Many dogs are happy to walk properly for a while, but then they get tired. The heelwork is something that needs to last for quite some time, so it is important to build endurance early. With eager dogs I think the “dull heelwork” is a very good foundation, but even with them I train endurance by rewarding from my hand. Dogs that are not as eager to walk to heel often need to be motivated by something other than just being allowed to walk forward and then I make sure to have as good rewards as they need to work (= walk by my side).
One way to increase duration is of course to gradually extend the distance before you reward by sometimes walking five steps, sometimes ten, then seven, 15, eight and so on before the dog gets its reward. Remember to vary when you reward so it isn’t always after three steps or doesn’t always become an increasing number of steps the dog must walk before it gets rewarded. At the beginning of the training session and in new environments or with more difficult distractions, I reward more often – so the dog does not have time to lose its position.
Another way is “block training” (an exercise I borrowed from Eva Thorén Söderström). Then I decide on a number of steps that I know works (one “block”) and use a “keep going signal” to support the dog halfway and then double the number of steps each time I make it more difficult.
Start by counting how many steps the dog can handle now or start with something you think feels good. Usually I start with five steps. Five steps, click reward. Repeat 2-3 times. Then you walk five steps, say “good”, walk five steps and reward. (“Good” is not really a reward but just a “keep going signal” here). Repeat that 2-3 times. Then you walk 10 steps, before rewarding (that is, without saying “good” halfway). Repeat that 2-3 times. Then you walk 10 steps, say “good”, walk 10 steps and reward. Then you walk 20 steps and reward.
And then I carry on like that and keep track of how many steps the dog can manage in different environments. If the dog loses the position I “break” the training by leaving my position and bringing the dog back to where we started – so it must walk in the right position during all the steps to receive the reward.
- Find out which method to increase duration that suits you the best.
- Train heelwork at least once. (Note how many sessions and minutes of heelwork you do. Train what you and your dog need – it doesn’t have to be the training in the blog post of the day.)
- Feel free to tell us and others about your training by commenting on the posts on our website and/or Facebook page.
- If you haven’t participated in the challenge from the start, read here to find out how it works: Day 1: Heelwork challenge.
- Subscribe to our blog to receive emails when new training tips are available.