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Discussion Starter #1
As I've learned more about obedience training and competitions I've become really interested in it. My 8 month old Lucky has his STAR puppy and his CGC and we're currently taking a class that is a fun introduction to Obedience. He really seems to like doing this kind of training and he's good at it. I'm... not. At least not the heeling part. I'm really uncoordinated with my left hand and it's making some elements of training a proper heel really challenging. Mostly I am bad at getting the treats to him at the proper point and then we both get distracted by that and lose focus on the actual heel. Some of this is natural clumsiness, some of it is mild carpal tunnel in my left hand.

Someone please tell me that I'll get better at this with practice! Or share similar tales of woe and how you managed to overcome. I feel like I'm doing my very smart pup a disservice by being so clumsy.
 

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Kristy
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Good for you :) Yes, you will get better at it but honestly it takes a ton of practice. Believe it or not, those people who make it look so easy have put in about a thousand miles and a million minutes of practice.

The thing to remember is to practice rewarding that puppy for being in heel position and you can do this many, many times. Meal time is a good way to remember to practice at least twice a day. It's also easy to remember to have him sit in heel position before opening the door to let him go outside.

After he's getting the idea of where heel position is and that it's a good place to be, you can add a hand touch in that place. (If you haven't taught a hand touch, it's super easy with a food motivated GOlden). Adding this makes it easy to get him in correct position and make sure you have his attention. (If you haven 't covered attention exercises in your class, ask your instructor for help on this concept and how to work on getting it. It's the most critical piece of foundation work you can have.)

With the heeling exercise, you need to get your treats in your right hand, you can even hold one or two in your mouth. Practice getting one step together and then reward and throw a party, then try to get two steps together and reward - you can use a hand touch to build forward excitement. It is much easier to focus on one or two steps before trying to build duration and then you don't need to worry about handling treats. The treats are in your mouth and easily accessible.

Just keep practicing, it's not easy but it will come :) Also, you can practice with a pretend air dog :) Go through all the motions and handling the leash and treats and doing a correct heel but just pretend to feed it. It is something you'll feel silly doing but it can actually help :) (I've done it :) )
 

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Welcome to the club. I have failed carpal tunnel release surgery in my left hand and my first three fingers are numb. I can't handle treats. If I am clicker training---free shaping, I deliver treats with my right hand. If I am doing training walks in the neighborhood I keep treats in my mouth and spit them out (quick). I also carry a treat pouch and use my right hand to get treats (slow). If I am luring, I use a larger treat in my left hand but have trouble.


Just a heads up---obedience heeling is probably the most difficult thing to train to perfection. Read Morgan Spector's CLICKER TRAINING FOR OBEDIENCE.


Good luck!
 

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Discussion Starter #4
nolefan,
Thank you so much for the advice! And the reminder that we're really just starting this whole journey. I actually really like the idea of practicing without the dog a bit. I think that could be really helpful in terms of working on the skills I need without confusing my poor pup.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Read Morgan Spector's CLICKER TRAINING FOR OBEDIENCE.
Thank you for the tips. (Not sure about carrying treats in my mouth though... I really dislike the smell of them.) I'll check that book out though. I haven't been using a clicker for training, just using the word "yes" as a marker. I'll have to read up and see if I should consider switching. I'm not sure adding yet another thing I have to hold in my hand and coordinate would help me at the moment, but I would imagine it would be largely the same advice just using "yes" instead of a click?
 

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Kate
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The only issue with carrying treats in your right hand is it may encourage forging and wrapping. Also when teaching heel position, you always want to reward your dogs right at the spot where their heads need to be in perfect heel position. So even if you carry treats in the right hand, you need to get them over to your left hand when rewarding...

Oddball thing that came out recently was people out there discussing that rewarding at the hip (which most of us were taught from the start). Everyone is now saying to reward just a touch ahead of your leg. This is especially for dogs who are laggers. <= Quite honestly though, my take is it's just EASIER to bind the dogs to your hip by always rewarding at the hip.

Use of targets is helpful - particularly at this stage with a 8 month old. You want to start weaning off visual treats.

With a young puppy (9 weeks to 4 months), you have the treat tucked between your thumb and third finger of your left hand, and your second finger is sticking out right where the dog's nose needs to be. When the nose gets there, they are rewarded with the treat. Over time, you ask for more and more before the treat is delivered, but that second finger is a target.

And this is a target you use for a long time before your dog learns to watch your hip/shoulder/head/face (all of those things).

As the dog grows - the hand is moved up to the hip with the finger popping out whenever you need to remind your dog to get back into position - but you are less reliant on that hand being out there to help your dog stay in position. Depending on the situation, if the dog immediately gets back up to heel position for 1-3 steps, he gets rewarded.

