Exercise s Heel On Leash Lets Dance Buddy

Heeling is like dancing with your dog. And you have to be the leader. If you know anything about dancing, then you know that you have the tougher job.

The dog will follow only your lead, and you need to give him the necessary cues to change direction or pace.

Heeling is a pack drive exercise (see Chapter 5). Before giving the command to heel, put your dog into pack drive by smiling at him and gently touching him on the side of his face.

In the section, "Heeling with Distractions," earlier in the chapter, you teach Buddy to heel around distractions, and you need to review that exercise on a frequent basis. In addition, you need to work on perfecting those turns and changes of pace.

Under the AKC Obedience Regulations (see the sidebar, "'So where do I get those Obedience Regulations thingies?'" for more info), the judge will call a heeling pattern for you. The pattern has to include — in addition to normal pace — a fast pace, a slow pace, and a right, left, and about-turn. That pattern is the bare minimum. A simple heeling pattern may look something like this: forward, fast, normal, left turn, about-turn, halt, forward, right turn, slow, normal, about-turn, halt.

If you have your dog's attention, and if you don't accidentally confuse him with incorrect cues, everything should go reasonably well. Still, you need to look at each of the maneuvers as a separate exercise that you and Buddy have to practice — sort of like the steps of a particular dance.

Table 13-4 sets up how to practice the different component parts of heeling. (The following two sections get into the specifics.) The column "Responses You May See" alerts you about what to watch for so you can work on it in your training. If you need to check your dog, release after the check. When your dog is doing something correctly, or is trying, be sure to reward him with a treat or praise.

Table 13-4 Practicing the Components of Heeling

Responsibility

What You Need to Practice

Responses You May See

Start

Accelerate

Fast starts

Slow start, lags behind

Normal pace

Normal pace

Straight line or large circle. If the dog is distracted, check and release.

Lags or forges, crowds or goes wide, sniffs or becomes distracted (Prey drive)

Halt

Decelerate

Check into sit and then release

Forges ahead, sits crooked

Responsibility

What You Need to Practice

Responses You May See

Normal to slow Fast to normal

Decelerate

Draw back on the leash as you slow down

Crowds, forges ahead as you slow down

Slow to normal Normal to fast Right turn About-turn

Accelerate

Alternate between release, treat, and check

Lags, goes wide

Left turn

Decelerate

Draw back on the leash

Forges or crowds, then lags, goes wide

Left turn

Accelerate

Alternate between release, treat, and check

Forges or crowds, then lags, goes wide

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