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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I would love to start to do Schutzhund and Rally with my dog and my main focus at the moment is perfecting our heel. I am going to work on tracking and nosework with my friend (who has a titled dutchie) but until we can find time that works for both of us, I' stuck working on my own. I'm finally getting my dog to pivot at heel, and I can call him into heel. We can go for a few yards with eye contact, but it's hard to get him to voluntarily give eye contact.

That's my first problem. He wants to disengage a lot, especially when we up the distractions. So one of the things I'm working on is him offering eye contact without me asking. If anyone can help me with that, I'd be grateful.

The other thing I would like to work on is his quickness to respond. His heeling is really slow, if I turn, he takes a moment to follow. Especially if I stop and he sits, it's like he wants to stay in the sit and takes a moment to come back to me into heel. So tips on how to make the response time quicker, would be much appreciated.

If there's any good resources on perfecting a heel, I'd really appreciate it.
 

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I've heard very good things about the heelwork classes offered by the Fenzi Academy.

I've used choose to heel in classes and it's worked well.
 

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I have a playlist of me working on my dog's heel that might be helpful.

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLxFsVMW0l4rfLNeRush99BtFoW_wERzOl

I recently took the Heelwork class by Fenzi Academy to get Pip to walk backwards. The last two videos in the playlist are me working on material from that class. I highly recommend the class. There is SO much information and I was pleasantly surprised that the approach I chose to take on my own was mostly correct! There were things I did different that probably caused the heeling problems I made in my videos but you get to see how I worked through them!!!

I'm not a perfect trainer by any means. But my dog is perfect :)

Something I can recommend is that you want to reward strong effort, even if it isn't perfect. Don't reward "good enough" or the dog doing an autopilot thing. If you notice your dog drifting off, then reduce the number of steps so the dog can give you everything in the few steps you have them do!!!
 

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Silvia Trkman's "Heeling is Just Another Trick" is really good too. I like it because it is more shaping based and less luring than a lot of heeling techniques.
 
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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thank you all, that's all great advice.

What about the voluntary eye contact? I have to ask him always, or remind him. He rarely just looks at me without prompting. (during walks/training sessions)
 

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I found that using short, intense sessions to build up the habit of my dog paying attention to me helped the most. I'm talking 1 second of training and nice eye contact and then BOOM the party happens. I also rarely took straight paths when I started training heel. It was all turns and pivots until I got nice attention. I highly recommend finding a trainer to work with! :) Maybe even find a training buddy online to critique your mechanics with will help.
 

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For the attention aspect...

work on engagement in general.
https://denisefenzi.com/2015/02/14/stages-of-engagement-part-1/

Ime you'll want to teach different heelwork components with attention as criteria before you do a lot of putting it together.

If you have a hand target use it by having your dog pop up in heel to touch your hand! Lots of benefits. Teaches head up, shifts weight to the rear (allows for better driving and also necessary for that fancy high stepping prance of that's the style you are after), increases animation, and for many can actually be used later as reinforcement. Doesn't teach precision (that comes from platform/rea work, good timing and good reward placement) so just work in straight lines or large circles when beginning.

For the hand targets (assuming you have it taught) start with just ring setups (dog in heel waiting to begin). You might want to actually train attention with a ''judge'' approaching, asking ''ready?'' etc. This is a problem area for some of the people we take classes with. Especially the very social dogs. When ready to heel (dog's eyes are glued on you) give your heel cue, take a step, and then immediately present your hand target. Often the first time attention is lost is that very first step!

Once start ups are reliable (no dipping head or looking away) then build with successive hand targets c&t each. Then you might c&t for multiple hand targets. Next you would c&t the pretty heeling between the hand targets. Then ping pong duration of heeling. Etc.

Of he doesn't pop up right away to hit your hand, the hand should go back to home position, then represent it. Never present your hand without attention.

If he looks away, step away out of heel and wait. Nothing bad happens but he shouldn't be able to wander off and self reinforce either. If you were to continue to heel forward you'll end up reinforcing inattention. When he reengages, support him verbally (an upbeat ''there you are goofball'' or something) and invite into heel. Don't reward with food or toys though. Reserve those reinforcer for meeting your criteria (will vary depending on stage and what aspects you are working on but all should include attention).

If he looks away 2-3 times in a row, what you are asking of him is too difficult and you need to alter in someway what you are working on to help him succeed. Could be decreasing distraction level, increasing distance from distraction. I prefer to really increase my rate of reinforcement/decrease heeling distance between reinforcement to get commitment and then build from there.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I'm signing up for the October 1st Fenzi academy style heel class and I'm super excited!! Here's a short video from today of where he's at. I'm really proud of him. His eye contact is much more consistent and his placement is great. There are a few times I still need to motivate him or remind him, but all in all I'm really pleased!!

https://youtu.be/etwh4xndKr8
 
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