Treats start transition to the left pocket. <= The longest time, I always wore either a jacket or a training vest that the dog always knew there would be treats. You can't have treats in the ring, but the vest both smells like treats and offers the possibility of treats.

Otherwise, treats transition into your mouth. Expect to have chipmunk cheeks while training your dog. While teaching heel position, you do not really want to spit food unless your dogs are good at catching food... because most of us are trying to reward our dogs with the heads up, we don't want them hunting for food on the ground.

Where I am at with my puppy is treats go up into my mouth and I will reach up to take the treats from my mouth in hand to reward him by hand. If the treats are in my pocket - I will still fake taking them from my mouth. This teaches him to watch my face - and is very important for fronts.

Other thing that is taught or not taught depends on where you go - it's having a very clear release from heel position. IE - "OK!"

***** All that said!

If you are in a group class, there's a couple considerations.

1. In group classes you might have like 10-15 minutes of heeling. Which I LOVED back when I had a natural heeler (Jacks). But I HATED with Bertie who got bored the longer we did something + he was not heavily food motivated (he still isn't).

What I'd find with Bertie was he knew heel position and would maintain it - but the longer we heeled, the more he'd shift to the barest minimum adherence. So face forward, head down, pacing, and just clearly bored out of his skull.

Type of heeling I wanted with Bertie was heads up (looking up at me, not head touching his butt cranked back!) and full trot the entire time. I would get that in the first 2-5 minutes of heeling - which is all you need for obedience.

There is NO TRIAL out there which would require you to heel for 10-15 minutes straight.

The recommendation for this reason is to not feel awkward about knowing how long to be out there heeling. Particularly if you are still training heel position.

My instructors in the past who are huge on zero points lost on heeling in trials - they would never ask students to do a full heeling pattern for a long time. They just train the bits and pieces. Heeling starts, heeling for 3-5-10 steps, practicing turns and footwork, etc.

Not all group classes are structured in that way. This sometimes leads to people struggling with knowing when to reward, how to reward, etc.

What I'm saying is don't feel like you have to be polite. You are there to train your dog. You can get to class a few minutes early and just work on heeling starts (1-2-3 steps with attention and jackpot reward that). Use the classes to train your dog and figure out how to get the most done with the time you have.

Skip long heeling round-and-round-around the room forever practice if your dog isn't ready for that yet. Train heeling at class, just before class or during lulls in class where you are waiting do something else - find time to practice quick heeling on your own without any pressure.

Idea is for treats to start in your hand - and transition out of sight to either your left side pocket (pants or jacket pocket) or your mouth.

Heeling on leash, your leash hand will be at your hip the entire time. Heeling off leash, your left hand generally needs to come across over your belly button <= and this is a reason why you don't want to get too addicted to having treats in hand or constantly having that hand ready to target heel position anyway. Because this transition of hand position may pull your dog forward.


2. The idea of rewarding or using treats is remembering it's not bribe or a lure, it's a reward. So any time you see your dog really knocking it out of the park being good, that's when you reward immediately.

Never reward your dog when he's out of position, looking away, or just standing there.

Use small treats. Like chopped up cheese sticks, pinched in a smaller bite. This lets your dog eat and go - if you are rewarding while heeling. You never want your dog to stop to digest his food. :)
 

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Kristy
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Thank you for the tips. (Not sure about carrying treats in my mouth though... I really dislike the smell of them.).....
BWHAHAHAHA!!!! He doesn't mean he puts dog treats in his mouth, pretty sure he uses people food as training treats. If you get things like string cheese or a piece of hot dog it's easy and less revolting than dog treats :)
 

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BWHAHAHAHA!!!! He doesn't mean he puts dog treats in his mouth, pretty sure he uses people food as training treats. If you get things like string cheese or a piece of hot dog it's easy and less revolting than dog treats :)

Extremely high value treats, too.
 

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I don't have any advice but just want to say - you are not alone. That's my least favorite aspect of training, especially in a group setting where it's like hey, everybody, look at a completely uncoordinated person try to give treats at the exact right moment from their non-dominant hand and totally fail. Every time.
 

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I just attended a heeling seminar today given by a well known expert on heeling. He suggested that it's really important to get your mechanics (treat delivery, foot work etc.) down really smoothly so as not to confuse your dog during training. He advised to practice the mechanics without the dog until you can do it smoothly. He suggested carrying treats in the right pocket and transferring to left hand when needed for delivery.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
This thread is comforting (and funny). It's clear I have some work ahead of me, but it's good to know that it's not an uncommon issue. I'll spend some time working on my coordination on my own without the pup. Thanks for all your help.
 

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I know I'm behind in reading this, but it's nice to know that I'm not the only one who struggles trying to use my left hand! My trainer is left-handed and she tells me...to just do this or that...and I struggle like crazy to do the same thing! SSSOOOOO glad I'm not alone! ;)
 
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