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.”: