Help For Common Heeling Problems

heeling Dec 13, 2022

Most of the questions that I receive are about heeling. Four of the most common problems are discussed in this article and in the video! 

What if a leash correction does not get my dog’s attention?

In Heeling with Attention, I explain that when your dog understands that he can make reward happen by paying attention, you must teach him that something unpleasant will occur if he fails to pay attention. In the video, two dogs are taught that the consequence for inattentiveness is a quick tug on the collar. 

"Those two dogs made it look easy," you told me. What do you do if you give a tug on the leash and your dog does not look up? Watch part 1 of the video above! 

How can I improve my dog's off-leash heeling ? 

Just because your dog is heeling well with a leash on, do not expect him to understand how to do so when the leash is off. Consider the following; 

  1. If you are having to correct for inattention on-leash, it is too early to take the leash off. Any mistakes you are experiencing on leash will be magnified, and harder to control, off-leash. Take the time you need to get your on-leash heeling as good as possible.
  2. Before you take the leash off, decide how you intend to respond to attention errors and position errors when the leash is off. Practice that communication while the leash is attached to your body. Watch part 2 of the video above for a description of how to do so. 
  3. Practicing your off-leash heeling is important. Do not assume that your dog will "naturally" heel off leash because he heels well on leash. You need to practice heeling off-leash until both or you are comfortable and confident.  

Why Does My Dog Heel Better in Training than in the Ring?

This is a common problem and there are several potential reasons.

1. Are you giving your dogs more verbal help and encouragement in training than you can in the ring? Your dog may be expecting that help, and confused by why you act so differently in the ring. 

2. Do you feel a need to have treats or other rewards on your body when you are training? You may need to practice without those aids readily available in order to trust your dog to perform without them.

3. Before you enter a show, practice as you will perform. Your goal is to perform an entire heeling pattern without additional commands, cues, or needing to correct your dog for inattention.

4. Practice the choreography of your performance. That includes entering the ring and moving together to the starting position. Decide if you intend to move casually between exercises or require your dog to maintain heel position as you move around the ring. Practice the routine until you and your dog can do the entire performance confidently. 

If you sense that your dog is not trying very hard on the heeling exercise, check out the blog post titled, Opposition Heeling- Help for the Lazy Heeler for some ideas about how to improve your dog's effort on the heeling exercise. 
Utilizing the Fix n Go, talks about how you might utilize that rule to redo your heeling when you find your performance unsatisfactory. 

Additionally, I offered some comments about this frustrating problem in part 3 of the video above. 

Would heeling between exercises improve my performance? 
Keeping your dog engaged and interested between exercises will improve your performance. Heeling between exercises is  one option. Using a Reward Marker to teach your dog to "Find Heel," will teach your dog to enjoy getting into heel position as well as doing finishes.

In part 4 of the video above, "Find Heel" is demonstrated as a choreography tool during an Open performance. 

If you need to review how to teach your dog to "Find Heel," it is demonstrated in the Digital Obedience Guide, Tricks that Transition to Obedience Training. 

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