not only do the entire heeling pattern, but you then add on the stand, all the positional change signals, plus a front and finish. Conner very very rarely got perfect signals. I think Flip has three or so times so far. I think Conner was actually a more consistent heeler than Flip, but when he knew he was in a utility ring he got stressy and his precision went down.
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Old 01-10-2013, 01:09 PM
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Practice practice practice.... if you have all that you say you have with your NA dog .. now it would be just muscle memory and getting you in sync...
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Old 01-10-2013, 01:35 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by IndyBindy View Post
. . .My boy is coming along great. Heeling is drivey, heads up, and happy. In training, I rarely if ever have a disconnect while heeling because he's learned that putting in effort and attention= get reward (usually a tug, and ranges from on my body to on the floor to in my training bag).

We need to polish, and at this point its little stuff. A split second of lag starting the fast, a bump after a turn, slightly wide on the outpost of the 8, etc. These are only occasional offenses that I've tried to work independently. . .
Sounds pretty good to me for a Novice A dog.

We had an interesting proofing experience a couple of weeks ago at a show 'n go. About 2/3 of the way through the down stay the judge started yelling "If you kick that dog one more time I'll throw you out of here." A loud exchange followed. It was towards the end of the day and there was an empty ring behind us where an owner had decided to do some rather active training with a big flashy male Golden.
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Old 01-10-2013, 01:48 PM
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Now I wish I had been there!! And sadly, I probably know the owner.......
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Old 01-10-2013, 01:53 PM
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Now I wish I had been there!! And sadly, I probably know the owner.......
It definitely attracted the attention of everyone in the place. Interestingly none of the novice dogs broke their stay and I think there were 7 of them.
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