Friday, January 2, 2009


The obedience classes I attended with Jes more than 10 years ago used lots of collar corrections or quick jerks on the leash. I was never comfortable with this approach and Jes clearly did not like it either.

Heeling is an exercise where the dog matches the handler's pace and maintains a steady position on the handler's left side. For competition purposes, the dog is required to sit automatically at each halt.

Initially, I was taught to give my greyhound a quick pop on the collar if she was not in the correct position or not looking at me. For a soft dog especially, imagine how the collar corrections suck all the joy that could possibly be found in heeling. This is another reason I fell in love with clicker training.

With a clicker, I can identify behaviors I want my greyhound to repeat including a nice heel position. Marking and rewarding the correct heeling behaviors makes heeling fun for the dog and easy for the handler to teach.

Here is Riley demonstrating some beginner heel work. She did better than I had expected, but you can see that when she loses heel position, I use a little leash to get her back into place. There are no corrections. I simply click & treat when she is right again.

Pure clicker trainers prefer to train heeling without a leash. I believe using a leash helps to speed up the process because you can at least keep your dog in the general area, so he or she is more likely to succeed.

Here is Reagan. She has been working on heeling a little longer than Riley has. The clicks & treats come less frequently. Her criteria has been raised and I want a little more from her before I reward.

I think some trainers resist using a clicker/marker for heeling because it does interrupt a moment of good work. I find that it is well worth the interruption. Over time, I introduce the idea of working for a longer period of time for a jackpot. Katie understands this concept precisely. Here is Katie showing advanced heeling.

Katie is trained and titled through Utility Dog obedience and is 8 year older so she is way ahead of Riley and Reagan.


Katie said...

Katie is beautiful.

When I have taught heel (and mind you we've not gotten out of novice rally yet!) I've used the clicker, no leash until we've moved outside of the backyard, and a really high rate of reinforcement. My problem is not precise heel position, my problem is that the world is OMG SO EXCITING! *g*

I love watching the videos of your dogs working.

Addie said...

It's really cool to see the three of them at different points in their training and like this, and they each heel so well at their own level.

As I was watching the footage, I realized that I was rooting for them to the point that I actually said, "Good girl!" when you walked away from Katie and she held her sit. :-)


BrittBeah said...

They are all such good little cookie monsters :)

Barb said...

Those are wonderful videos - not only in terms of beautiful teamwork, but the contrast between the various levels of training is very clear. I love all the videos you post - they're very instructional as well as being a joy to watch.

You and Katie are a breathtaking team - and it looks like you'll be just as successful with the two younger dogs. Way to go!

Never Say Never Greyhounds said...

Wow! Thanks for all the lovely compliments.... makes it fun to share. I do love Katie so much. I hope that Riley and/or Reagan will be a good obedience dogs. Neither are great sitters and the 3 minute (heck, just 1 minute) sit stays seem pretty far reaching right now. Katie is so awesome at that.


KF-in-Georgia said...

I have a friend in Ireland who's about to get a German Shepherd puppy from her local shelter. I sent her a link to this post. She's already made a blog comment on the dog's leash-walking abilities--something about one step forward, two steps back...four steps to the right, six to the left...

KF-in-Georgia said...

I love the enthusiastic way Reagan plants her "sits"--no hestitating about "should I sit now?", no positioning herself perfectly (you should see Jacey take 15-20 seconds fidgeting back and forth before she decides she's in the right place)--Reagan just plops herself down neatly and promptly.

Snobound said...

We really like the clicker training method as well. I find it easier to maintain control of my dog's attention when I'm using the clicker, especially since they're so treat driven anyway.

Brooke said...

I've been lurking on your blog for awhile, but have connected with you a bit on Greytalk before. This post is SUCH an inspiration! I've been working with my grey, DeeDee, since we got her a few months ago. So far she knows sit (though she's still working on realizing it's not part of a "down"), down, down-stay, leave it, and "take a bow."

