Teaching Heel as a position not an action

Discussion in 'Dog Training Forum' started by mrose_s, Oct 7, 2008.

  1. mrose_s

    mrose_s BusterLove

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    I read here somewhere I while back that they wish they had taught heel as a position not as an action.

    I started doing some more heel training with Buster today, hopeing that if I can get that solid and make me his safe zone, that will help with his dog issues.

    So I was thinking... how do I make sure he knows heel means "stay at my side, no matter whihc way I go?"
    I'm looking at you Dekka, I love that video of Dekka heeling.

    So I was playing around with Buster today and yesterday. Last night we did stuff in the backyard andf he was really good. Today I mucked around in the frontyard with it, getting him to stay close on corners and concentrate enough that he notices we've turned before the leash goes tight.


    I was just out with him then. Set up some stakes int he ground and weaved around them in different directions and stuff. I'm so chuffed with him, he'e being really good. Then I thought about it some more and relised he was all good going forwards, but can he go backwards. A quick test and I discovered no. Even with a treat he genrally ends up sitting then tumbling over on his side, or else walking out at a 90 degree angle to me so he can reach my hand.

    I put him up aainst the fence, held the leash so it was short but still slack and went backwards, I had the leash in my right hand going behind my back so if I pulled it slightly the tension would come from the back not the side.
    I used a treat as opposed to my fingers as a target because i didn't want him jumping up to touch them and he's more likley to keep his feet on the ground if its a treat, so I held that up sorta near my hip but back a bit.

    Well he did great. I did it a few times then tried it off hte fence and he caught on really well. After more than 5 or 6 strides though he starts going off track to one side or the other.

    SO I thought I'd check in early and see if this is a good way to teach him. I don't know how i'll go about teaching him to side step and stuff and I want to see if I can just get th concept in his head to just stay at my side, no matter which way I move, that is your focus.


    btw, he's having crazy fun learning, he thinks he's the ants pants.
     
  2. Dekka

    Dekka Just try me..

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    LOL yep it was me who says I teach heeling as location not an action.

    I start with really really short bursts. Major click treat for being beside me. (if your dog tends to whine with excitement you may want to tone it down if you want to compete. Snip gets so high for heeling at home we whine excitedly)

    If you want your dog to think heeling is one of the coolest things ever-then you have to act like it is! Its not hard to get a dog pumped to run agility. It takes a bit more effort to get them pumped for heeling :)

    Once your dog is thrilled to be beside you then add changes of pace to fast and quickish right turns. Click treat like mad if the dog makes an effort to stay with you. If they don't laugh, keep it fun and try it a bit slower next time. Once that is good at the sit when you stop. If your dog is drivey in heel I have never had an issue with getting a good tuck sit (vs a rock back sit).

    So now you should have a dog that is mad for heeling, who can stay with you through changes of paces sharp right turns and shallow left turns. I then practice calling to heel. My cue to heel is my left hand on my hip (elbow in.. some judges will nail you for elbow out!) Your dog should start trying to find heel as soon as you cue it no matter where you are in relation to them.

    Once the dog has a really solid idea of heel meaning glued to my left leg I then start backing up a little in heel. If you want really snazzy left pivots in Rally, your dog will need to back up as you turn.

    To aid in the back up I tend to turn slightly left as I do so and click for the moment there is ANY shifting/stepping backwards of the feet.

    So that is what I do to teach heel. I should get some 'before' vid of Bounce heeling. We are just starting, heck with conformation lol. I litterally only train heel for 30 seconds to 3 min at a time when a dog is learning.
     
  3. mrose_s

    mrose_s BusterLove

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    Thanks Dekka. I don't know if we'll ever compete, or ever get to some classes (i'd like to) but I may aswell lay the groundwork as properly as I can so I don't have stuff to undo later
     
  4. pacopoe

    pacopoe New Member

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    Thanks, Dekka!

    Going of to practice now... Paco's heel is okay, but you've given me the inspiration to turn it up a notch and polish the heck out of it.
     
  5. DanL

    DanL Active Member

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    That was me who said I had wished I taught it as a position rather than an action. We're pretty much there with it now though, lots of reward reinforcement. It really started working when I began to use a bite on the decoy as a reward. It's amazing how fast he'll jump into position when he knows he's going to get to bite the decoy, lol. Now I can call him to heel from anywhere and he'll get right next to me. We're still working on him being lax with his position but that's coming along. GSDs will take shortcuts- they find what works and then try to get right to the reward, so he won't always go exactly where I want him, but we're slowly fixing that by not giving him a reward until he's in the right place. I'll just keep stepping back and telling him to heel and once he's in the right spot, he gets his reward. Now he's figuring out, do it right the 1st time, get a reward right away, don't do it right, don't get a reward.
     
  6. mrose_s

    mrose_s BusterLove

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    Thanks guys, he's still really eager at this stage so I want to be careful I don't overdo it and ruin his drive for it.
    He's trying really hard to just stick to my side while I'm going around turns and stuff.

    I've started calling him from a stay to a "heel" while I'm moving, currently only a couple of metres in front of him so he doesn't have to come far.
    I need to find my clicker so I can click on that exact point he reaches the right position.

