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.