Heeling Help

Discussion in 'Dog Training Forum' started by Elrohwen, Oct 24, 2013.

  1. Elrohwen

    Elrohwen Active Member

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    I need help with heeling. Specifically, how to go from "left side walking with attention", to a formal heel on cue.

    Right now, Watson has a decent grasp of the heel position while in motion. I can walk around our field and he will catch up and find the correct position on his own. Reward, release, repeat. He is getting better at turns and sticking with me. At this point, I don't have a formal heel cue other than "let's go", which I use for more casual situations as well. I've been avoiding adding a cue until I know what I'm doing, so I don't mess it up. So it's really "left side walking with attention" at this point.

    I have done a little perch/platform work. He will gladly put his front feet on an object, and I can lure him around either way while he front feet stay on the platform. Where do we go from here? I'm not sure how to turn this into something more useful. I guess I need to get him automatically turning with me, instead of having to lure it.

    Finally, I spend a lot of time helping/luring him find heel position at the start of an exercise (like beginning a practice rally course, for example). How do I teach him to find the position on his own when I'm stationary? We are working on finishes, so do I just keep perfecting a finish and use that? Or can I get "heel" on cue to the point where he can find heel position no matter what position he was previously in?

    So where do I go from here? Everything I read seems to tell me what the final behavior should look like, but not the smaller steps to get there beyond the very simple beginnings which we've already done. We've done a lot of obedience classes, but they haven't addressed this and we don't have anything that focuses on heeling specifically. I feel like we have some of the pieces, but I don't know how to put them together.
     
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2013
  2. FG167

    FG167 New Member

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    I taught heeling totally separate from LLW. I started with the perch/pivot. Moved to the wall, played find the left leg, went from food to the ball...anyway, its all on Kastle's channel, you can search for "heeling" or "obedience". He learned the perch as a teeny puppy so he got weaned off pretty quickly. I'm teaching Robin and Limit the same way (less videos though). I'm a very firm believer in muscle memory so I do the same repetitive thing 100million times before we trial.

    http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLE164BD30BB8D6988

    This is where we are now (you can ignore after the first little bit, the rest is retrieves/send out) - which I am really enjoying the look of. Keep in mind, this is IPO/Schutzhund heeling, not AKC.

    [YOUTUBE]JPEaX29bcNc[/YOUTUBE]

    I am going to tone the hopping down some...and most dogs probably won't be this insane.
     
  3. FG167

    FG167 New Member

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    More specific answers...

    First lure him, once he's easy to lure, then say the command and lure, then say the command and use a little less of a lure. So if before you were jamming your whole hand in his face and swinging him into your side, try a hand gesture mimicking that and not the whole thing. What finish are you doing? Flip, tear drop, around the back?

    Absolutely! I can put Kastle in a down, holler his heel command and have him run to me and then flip into heel. It's super fun (and it took FOREVER and loads of repetition to train!).

    Sounds like you have a great foundation, you just need to up the ante on what he does on his own without the lure :)
     
  4. Elrohwen

    Elrohwen Active Member

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    Really good to know I'm on the right track! I think I just need to devote more time to it at home, in really small steps, and remove the lure a bit. Running around a field and changing direction is much more fun, so that's what I've done the most of, but I need to get some of the details in order and link it up.

    For finishes, I'm working on "around" right now, but haven't put enough work into it to have it on cue. I'm afraid to use it in class because he might decide to go behind me and then just keep on going. lol But he's getting the idea.

    More typically I do what I think you're calling a "teardrop" - sort of a lure around to the left, back a bit, and bring him up in heel position. If he's focused he will do this on a flat hand lure, but I have to use food too often when he's all over the place. I'd like to get this really on cue too since he knows the basic movement now, and stop luring so much. I love the look of the swing finish, but I think I need to focus on the easier stuff first and get at least one of those solid.

    I would love to just say heel and have him get into position from wherever he is. That sounds awesome. I guess we just have a lot more repetition, and I have to add the actual cue at some point and stop being afraid I'm going to mess it up.

    I'll check out some of your videos. Thanks for the help!
     
  5. Sekah

    Sekah The Monster.

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    Falon, can I just ship you Cohen for you to polish up her heeling for me? Pretty please?
     
  6. AdrianneIsabel

    AdrianneIsabel Glutton for Crazy

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    Everything Falon said, I used a teardrop with Backup and did all of his heeling with a face focus head wrap. I'm looking for a flip finish with a high chin and I'm debating a face focus vs an armpit focus with Phelan.

    This is mostly targeting/send out and send arounds but you'll see where I'm doing some heeling luring and ever so slightly fading the lure, I won't however truly fade the lure until I like his position enough. He's still a baby which means flaily and uncoordinated so I'd like him to have a lure to focus on while his body grows into itself. Every so often I test the pivoting into position with an empty hand lure, once there I heavily reward, when I love it I'll name it and then as Falon said, test it and help it if he's having trouble.