    I looked at the backing up beside me against the fence and I can see he doesn't see it in the same way. He goes so fast he ends up behind me and he's not really looking for being in that right spot beside me, he's just kinda going backwards lol. So I'll leave that out for a while and focus on forward movement.

    My sister brought Mac out and we did a couple of recalls, first a race between them but then having either of them on another side of the yard so they had to run past each other. Small distractions but it all counts.
     
  7. I teach "heel" as a position as well. I use a different command entirely for the dog to find heel than I do for heeling movement.

    :D
     
  8. Kayla

    Kayla New Member

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    I just wanted to add I teach heel first as an action and then as a position. I find it easier to start shaping the heel by using my movement ( I just walk around in a big circle) to entice my dog's interest and begin clicking him for even the slightest movement with me. Then I start selectively clicking for only movement on my left side, then only movement on my left side when he is close to me, then only when he is close but parallel ( not over crowding or crabbing out) lastly I refine my criteria for his ear next to my left leg ( that's about the area between his nose and shoulder next to my left hip for competition regulations). Lastly I teach heel as a position and practice calling him to it from various activities.

    So I guess I just wanted to add, teaching heel as a position is an end goal, but perhaps starting off with heel as a movement isn't a hinderance to reaching your end goal.

    Just my 0.02
    Kayla
     
  9. For me, we do no movement until the dog has learned where heel is and how to find it from anyplace.

    I play this as a game with puppies, and I teach them front and heel at the same time. All they are doing is learning where to go to get a cookie. :D

    I start with "front" playing the "no lookie no cookie" game. I hold treats in both hands and shape the puppy to look at my face to get a cookie. Then I shape front and heel (I call it "Place".)

    Once the pup is popping into these positions with a verbal command for cookies, I teach 4 movement commands. "get in" (move laterally closer to me) "get up" (move forward) "Get back" (move backwards) and "get off" (move laterally away from me).

    Only after we have these set do we start really any "heeling". Of course I do play with puppies with bait moving to teach them to move out with head up, but it's only playing around with constant food baiting so they stay in position with head up.

    The dogs I am working don't hear the heel command unless they have it just right for a long time.

    :D

    Very interesting to hear how other people train things!
     
  10. corgipower

    corgipower Tweleve Enthusiest

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    That's very similar to how I teach it, except minus the clicker. I use a "with me" command until heel position is solid. Then I use a "heel" command for formal heeling and "with me" for loose leash walking. I do heel seeking sooner though and I use heel seeking to help in refining the action and use the action to refine the position.
     
  11. arklady

    arklady Ark Lady

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    Consider breaking the behaviors down into small components. Often, if you go to fast with variations the dog gets confused. I tend to have people practice with left and right heels and do a backward heel all as different behaviors.

    Also, you can fool around and reward the position first and then later narrow it down (approximate) to get what you want.
     
  12. Kayla

    Kayla New Member

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    I very much agree with your statement about breaking down the behaviour into the smallest components possible and building upon it.

    Just as you mentioned treating in position Im curious what each of you do feed in position or not?

    I purposely threw the food away from me when I was intially teaching Duke to heel so If Duke wanted to continue to get clicked/ rewarded he needed to find the position over and over again as I kept moving in a large circle around the yard. Now that we've begun introducing paces of change/ quick turns I most of the time feed in position but sometimes Ill throw the occasional piece out, so that he gets plenty of practice as learning heel as both a position and a movement.

    Kayla
     
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2008
  13. IliamnasQuest

    IliamnasQuest Loves off-leash training!

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    I use a combination of stationary and moving when I work on heel position. I kind of mix it up a bit and throw in a lot of play in the middle to keep the dogs up and happy.

    I've just started working Tazer on a formal heel position (it's about time, she's 16 months old .. *L* .. but I don't intend to trial her, so we've just done loose leash walking up to now). We did three short sessions today, twice with food (tonight her dinner) and once with the frisbee. When we first started a few days ago, I brought her into heel position by stepping back with my left foot and guiding her with my hand, turning her so she came up into heel position and then marking and rewarding when she was in proper position. In essence, she's learning a left finish. It's not the way I taught my last couple of dogs but they were not wild things like Tazer - she's the craziest dog I've ever had for training. So I figured I'd try something a bit different.

    We're at the point now where I can give her the command and she literally THROWS herself back into position. It's interesting .. *L* .. if we're not moving forward, she has to move upwards. It's as if the energy has to burst out some way and up seems to be easiest for her. So she leaps up and throws her body around and lands in heel position. I mark the behavior (once she's still and quiet, which sometimes takes a bit of time) and then I either throw a treat or a toy. When she goes after it, I move so that she comes back to me at a different angle and has to find heel position again.

    I get tired of training the same old way all the time so it's fun to experiment a bit, especially if I'm not too concerned with how it turns out (as far as competition goes). Tazer has it in her to be a very sparkly, animated heeling dog but I think it will take a LONG time before she's mature enough to handle it.

    Melanie and the gang in Alaska
     
  14. mrose_s

    mrose_s BusterLove

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    Thanks everyone.

    I know what you mean about throwing themselves into position. I've taught Buster to "back up" for walks which just menas to come further back towards me. If he's over excited he jumps in the air, flinging himself backwards beside me. lol
     

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