Opposition Heeling - Help for the Lazy Heeler!

heeling Jun 16, 2021

Even if your dog is paying attention while trotting along next to you, you may be fighting his tendency to drift wide or lag. If this describes your situation, try using “opposition reflex” to improve your performance.

Opposition reflex is the term used to describe a dog’s natural tendency to oppose a force. For example, if you try to push a dog into a down position by applying pressure straight down on his shoulders, he will lock up his elbows and oppose the pressure. You can often use a dog’s opposition reflex to your advantage. When you stack a conformation dog, and then pull back on his tail, he will lean forward or appear to be pushing his chest out. When you put a dog in a sit stay, and pull gently but steadily on the leash, the dog can learn to resist the pressure on the leash and work harder at maintaining his sit (Photo 1).


The following drill has long been helpful with small dogs that stop during a heeling pattern or heel wide in an...

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Heeling with Attention

heeling Jun 07, 2021
Hi there-

As I travel and teach around the country, it is clear that teaching a dog to pay attention during the heeling exercise remains the most frustrating aspect of dog obedience.  A dog that doesn’t pay attention is unable to maintain an accurate heel position and achieve the heeling scores of his attention-paying counterparts.  How do you get your dog’s attention, and more importantly, how do you maintain it?

Shaping the Behavior

Most trainers begin the heeling exercise by bribing the dog to pay attention.  This is an important first step.  However, there are lots of acceptable heeling “styles” as some dogs make eye contact with their trainer and some look sideways, keeping an eye on their handler’s body.

Having your dog walk next to you and look at you at the same time seems easy enough.  However, it’s not easy for every dog.  The following video has several dogs that are just learning to walk and look up at...

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Proofing, the Benefits of Mistakes (all the exercises are related!)

proofing May 11, 2021
Proofing Part III:

A dog that is reliable on the sit stay, recall, and retrieve has the foundation needed for a successful obedience career.

This is Part III in a series of videos that I’ve produced for you about proofing. So let's do a quick review.

I believe there are three stages of development when you are teaching a dog an exercise,

  1. Shape the behavior with lots of repetition
  2. Practice the behavior in lots of different locations
  3. Teach the dog what you will not allow. You “proof” against mistakes that will cause your dog to fail

In this video, I want to explain to you how all the obedience exercises are related.

The three most important exercises are the sit stay, the recall, and the retrieve.

If I can get you to lay a foundation in those three exercises, to proof your dog so that he understands how to perform them as well as what you will not allow, then you will lay a foundation that enables you to successfully teach your dog every exercise.

Good news!...

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Proofing is Not Just Adding Random Distractions

Proofing Part II:

The word, proofing, is bandied about, and there are even “proofing classes” being taught. This makes me nervous, as extreme distractions can easily make a dog unnecessarily nervous and worried. The distractions we use should be intentional and purposeful.

Remember, this conversation began with the idea that proofing helps teach your dog what you will not allow. Proofing is the third, and final stage of developing a consistent obedience performer. 

I want you to start by proofing the sit stay, recall and retrieve. Each exercise has a finite number of failing mistakes that your dog can make. Use proofing to create a confident and consistent performance on those three exercises. Then, you will have the tools you need to teach your dog what you expect on every obedience exercise. 

The video concludes with an assignment. Take some time to think about your answer to the questions, and watch for Part III in this series.

I hope you can take a few...

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What is Proofing?

Proofing Part I:

One of the greatest frustrations for obedience competitors is failing.
Not earning a green ribbon is a drag.

Years ago, I had a dog that was very inconsistent. He would go from hero to zero overnight. I remember saying to him one day, as I was leaving an event, “You know, you can’t win if you don’t qualify.”

There can be several reasons for inconsistent performances, but the one I want to talk about first is the crazy mistakes your dogs make that cause you to come out of the ring and say, “He’s never done that before.”

What if you could figure out how to prepare so well that simply didn’t happen to you anymore?

What if you were so confident you would pass, that all you had to worry about was how to make your performance first-rate?

I want to take a minute today to talk to you about the subject of Proofing. What in the world is “proofing?” I have developed a video to explain this subject for you. I hope you...

