Competition Heeling With Your Dog And How To Improve The Duration Of That Wonderful Attention And Attitude

Maxene wrote to me about competition heeling with her dog:  “Competition heeling and how to improve the duration of that wonderful attention and attitude seen in the ring by the experts. I start off with luring with food, move on to rewarding for all steps taken looking at me, then bring in a motivator and fun for all steps taken looking at me. This is all good, but then I lose it when I phase out all food and motivations (and voice) and try for duration for the ring. There must be something I’m missing. Need help.”

Competition Heeling With Your Dog–
Lynn’s Opinion Of It All:

Lynn Stockwell replied: “Are you planning on doing some competition obedience?

I’m working toward a CD with my dog, but honestly…it’s really more of a hassle to HAVE to get the attention and keep it.

Annnnd I have the same issue. Bring in the food motivation and I’ve got full attention, but without, it’s half-hearted. WITH THAT SAID, though, the responses are the same: my dog is still watching me, but with her peripheral vision instead of a full-on gaze.

I am more accepting of this, since I feel the full attention is more damaging to the neck. I want my dog to observe and acknoweldge her surroundings (but not become distracted by them) while still paying attention to me. Make sense?

What I’d recommend working on now is just getting started with loose-leash walking since your dog is still relatively new to the concept. I’m only doing the competition obedience just for the experience, really. It’s fun and whatnot, but it’s very precise and not at all what a majority of people want out of their dogs when it comes to household manners and real-world obedience.”

Competition Heeling With Your Dog–
How To Improve The Duration
And Increase Attitude

Adam’s approach to competition heeling:  I find the way that most trainers teach competition heeling to be frustratingly slow. A lot of using the purely positive approach to competition heeling is dependent on starting out with the right dog.

A much faster (and more reliable) way to teach competition-style heeling– that will work with any dog– is to use the e-collar:

Start by making the dog sit. You can use some food to get him to understand what your “competition heel” command meand (stand in the heel position and keep your head straight up. But once the dog understands what it means, put the e-collar on a low to medium stim level and tap. If you need to, use your hand to bring his head back up.

Once he begins to understand that the stim = look up, start introducing distractions (while still in the sit position). After he’s good with distractions, start by taking one or two steps, then returning to the sit position. As you start to walk, if he drops his head, press the stim button and bring his head back up. Gradually increase the number of steps until you can walk ten or more steps without the dog dropping his head. Once you can do 10 steps, you can usually go as long as you want.

“A friend of mine recently won a large AKC obedience competition trial using this technique and the judge told her it was the best attention he had ever seen.  (Yes, once you take the e-collar off, the dog does still listen!)”

After the dog is doing it consistently, you can reward with either food or the ball to bring in even more “attitude.”:

Dog Off the Leash in the Country

Pip Writes to me:

We live on an acre of property in the country. On three sides of us are open fields and orchard and in front we have a very busy country avenue. Our place in not fenced except for a back yard area where we keep our dogs. We have a seven month old German Shepard, Mollie, and I have been using your book to train her on the long leash. Our “problem” is that I don’t think we’ll ever feel safe having her off leash on this property. She’s pretty good with her “come” command but letting her off the leash is so scary to me. Many people in our area let their dogs run free so I have that fear that she’ll see another dog or rabbit and take off across the road. Cars regularly travel 60-80 miles an hour on this road.
We are discussing the idea of fencing our entire property which would be a great expense but I can’t see a way out of this delemma.

I have one other question: We take our dogs for a walk on easement roads behind our property. Our older shepard is sometimes on leash but often is free. We have purchased a halter for Mollie. On walks when she has the halter, we let her explore on the long leash. Usually either before, during, or after that long walk, I’ll put the pinch collar on and take her for another walk. I use both the long and short leash. She heels during this time. We also practice “come” (on the long leash) sit, stay, etc. Do you think it’s OK for her to use the halter and have “free walk” time with us?

DPTrainer4 replies:

Hi Pip. I’m glad to read that you’ve been having some success with Mollie, and I do sympathize with you on the unfenced property–our yard is very poorly suited to a fence due to how the house and driveway are situated, and as such, we have never fenced it in. I would like to know if you’ve tried yet to boundary-train her to visual boundaries on your property? You can teach her to stay out of the street, and if there is something, even a line of trees, that differentiates your property from your neighbor’s, that’s something you can use to teach her, as some character said in a famous movie, YOU SHALL NOT PASS.