    Basically, repetition and fading.

    http://youtu.be/qcv0QRWoQ4o
     
  7. Elrohwen

    Elrohwen Active Member

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    Just watched some of your videos and wow! Amazing. I love how in some of them he pauses with his front feet suspended, like a dressage horse doing the passage. So athletic and so much focus. I'd be happy with Watson just being reasonably in heel position and paying attention to me.

    So where should I ship Watson for his heel training? He can be next in line after Cohen.
     
  8. Elrohwen

    Elrohwen Active Member

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    I like how you're using your open hand as a target and lure. I use that sometimes to get him into position, but I haven't had luck getting him to follow it so tightly. I think that's something we could work on.


    Another question: how do I get him to keep going after a reward? This is something we have always struggled with and it took me a couple weeks to train him that a reward during a stay doesn't mean the stay is over. Often when I reward heeling after a couple steps, he will consider it a release, whether I've actually released him or not. This isn't really a problem in the kitchen where he's focused, but it's a big problem outside or in obedience class.
     
  9. Sekah

    Sekah The Monster.

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    Variable rate of reinforcement and incorporating a release into the heel.

    Surprise him with another 2-5 treats after the first one while continuing your behaviour. Pretty soon he'll figure out that the game doesn't end at the first treat. And a dog should continue to actively heel until he hears your say-so, so make sure you use a release so he doesn't get into the habit of releasing himself.
     
  10. Elrohwen

    Elrohwen Active Member

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    I do use a verbal release, which he understands, and have started to use a "go sniff" cue as a reward. The problem is when he thinks the treat is also a release. I try to also say the verbal release when I know he'll release himself anyway, but then we don't get anywhere.

    I've tried just continuing to walk after the treat and he will self-release, then eventually come back and focus, but we can get caught in this behavior chain of him releasing, coming back, getting another treat, releasing, etc.

    Sometimes I try to rapidly deliver another treat before he can wander off, and that can work, but then he'll just release himself after that one. Maybe I need to do a ton of rapid fire rewards right in a row and see if he'll stick with me. This is basically how I taught him to take rewards during a stay, but it took some frustrating weeks where he just didn't get it.

    Indoors he totally gets it because he's focused and engaged and wants to keep heeling, but outside he's like "Thanks for the treat! I'm gonna sniff now." I do vary my rate of reinforcement, but we can go 1 step or 5 steps and he'll still run off to sniff as soon as I deliver it most of the time, so I just work up to longer and longer runs of heeling (like 10-20 steps) without a treat because I don't want to him to disengage, but then I feel like I'm missing the chance to reward really great moments and just rewarding for longer runs of mediocre heeling.

    It's frustrating. I feel like we go in circles on this issue with every duration behavior. I think he learned that the click ends the behavior (or the verbal marker) and he holds me to it. haha
     
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2013
  11. Sekah

    Sekah The Monster.

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    I fell into that trap with Cohen too. It sounds like you just need to work through it, and you probably have to go back a few steps and build that engagement back up. It sounds like he's being overfaced by the environment.

    One thing that really helped with Cohen was having her jump up to get her reward. She finds the jumping itself is reinforcing and it adds energy into the game. (Adding energy is always my issue since I do most of my training with food instead of toys with Cohen.) The jump (or sometimes tossed treats) plus going back to square one and asking for good, active focus before I've even taken a step and working in short, short increments helped me get over that hump.

    I'm currently in the process of introducing spins while heeling to get her driving back into position. I'm not yet where I want to be, but I think it's helping a bit too.

    E: Also tossing treats helped too. I got really good at tossing treats with minimal telegraphing so she had to pay closer attention to me so she could catch them before they hit the ground (whereby they're often eaten by Megatron).

    Lastly, don't reward crap. It's easy to fall into the 'good enough' trap with heeling, but you really want to push your dog to engage since it's a behaviour which requires such precision and can be quite dull for the dog.
     
  12. Elrohwen

    Elrohwen Active Member

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    Thank you! All really good stuff to think about. I think I need to break it down and focus more on precision and details in very short increments. I was sort of rewarding anything resembling a heel, and hoping to perfect it over time, but we're kind of stuck and it's not getting better. I definitely fall into the trap of rewarding crap.

    I've started throwing rewards lately, after a show handling seminar showed me how much engagement it can build to toss treats out in front, or at the dog's head (whether they can catch or not). Also, if I throw it out in front of me in grass it gives him a chance to use his nose to find it, which is by far his most favorite activity. I haven't been trying it long enough to see if it's working, but I think it's tapping into what he finds rewarding.

    Environment is so tough for us. He's so engaged inside in our normal training environment, but I lose him to self-rewarding by sniffing outside or in training class. I just started using "go sniff" as a reward, like the "give me a break" exercise in Control Unleashed, and it might be working. By the end of class on Monday he was sniffing quickly, and then staring daggers at me wanting to do more work, instead of me harassing him to get his attention off the floor.
     

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