Keeping Heeling Fun on Turkey Day

On Thanksgiving Day, Brody and I met with some friends from club to do a little training, because there are no days off in schutzhund! We had a lot of fun fooling around with some heeling skills and working on engagement.

As you can see in the video, Brody is a very enthusiastic heeler, but he is also easily bored. This is why I throw in some things like spins, backing up, and moving sideways – all things to keep his brain working and to keep reinforcing that heel position.

If you’re wondering why my left arm is so stiff, it’s because I have a tennis ball shoved up my arm pit. If you’re wondering what the heck is going on with my sweatshirt, it’s a specially designed training sweatshirt from Leerburg and I have two tugs stuck in the back pocket. I have Brody convinced that this is the magic sweatshirt that produces toys like Santa’s bag, which worked out great on our last trial day.

I posted this video in an IPO Training group on Facebook and got a few questions about how I got this result. Mostly, I followed the instructions of the training director of my club, Shelby Anderson of Neumond K9 Training. Additionally, I’ve taken tips from videos from Ivan Balabanov and Forrest Micke. So if you’re interested in where the foundation of my heeling came from, check out those guys (and if you’re in Oregon, I highly recommend a lesson with Shelby!).

Brody’s enthusiasm, though, is what makes his heeling so fun to watch. He LOVES to work. A lot of this is genetic – drives, temperament, etc… are mostly determined by breeding. But I’d like to take a little credit for some of it, in that we (Shelby and I) have always made it a point to keep it FUN for Brody. Obedience is always a game to him and I have never never never made a distinction between WORK and PLAY.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve been tempted, particularly in the lead up to a trial, to lay the hammer down and demand perfection RIGHT NOW. I’m a competitive person and so the tendency is definitely there. However, I’ve made a conscious effort to not give in to that temptation.

In the lead up to our last trial, where Brody earned his BH and AD, I didn’t have a “training” session once. We essentially just played tug for two weeks straight with maybe a dozen heeling steps thrown in in-between. This was hard for me, the competitive one, but paid off beautifully in a really nice BH pattern (if I do say so, myself!).

So, in answer to all of the questions I received, the secret to good heeling is…keeping it fun! Hardly revolutionary, I know…


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