Something to remember, though, is that we recommend that the dog not be let out in an unfenced yard without supervision, even if she has been boundary-trained. There’s just too much risk that, like you said, something could run by and she’d find it more motivating than the consequences you’ve been giving her for stepping into the “hot” zone (or, Not Your Property).

It may seem hard to trust her now, and there is a point where, as you move through obedience and you see that she is really picking up concepts (not only commands, but also respect and trust for you), you might start to trust her a little more. You might find this a good read, as I actually did have off-leash situations in mind when I wrote it: there’s a big step the owner has to take, mentally, in order to trust that the dog will make the right choice, and in return, earn more freedom.

The very first day we had our current dog home, we learned that she was a squirrel-chaser, bolted out the door, and found anything but us to be the Most Interesting Thing in her world. It took time, long lines, tabs, and lots of corrections and praise…but now she is completely trustworthy (granted, we are in suburbia at the end of a cul-de-sac, so I WOULD be more careful around roads in your area) in the yard off-leash. She doesn’t chase wildlife, or if she does, she stops when I call her, she respects the boundaries of the yard, and anytime she’s out, we’re out. I admit it to being a horrible drag some days–believe me, I’d LOVE to just turn her out on frightfully cold mornings to do her business–and unfortunately, some shelters/breeders do require fenced-in yards in order to give you a one of their dogs, so I do see the bright side of the concept!

As for your question regarding “free” walks, I have no problem with it…I do it myself! The one thing is that, although she can stop and explore, move ahead and behind you, she MUST keep up with you, which means that you MUST keep moving. It’s not a matter of “Give an inch and she’ll take a mile” (unless she is that kind of dog), but the deal is that you’re still leading the walk, even though she’s not right next to you. The one thing I recommend you might change, though, is to not switch between the halter (do you mean body harness with this, or actual headcollar, like the horse?) and the training collar. This can make her “collar-smart,” and teach her that she needs to be good and listen to you when her training collar is on, but when it’s off or she’s wearing her halter, she can do whatever she wants. It’s OK to let her have some free time on the long line and pinch collar. Anytime you are interacting with her, she needs to be wearing it, and even free walks count.

Hope this is some help to you!



Teaching Your Dog the Off Collar “Come” Command

Elizabeth writes to me:

Thank you so much for your thoughtful reply. You helped me realize that I can trust my instincts with Mollie. I really noted your idea of the dog gaining “respect and trust” for the owner. I see that in Mollie as she matures. She is seven and half months old now.

Speaking of “collar smart” I guess I still don’t have the concept of how to avoid it. Mollie does well with her collar but since we keep her in our large fenced back yard, she doesn’t usually have it on when we walk out and interact with her on an informal basis. She definitely acts differently with the collar and I guess my real question is how to “off leash” train.
Adam speaks of never giving a command unless you are close enough to the dog (and the tab) to give a correction, but how does one accomplish this is you want to teach the ‘come’ command from a distance? I’ve watched the video of teaching “come” with the lunge line, and I’ve done that, but how does one move away from that to off leash? Maybe I just need to reread Adam’s directions but I can’t visualize how this is accomplished. I realize I’m repeating myself, but again, how can I teach her to come, off leash, from a distance, if I always need to be close enough to give the correction?

Actually, Mollie is pretty good with the command, but not perfect. I don’t fully trust her with this one yet.

Thanks again for the last response. I find the debate about training to be interesting. I am teacher and we have that same debate in education. Yes, positive feedback is always best, but sometimes we all need that “negative” motivation. I think it’s a law of nature.


Adam replies:

Hi, Elizabeth:

Think of it this way: The leash and collar are just a tool to help YOU teach the dog that he cannot run away from you, and that he cannot ignore commands.

I knew a woman in Missouri who did the following: She would take a young dog and put the dog in a small, enclosed yard. No leash, no training collar. Just a buckle collar. Every time she called, she’d go and MAKE the dog come. The dog learned that he could not run away, because she’d catch him– EVERY TIME.

With the long line, you’re playing a MIND GAME on the dog. You’re getting the dog conditioned to respond every time– just the same way you get conditioned to pay attention and reach for the telephone, every time it rings.

Once the dog is conditioned, you can take the long line off and sub the tab. But remember: Reinforcement is forever, so if you start to see the conditioned response get slower– that’s when you pull out the long line (or the e-collar) and brush up.

Make sense?

– Adam.

Dog Will Not Respond When Off Leash

A man named Jim wrote to me with the following questions about his dog. I thought you’d find this interesting.

