Heel on Lead

What the rulebook says. In obedience tests the dog is expected to sit and move smartly on the handler’s working side and at the pace of the handler. The right shoulder of the dog should be level and about 100 – 150mm (4 – 6 inches) from the left knee of the handler. This position should be maintained throughout the exercise, except the about turn when the dog must move behind the handler’s legs and return to the original heel position. The main feature of the Heel exercise is the ability of the dog to work with its handler as a team.

Remember; “Heel” means, “remain in this position.” The dog’s attention must be on the handler and he must not smell the ground as he would on a casual walk. Heeling forms an important part of all obedience exercises and must be practiced as often as possible. Jerking a dog into a heeling position is punishment and must never be used during training.

“Heel” Command
The Heel exercise always starts from a static position i.e. a spot indicated by the judge or after a Halt. The voice command should always start with the dog’s name (meaning pay attention) e.g. “Juno, Heel” or “Coyote, Heel or Close” or similar command meaning remain in this position. The voice command should be firm but never given in a reprimanding tone.

The Hand Signal
One way of signalling readiness in the beginning of the Heel exercise is to pass the right hand over the nose of the dog and placing it next to your left shoulder i.e. between your face and that of the dog. Previously the right hand would have contained the tidbit or prey item. This should draw the dog’s face up towards that of the handler.

The Heel Position
The dog must be sitting straight and very close to the handler’s left side making sure that the dog’s right front paw is exactly next to the middle of the handler’s left shoe.
The dog must learn that the left foot gives the signals and he must stick to it like glue.
The Heel Position must become the most pleasant and loving position in the dog’s life. See “Bonding.”

Preparing for the Heel Exercise
Before the Heel exercise starts the ring steward will ask, “Handler, are you ready?” Before answering, the handler must glance down and ensure that he and the dog are facing straight up the ring and that the dog is sitting straight in the Heel Position and that the dog has his attention on the handler.
When ordered to go e.g. “Normal pace forward,” the handler leans forward with the torso and steps off with the left foot. The first few steps should be about three quarters of a full stride. This helps the dog to keep up with the handler.

Training for the Heel Exercise (See “Heeling” 1)
In “Heeling (1)” the dog was taught to focus on the prey item hidden in the Handler’s fist or jacket and is able to maintain Heel position in anticipation of receiving a reward sooner or later. This section must be reviewed regularly!!!
Please also be reminded that the dog must first obey your commands smartly and correctly before you even think of rewarding him. You have access to what the dog wants and therefore is able to take control of him. However, do not wait for the dog to make mistakes, get into the habit of rewarding the nice bits and if you cannot find anything to reward then your standards at that stage are too high.

Now take the leash in the left hand fairly close to the catch (depending on the size of the dog) and as firmly as possible to keep the dog close to the left leg. With the dog’s full attention to your right hand holding the prey item against your left shoulder, give the Heel command and move in a straight line, slowly at first and gradually up to normal pace. The short lead will ensure that the dog remains in the correct position. As soon as the dog is in the correct position, the tension on the lead is relaxed. The short lead reminds the dog that he is not free to do as he wishes, but as soon as he is in the correct position he is praised and the pressure is released. A constant tight lead does not teach the dog anything except to hate heeling.
The secret of this method is that as soon as the dog stops resisting, by moving close to you in the correct position, the tension is released and he is praised and rewarded.

If the dog’s head is held high towards your right hand, which can be lowered or raised, then always wheel to your left first before wheeling to the right.

Changes of Pace
There are three paces in obedience tests i.e. normal pace, fast pace and slow pace. Since the handler may only give a “Heel” command after a halt, he may NOT give a command for change of pace.
Normal pace is conducted at a brisk pace suited to your dog.
Fast pace is a brisk trot but not a fast run or a gallop. Fast pace is useful to liven up an inattentive or bored dog. Care must be taken that the dog does not get out of control and that the sits at halts are straight and that the turns are done correctly.
Slow pace is slow and steady but not a crawl or jerky. Dogs often lose concentration during slow pace, start sniffing and are slow to sit at halts.

