7 things to work on when the weather is bad! Day 5: Getting into heel position

While we’re on the subjects of targets (yesterday’s topic was platforms), let’s take a look at training with a block or a small stool. The purpose of this exercise is for the dog to like to hang out by my left side, but first and foremost to easily be able to COME TO my left side. A retriever in particular should be by your side before you send it out again. A spaniel can deliver and then go straight back out hunting, and most trainers start the dog from a position where they are facing the dog. But naturally even a spaniel might need to come to the trainer’s side from having faced the trainer. Often times coming into heel is the beginning of heeling or for the dog to sit and wait for the next assignment.

The principles of teaching the dog to step up with his front feet onto a block or a small stool are exactly the same as when training the platform yesterday. I shape the dog in successive approximations until he begins putting both front feet on the block. Remember that the block is a helping tool that you’ll have to fade. You’ll see me do that in the video. In the middle of a session I remove the block and let the dog perform the behaviour without it. In the beginning I run through maybe five repetitions with the block, remove it, do one repetition without it, put it back in and do a couple with it there, before removing it again, and so on. I keep doing this until I’ve faded it completely.

Here’s a video showing a couple of different targets (make sure that they are safe and not slippery) and how I proceed in the training. All three cocker spaniels are training again; they’ll show you some different things. I try to show the beginning stages where I just click the dog for stepping onto the block, how he needs to offer more and more behaviour in order to get the click, and finally spins all the way into position. It might take many repetitions (over days) to get the dog all the way in, so take it step by step.


We would love it if you’d like to post a video or a photo of your training in the comment section!

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