He asks:

JIM: My problem is that my dog lags and responds sluggishly to obedience work when not on leash. He is a 4 1/2 year old 155 lb. Newfoundland. He does not have a dominant or Alpha-dog type personality; rather, he has a sensitive personality and is basically very laid back except when he wants to go for a walk or a ride.

I have been training him for obedience trials for about 5 months. He performs well when on a loose leash, but when he is off leash he lags and responds sluggishly.

ADAM: This would suggest that there is something you’re doing when the dog is on leash that you’re not doing when he is off leash.

Did you make the transition from 6 foot leash to the one foot tab?

Also, in making the transition to off leash, make sure that you only correct him for the big mistakes, like when he’s far out of position. Otherwise, as soon as you take the leash off in the real world, he’ll know he isn’t being corrected for “every little imperfection.”

JIM: He also falls behind on the heel. What should I do?

ADAM: With the six foot leash, walk in a big rectangle. As he lags, do a sharp 90 degree turn to your right. Immediately speed up and run to the end. If you’re using a pinch collar, when he hits the end it will be uncomfortable, and after a few times he’ll stay up with you to avoid the correction.

Supplement this with a lot of fairly loud verbal praise as well as hearty touch (pat, pet) when he is in position so that he draws a very black and white distinction between being in position and not being in position.

JIM: He also performs on the “come” command directly, but very slowly. The exception to this problem is when I am holding his food dish (with breakfast or supper in it) in front of me at feeding time. He does not respond to holding treats, a ball or favorite toy.

ADAM: It sounds like you’re using the ball or food as a bribe, rather than a reward. Re-read the section in my book about the correct way to use the ball and food drive. If he DOES respond to the food bowl, it means that you CAN use that as a motivator. What I would do is to stop feeding him meals out of the bowl and let the majority of his food come from doing obedience exercises.


Off Leash Dog Training – Figuring Out What You Want To Achieve With Your Dog Training Skill

Imagine being able to take your dog to a park or playground… off-leash… and know without the shadow of a doubt that he won’t run away. And that he will listen to every command!

Now imagine that you take a tennis ball out of your pocket, and wave it in front of your dog’s field of vision. Your dog goes nuts at the thought of being able to chase his ball… which is his reason for existence!!! But instead of just throwing the ball, you speak the command, “Down!” and your dog immediately drops into the down position.

Now, imagine that you cock your arm back, like a baseball pitcher, and throw that tennis ball as hard as you can! As you see the ball fly through the air, you stop… and look down at your feet to see that your dog is STILL IN THE DOWN POSITION… eagerly waiting for you to give him his “release” command to go chase the ball.

With three words, “TAKE A BREAK,” your dog springs to his feet, and like a bullet… chases down the tennis ball and happily returns and drops it at your feet. After a few more throws, many of the people in the park are marveling at the wonderful response and attention your dog is giving you, in light of the tennis ball which obviously captures his dreams!

But you decide that simply having him lay down while you throw the ball is mere child’s play. So as an encore performance… You throw the ball and immediately let your dog chase it. But half way to the ball, you yell out the “down” command… and instead of continuing to chase the ball, your dog immediately drops down… 100 feet away from you! With another, “TAKE A BREAK” command, your dog is once again up and chasing the ball.He then brings it back and happily lays it at your feet for another throw.

How did I teach my dog to work with such speed and control?

Simple. It was just a matter of:

1.) Figuring out what I wanted to teach the dog.

2.) Deciding how to break up the exercise. (All complicated exercises, just like music, must be taught by first breaking them into smaller pieces.)

3.) Teaching the specific parts of the exercise.

4.) Reinforcing and proofing the exercise.

So, for this example, first I decided that I wanted my dog to hold (or go into) a down position, regardless of where the ball was or what he was doing. I began by teaching the dog a down-stay. Then I progressed to teaching the dog “off-leash” response.

Next, I combined the two and taught the dog to respond both at a distance, and also in light of my distraction, the tennis ball. And finally, I practiced the exercise again and again. But the key to doing this successfully is to have the right knowledge and to develop a high level of skill. Which comes from practice.


My Dog Runs From Me… What Should I Do?

The short answer is that every time you take her out in what would be an “off-leash setting,” she needs to wear a 30 foot long line and training collar.


After a few months, she’ll get conditioned to the long line and forget it’s on. And all the while, you’ll also be conditioning her to come THE FIRST TIME you call her.

When you see that she’s coming 100% of the time, around a variety of different settings and distractions, then you can substitue the long line for the 1 foot tab.


Revealed: Long Line Techniques For Off-Leash Dog Training

The long line, or better known to horse people as the “lunge line”, is the intermediary step between the six foot training leash and the tab (sometimes referred to as the “handle,” a one foot leash worn by the dog at all times which allows you to always be in a position to administer a correction).

The best long lines are made of 1/2 inch nylon webbing, the type you can purchase at a outdoor/camping supply store or from a horse and tack shop. They can be anywhere from 15 feet to 50 feet or more in length.

I prefer a 25 foot or 30 foot long line, because it’s long enough to work real distances (and catch the dog should he try to run away) but not too long that it has a tendency to get knotted up like fish line on a Bass Lake vacation. Up until now, if you’ve been doing your on-leash obedience routines correctly (by keeping a loose leash) the transition to the long line should be fairly smooth.

See, the dog doesn’t know the difference between a 6 foot line, a 15 foot line, or a 40 foot line. Why? Because, as a result of several studies– even ones you can do yourself– behaviorists have ascertained that the canine has very limited abilities to use reason or logic. In other words, as long as you don’t inadvertently teach him, he won’t automatically know the length of your leash.

The first step to long line training is to begin taking your dog to various different locations and let him run around with the long line in trail. I have found that with many dogs who have been kept on a tight leash all of their lives, that they grow to see freedom as a scarce commodity. So, the minute that the dog thinks he’s off leash, he bolts and runs away because he feels that such freedom is scarce, so he must take advantage of it when he can.

Once you begin letting your dog roam freely, with the long line on, there are two thing that start to happen. First, your dog will begin to forget that he is trailing the long line, so he starts to think he is free, and freedom STOPS becoming such a scarce commodity. Secondly, if he does decide to “take off” on you, you will always be in a position to regain control. (It’s pretty hard for even a really fast dog to get away from you when he’s trailing 50 feet of line!)

So, what does the dog learn?

He learns that, under no circumstance, can he bolt and get away from you. Just like the Alpha dog, you are the strongest, and the fastest. You can always out run and chase down any other member of your pack. And the long-line gives you this ability.

In essence, this is the same thing we do with the electric collar. We teach the dog that he can’t outrun us, and that we can correct him, even if he’s fifty feet away from us. The benefit of the electric collar over the long line is that the timing for your correction can be faster, and usually more motivational. But unless you’re physically handicapped, this should not be enough of a feature as to disable you from still achieving great results with the long line.

The benefit, of course, to the long line is that, a good long line will cost you $15, or maybe $20 dollars. A good electric collar, on the other hand, may cost you upwards of $200, $400, or even –for the fancy, Cadillac of remote training collars– $1500!!!


As I mentioned above, the biggest mistake you can make with the long line is accidentally teaching your dog the length of your line. If your dog discovers that your long line is only 10 feet long, and he’s now wandered 50 feet away from you, and you are not fast enough to run up and step on the end of that long line if he decides to bolt, then what has he just learned?

He has learned that there is a certain proximity, or distance from you in which you will not be able to catch him. And whenever he thinks he can make a run for it, he’s going to make a go of it.

If this happens, pretty much the only thing you can do is to go out and buy a much longer line and re-teach him that he can’t get away from you… ever! But if this has happened already, it will take much longer to reach your final goal, because the dog, for a long time, will continually test in different circumstances whether or not he can still get away. When you reach the point where you are confident that your dog knows he cannot run away from you without getting corrected for it, you are ready to progress to the point where you can take off the long line, and substitute the tab (the one foot leash ). At this point, the dog is virtually off-leash.

However, there are some specific techniques for using the tab, which you should consult your local trainer about.


Tips For Teaching Your Dog To Walk On A Loose Leash

Many of you know that for the past couple of weeks I’ve been working on a new dog training video series. There will be five new videos, and it will be combined with a number of other products that I currently sell as one big, colossal, super dog training information package. Or you’ll be able to buy the individual components separately.

The first of these five new videos has already been completed and I thought I’d share some brief observations that were included in this information-packed-teaching-tool, titled, “How To Teach Any Dog To Walk On A Loose Leash (And Never Pull Again!)”

1.) When you hold the leash, you need to keep your hands down by your waist.

2.) You need to walk at a much faster pace than most people expect, in the beginning.

3.) Once the dog is walking on a loose leash in one location, you must then work the technique in different areas, too. Usually about 7 to 9 different locations before the dog extrapolates and automatically walks on a loose leash, anywhere you go!