DeeDee is already doing therapy dog work with the intentions of getting certified in a few months. The "heel" has been giving us lots of trouble - she looks a lot like Riley or Reagan at this point, lol! She's SO food motivated that she does little hops and jumps to try to get the food. I also tried the "correction jerks" on the leash method, but neither DeeDee nor I liked it, and I can tell it upsets her long after we're done walking (she's a cuddle bug or "lover" by nature, and doesn't respond well to anything even remotely harsh). We've done clicker training for teaching other commands, so seeing your food-motivated houndies doing so well with your method has given me new hope! Thank you so much for sharing!

Ally said...

Query about how and where you do your training. Do/did you attend your dog obedience group classes (assume States and Oz aren't too dissimilar)? Or find a great one on one instructor that worked with your dogs? All the instructors have border collies, collies, or GSP or Viszlas.

Ava (grey x) and her Newfoundland bestie get the "well this works for other dogs what's wrong with your dog?" We have come across two fantastic instructors out of a lot and a lot of discrimination.

Just wondering if we get thick skin and see it out or maybe try and find one on one with someone that works with greys. Pilot is in week three prep agility and Ava passed grade one obedience today but the comments from our instructor and examiner make me wonder how we possibly passed. They ruined what should have been a really happy moment. Also getting negative comments about clicker training when both are responding really well to it. And this is one of the few clubs in Victoria that is listed as a positive only method training club.

Might be too sensitive!



Never Say Never Greyhounds said...

Hi Ally,

Yes, I've taken group classes and also private lessons. I really have not had any issues with trainers discriminating against my dogs because I bring high drive, motivated dogs to the table. Even though they are greyhounds, they are still working like the BCs and GSPs because they have similar drive. If your dogs are low drive and more difficult to motivate, you will stump your trainers. You will have to get creative and do some thinking on your own. And with that said, I do sometimes suggest we end on something when the trainer wanted to go one more time. And I would stay firm on the clicker. I liked it for high level competitive obedience. Not sure how I would have without it.

It is disappointing that they ruined that happy moment for you. I probably would feel the same way. Not sure what to suggest. I guess just know that its okay to be a pioneer and to be the first to try something with your breeds. And you may not be super successful with your first dogs, but you will learn a lot. They will definitely help you with your next dogs. And when you are successful it is very very rewarding. No one cares about another awesome Border Collie. But show up with an awesome greyhound and people notice and compliment. But until them, I would try to tune them out. Good luck, Jen

Ally said...

Hi Jen,

Thank you for some sound advice. After reading what you said and reflecting with some distance, I guess it is just not something people are used to seeing and they have some set ideas about some breeds, they probably haven't realised they were deflating a bubble. There's also pressure in classes to wind back the treats and my two, and myself, agree with you, we don't work for free. I'll tune them out a little more and look at it in a slightly different way until we get to the knock their socks off stage.

Pilot is pretty high drive, he does get bored with the high repetitions they seem to want once he's mastered something though, so I might draw a line there instead of frustrating him. He LOVES food and showing off.

Still figuring Ava out, she's definitely more complicated than other dogs I've had, which is good as she challenges me to be a better trainer and companion. Just finished Kathy Sdao's book, Plenty in Life is Free, looking for some of that greater understanding. Ava did beautiful prancing heel work for the exam, not so Keen on some other things. I just don't think I've figured her out yet. She loves going to class though, so as long as she does, we'll keep going. If she' turns out to be a socialising house dog, that's fine too, she's great company!

Thanks for your great blog, inspiration and putting things in perspective.


Anonymous said...

Hi, I have a question about the down. My boy Bailey has moved along and does the down with the lure and we are working on proofing the down. How do I associate the word "down" with his action so he does it on command? My second question is my girl Brandy is not moving along as quickly. She is so motivated by food, she does not seem to associate the down under my knees when I am sitting with the food I give her. She just pops right up and wants to get more food/treat. Any thoughts how to help her along? Thank you. Holly

Never Say Never Greyhounds said...

Say "down" and then lure him down. Lots of reps and occasionally test "down" without a lure. He gets a jackpot.

Its kind of hard to address your second question. You really need use a clicker if you are not and get your hand and food away from her face. I'm guessing she is just targeting your hand, so basically she is just following your hand up, down, all around. I would lure her down, but not give her the treat until I can pull my hand away for a second and then she can have it. But emphasize that staying is what you want and reward that instead of her going down. Otherwise, she is just training you with her repeated pop ups.