Day 2: Heelwork diagnosis

Something Lena and I usually distinguish ourselves with is that we want to practice what is most important right now to achieve the result we want. It applies to our courses, with our private students and not least in our own training. We even have a number of exercises that we call “diagnostic exercises” for that very reason – they tell us lots and from that we can create a training plan.

So start by making your own heelwork diagnosis. I recommend that you do it in two ways, a practical and a theoretical one.

If you give your heelwork cue to your dog, how long can it walk in the right position at your side when you walk straight with your hands at your sides, without treats in your hands? Count the number of steps or minutes it works without you having to remind the dog.

Think about what you need to work on with your heelwork – what works? What do you want to improve? How does it look? Which environments does it work in? What distractions does it work with?

Here I can excuse the sideways distance with having game in my hands 😉 

With Keen, my heelwork diagnosis at the beginning of the fall was as follows:

  • He ends up at an angle and sits slowly at my side when I stop – I want him to sit straight and sit down immediately when I stop.
  • Walking at an angle in front of me, sometimes so far ahead that only the tail is at my knee and so far away from me that two dogs will fit between us – I want him to go close to my left leg with his shoulder level with my knee.
  • Manages distractions well, but jumps forward one step if, for example, shots are fired just as we are going to stop – I want him to stop and sit down immediately when I stop, without sneaking forward.
  • Jumps back and forth in and out of position when he is too excited – I want him to keep an even position by my side.

Today’s exercise

  • Make your own heelwork diagnosis.
  • 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.

Want to improve your heelwork even more? Check out our online courses and webinar on heelwork!

17 thoughts on “Day 2: Heelwork diagnosis”

  1. My heelwork diagnosis is that my dog will walk to heel only in the areas where there are least distractions. He will walk for a minute or two on the harness to heel so I want him to look ahead rather than at me for treats. I have started to give my marker word only when he is looking ahead now.

  2. Practical diagnosis:walks to heel quite nicely for first 20 steps then starts to drift forward until he is about half way ahead of my knee. Not good with distractions! On occasion also have room for 2 more dogs between me and him! 🙂
    Theoretical: I want him in line with my knee and closer, and to do this with distractions.

  3. My bitch will heel for as long as I want but walks behind me and wide
    Particularly in heavy cover.
    I need her to heel closer and level with me to field trial standard.

  4. My one year old heels for e few meters with little or no distractions.
    The goal is for him to have ear-to-knee contact until i release him.

  5. My 8 month old Cocker walks realy close for 20 steps without leash, also turn´s round with me easily. I trained distruction´s with him. He can do that but if there is anything new, like envirement or people or an interesting smell on the ground he doesn´t desapear but he completely forgets that I am beside him 🙂

    1. Great work! Yes, that seems to happen to a lot of people – dogs just forgetting their handlers. I hope you’ll find the upcoming blog posts helpful, we’ll talk a bit about distraction training!

  6. My Flatcoat bitch heels for as long as I want but walks wide were the cover is heavy
    I want her to heel closer. I can succeed with a treat but its harder without a treat. So we have to practice this. After a while she goes to the ground with here nose as well.

  7. Well that was interesting.
    Loch 8 month old puppy – really good loose lead walking when no distractions, but realised that I have actually taught him the cue to heel. Must work on that.
    Laine – 2 year old – excellent without distractions for 5+ minutes off and on lead, distractions it goes totally to pot, although better on lead. Sit also needs working on, but as I am show training her at the moment, I need to be careful to make the distinction!
    Piper – 5 year old – good heelwork on lead but tends to look round in front of me for a reward when off lead. Also sits crooked, so that is the next stage.

  8. I seem to have to constantly remind my 11mth old working cocker to be at heel, the moment I stop reminding him he just goes off out in front, what am I doing wrong, the same as if I stop rewarding him, he has no inclination to stay by my side.

    1. I’d keep up the rate of reinforcement in distracting environments and then gradually fade it or maybe try the “dull heelwork” I wrote about today – i. e. having him on leash to prevent unwanted behaviour and walk until you feel that he’s calmed down.

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