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Fix ‘n Go-Pilot Concept


Starting April 1, the AKC instituted a new Fix ‘n Go program in obedience competition. This may be the single most important rule change that I have witnessed in my 50 years of participating in this sport. Fix ‘n Go will allow competitors to communicate to their dogs when they make a mistake and show them how to perform the exercise correctly!

From the information the AKC has published about this rule change;

The Fix ‘n Go concept is intended to allow the handler to reattempt the exercise to help their dog while performing in the obedience ring. Historically, any attempt to help the dog was considered ‘training in the ring’ and has not been permitted. Such training was penalized; however, these penalties sometimes have been inconsistently applied by judges and misunderstood by handlers. The AKC’s stated goal is to bring clarity to what a handler may and may not do, in the spirit of good sportsmanship, to help their dog be successful...

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Never Waste A Failure!

It’s been ages since most of us have had a chance to compete, and it’s exciting to think about showing again . However, showing is not without its challenges. Some of us are crating outside, only allowed in for a few minutes of warm-up. Things are different, and there are bound to be setbacks and frustrations after so much time off.

It is easy to let the cloud of disappointment overwhelm us when our dog makes a failing error in the ring. A failure may feel like a waste; a waste of time, effort, and money. But it does not have to be. When you enter the ring for the first time after months of inactivity, you can learn more from a single performance than you can in another month of training!

Several years ago, Nick Saban, the revered coach of the University of Alabama football team, was asked how he felt about a loss to the Clemson Tigers. His reply was, “I never want to waste a failure." If we follow Coach Saban’s sage advice, we will glean information from...

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New Obedience Puppy? How Much Can You Really Teach Him?

basics obedience puppy Nov 24, 2020

If you are in the market for a new puppy, whether it be your next obedience, agility, scent work, tracking or field partner, a puppy’s education is far more likely to be limited by your imagination, than it is by your puppy's ability. Here we discuss when to start training, how to select your obedience puppy, and of course how to train your puppy. 

My parents bought me a golden retriever puppy when I was 14-years-old. In preparation, I had selected a dog training book, and the instructions were that each day I was to set my puppy down in a quiet room, just the two of us, and as he explored, I was to say his name, only once. The instructions said that the day he looked at me, he was ready to start his training. Six-weeks later I was devastated. He had yet to respond to me, and I believed it was due to both my inability to follow instructions and his lack of talent. 

After that experience, it is no wonder that my initial belief about puppyhood was...

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Judges' Perspective: an evening with Bob & Cathy Knight


On August 25, I had the pleasure of conducting a webinar with judges, Bob and Cathy Knight.

Bob and Cathy have been training dogs together for nearly 50 years. Together, they have earned 7 Obedience Championships, all Standard Schnauzers, most of whom were also conformation Champions.  Additionally, they have owned and titled an Irish Setter, Miniature Schnauzers, a St.Bernard, and Border Terriers.

Prior to retiring and becoming AKC obedience judges, they operated a large boarding, grooming, and training business.  During that time they trained and showed dogs for clients including a Golden Retriever,  Bouvier,  Belgium Sheepdog, Standard Schnauzer,  and Welsh Terriers. 

They became approved to judge all AKC obedience classes in 2009 and told me, “We both enjoy judging and giving back to the sport we have enjoyed for so many years.”

Bob and Cathy shared their thoughts about judging and competing with the rule changes due to the pandemic....

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Improve Your Obedience Training & Battle Pandemic Fatigue with Video


Battling Pandemic Fatigue with A Virtual Match

When this pandemic ended life as we knew it, I was blessed to have recently created an online community of obedience enthusiasts at What perfect timing to have started teaching and coaching online.

Providing content about training the obedience exercises, answering member’s questions and giving monthly webinars, has kept me busy. However, by the beginning of June, it was clear that we were all struggling with pandemic fatigue. The Obedience Road community was getting tired of staying home with no shows in sight.

Virtual Match Month

So, June was dubbed Virtual Match Month. Afterall, with no training classes or matches to attend, we need a way to test our progress. Members were invited and encouraged to video a performance for my review. 

I decided to go first and submit my video to the Obedience Road community. So, on a very windy May 31, I went to the elementary school parking lot that has served as my...

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