Ring wise dogs can pick up the orders from the judge’s steward and also that the handler’s body leans further forward or back.
Rapid pace changes helps with inattentive dogs and lagging or forging ahead.

Always halt on the left foot.
Reward only best, close heeling. Heeling out of position should never be praised or rewarded.
If the dog lags it is better to slow down and let it catch up so that you are once again in a position to praise rather than fight.
Once the dog is heeling consistently with good attitude, the next step is to establish reliability and correctness.
The dog should now be heeling for distances of thirty paces or more and be watching you the whole time before a release is given.
The main aim at this stage must be heeling with concentration in the correct position. Trainers like Tom Rose believe that turns and stops are much easier if the dog’s concentration on the handler is so intense that such moves are no surprise to the dog.

Turns are not delayed because they are difficult, but because they are easy to learn once the dog has learnt to heel in a straight line with full attention and concentration.

Left turn
Start heeling in a straight line, but at a slightly slower pace, with the lead held in the left hand. Move your head sharply to the left, followed by a sharp pop to the left of the dog with the outstretched left arm. Now if the dog has been making eye contact it will soon begin to link a left turn of your head and a left tug on the lease as a signal to do a 90-degree turn to the left.
After the left turn continue along a straight line for a while giving lots of praise before the next left turn is made.

Right turn
The right turn is taught in the same way, except that your head is now moved sharply to the right and the lead is pulled with a pop to the right at the same time as the body makes a 90-degree turn to the right. A constant speed must be maintained during turns to avoid the dog going wide or anticipating moves of the handler.

Right about turn

 This requires a 180-degree turn to move in the opposite direction.
This turn causes problems when the dog does not pay attention. In the beginning speed should be reduced to allow the dog more time to become aware of what is happening. A series of small pops on the leash will bring him around if he is not paying attention.
If the dog works well on the ball or food, the right hand can hold it down in front of the dog’s face to encourage the turn. When the turn is completed the ball or food can be thrown on a release, “Take a break”. This will increase the speed and closeness of the turn. Another method is for the handler to speed up as he takes the turn by increasing the length of his first “backward” stride. Pops on the leash and the ball or food must come into play immediately the turn is completed.

The Left about turn

 As required by the Shutzhund rules is perhaps more difficult only in that the handler does a left about turn whilst the dog does a right about turn.
This is more of a problem for the handler who has to transfer the lease from the right hand to the left halfway through the turn, but not for the dog because his turn remains the same.

In order to get the dog to turn as quickly and as closely as possible to the handler, food or the ball on a string (prey items) should be used for as long as is necessary. However, good turns require the dog to pay attention so make sure to get the dog’s attention before going into the turn.
Some other exercises that may help the turns are as follows:
” Turn 360degrees or right about so that you continue in the same original direction.
” Instead of turning about, take a step backwards to get the dog to come about and then continue forwards.
” Mark time on the spot while the dog comes around before continuing in a straight line.
” Practise the figure of eight turns.

Heel and Turn Exercises

Left Turn: It is recommended that the following exercise first be practised without the dog in order to avoid confusing the dog.

Step off on the left leg and after a few paces when the left foot is on the ground, look to your left and think “left turn” take a further step with the right leg while at the same time you tug the leash to the left of the dog. Make a 90° left turn with the left leg before continuing followed by treat/FREE etc.

The tug on the leash is to avoid stepping into the dog.

Right Turn

Step off on the left leg and after a few paces when the right foot is on the ground, look to your right and think “turn right” take a further step with the left leg and then do a 90° right turn with the right leg. Continue one more pace before you Click/treat “FREE” etc. and play with the dog.

When turning to the right you need not tug on the leash, as you must do when turning left in order not to walk into the dog.

Quick Starts

Start with the dog sitting in the correct heel position.

Get the dog’s attention by calling her name: “JUNO” and as soon as she looks at you face, lean forward with the top of your body, give the “HEEL” command and set off at fast pace. Run a short distance, stop suddenly and tug backwards on the leash to help the dog to stop next to you.

Soon you will find that the dog begins to anticipate the start as you lean forward. That means that the dog is beginning to think!