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Dog Training: Competition Heeling & The Power of Anticipation For Maintaining Precision

Updated: Jun 30, 2023

One of the biggest struggles I've had my dog in her competition heeling is teaching her to keep her rear straight and in line with me as I'm heeling forward with her. She pushes with so much power in her hind end that her rear ends up drifting out to the left, making her crooked and out of position with me.

While there are many ways to train your dog to straighten out, I tend to err on the side of using tools to teach her to be thoughtful about where her body is relative to mine rather than correcting her back in a position.

After all - what is her motivator for being crooked? Is she under conditioned and unable to sustain that heeling position for too long? Is she unclear about where her position should be? Is she even aware she's doing it?

For this latter point, I often think of my own subconscious behaviour patterns. My father used to point out that when I was really concentrated on something I would unconsciously pursed my lips. Could it be that her rear swinging out so far is an unconscious behavior as well?

Perhaps I'm a bit of a softie, but it's hard for me to believe in making a correction for a dog unless I'm 110% sure that her behaviour is from disobedience instead of confusion or something else. And since I feel I haven't quite exhausted all other options yet, I feel like experimenting to see if there are other solutions to fix this problem.

For the past little while I have been working on Quorra's left about turns. I know that having her anticipate the really tight turns causes her to put more weight in her rear and collect inwards towards my legs. This, in turn, is a reminder for her to keep her rear end because I could be turning at any moment.

Over the last few months, I've been gradually build up a distance that I have been heeling in a long, straight line, randomly, putting in a turn, when I think that she would least expect it.

As a result, it has made her much more careful about where she is placing her hind end relative to me, even when we are heeling straight.

I noticed that she has been anticipating that the turn could come at any moment. Anticipation is a tool that I frequently (in many different ways) use to teach the dog to be thoughtful and aware and careful throughout her training routine without sacrificing power or her enthusiasm for the work.

As you can see from the video, we're slowly able to lengthen the long stretches of heeling with her maintaining a straight position with me. We have a ways to go before we get to the final trial picture but so far I'm liking the progression I'm seeing.

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