4.) When you turn (the explanation for this technique is also explained in my book, for those of you who haven’t purchased it yet!) … you need to really come out of that turn as if you just stepped on a bumble bee. This is necessary in order to give your technique that, “Two objects moving in opposite directions” feeling.

5.) You must incorporate sudden stops. If the dog keeps walking then you know that he’s not really paying attention, and this will give you another opportunity to do your right-about turn.

Dog Too Spoiled to Walk on Leash

I have a 4 month old female pup, AmStaff/Boxer (we think – she was a rescue). She responds well to all training, EXCEPT for walking and heeling.

We’ve practiced the loose-leash “turning on a dime” technique described in your book and audio tape at length, but she refuses to cooperate.

It’s not a matter of distraction – when I attempt to train her in this style, she pulls back with all her strength. When the loose leash is snapped, she sits, paws braced, or lays down on her back.

These responses are immediate.

I’ve tried instantly righting her, and continuing the training, but she responds as above just as quickly. This can go on indefinitely. I’ve tried correcting her with a low “No,” and praising her if she responds correctly for even an instant. I’ve tried using treats to get her to at least walk with me briefly…… all to no success.

What else should I try?

Dear Geoff,

It’s a good question you’ve asked.

First, you DO NOT want to work the dog around distractions at this point in the game.

Second, you should not be telling the dog, “No!” and jerking the leash for this behavior. Instead, you need to simply glue the leash to your belt and keep walking.

Now here’s where your problem will arise: You’ve already inadvertently taught your dog that if she kicks and screams long enough (or rolls on her back and throws a tantrum)… that eventually you will stop walking and come to see what’s wrong.

The only problem is… NOTHING IS WRONG!

It’s like if I take you in a helicopter and drop you off in the middle of the desert and tell you that I’m going to leave you there, but will eventually come back and pick you up in half an hour (or 2 hours, or a whole day!!!) … you will simply sit there and not attempt to remedy your situation, as you know that I’m coming back to pick you up.

Eventually, this situation will end and I’ll come back and your problems will be over.

However, if I instead drop you off in the middle of the desert and tell you that I’m never coming back… then all of the sudden you’re in a position where you MUST START TRYING DIFFERENT THINGS TO BETTER YOUR SITUATION.

Maybe you start to look for some twigs you can start a smoke fire with, to draw the attention of an airplane overhead.

Or perhaps you climb on top of a rock, to look for a nearby highway so that you can hitch hike to a nearby pay phone.

But the point is… you start actively looking for a solution because you IMMEDIATELY REALIZE THAT YOUR SITUATION WILL NOT SIMPLY END BY ITSELF.

And this is the same thing you need to teach your dog. And it’s a lesson that will extend beyond this one exercise. Your dog must learn that just because she does not want to do something DOES NOT mean that you will give in and let her not do the exercise.


So… what should you do? The answer is really quite simple. Just keep walking. No matter how much the dog kicks and screams and throws a tantrum, remember: You’re not asking her to do anything she cannot do if she chooses. We’re asking her to SIMPLY WALK WITH YOU.

Now, in light of everything you’ve already taught her (remember, every action you do teaches your dog something)… you may have to keep walking a quarter of a mile before she finally realizes that you’re not stopping and that it’s easier to walk alongside you than it is to be
dragged on her rump.

Trust me… it won’t be a pretty scene for your neighbors to look out their window and see you dragging your dog on her rump down the street.

But when you will be able to take that same dog out for a casual stroll later that evening, your neighbors will wonder if you didn’t trade your dog in for a different one and will gasp at how well she walks alongside you on the leash.

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Off Leash Dog Training

Off leash dog training is– at it’s beginning stages– really a mind game that you play with your dog.

The first step is to let your dog drag a long line, anytime you’re outside or in a setting where you will want your dog to respond reliably, off leash. Your long line should be long enough that if your dog should decide to run off, you can easily step on the long line and teach him that he needs to come when you call him.

We do repetitions by making the dog come, with the long line. There are three phases to this training:

1. The teaching phase, when we teach your dog what ‘come’ means.

2. The reinforcement phase: When the exercise gets drummed into your dog’s brian through repetition. This ensures that your dog completely understands the command and begins the process of building a conditioned response.

3. The proofing phase: When we work the dog around a variety of different distractions and in several different types of environments.

The next phase is to transition to the tab (a one foot leash).

Once your dog has learned that he cannot run away from you, you’re ready to transition to the tab. This will allow you to walk to your dog and correct him. For example, if you tell him, “Down” at a distance, you will use the tab after you walk to your dog and correct him into the down position.